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The journey of an athlete is particularly associated with various transitions which play a crucial part in determining their success as well as consequences in the long term. It is imperative to observe that transitions during the career of an athlete could also be identified in different domains of their life. The following assessment presents a critical evaluation of the case of Francine, an elite fencing athlete and the experiences of transition during her athletic career. The assessment could be profoundly based on the theoretical models about the explanation of transitions encountered by athletes during their career and comparing them with the case of Francine to identify the transitions and factors influencing them in her athletic career.
Transitions in career:
The general assumption regarding the transitions faced by athletes is vested in two major shifts indicating the entry of the athlete into the sport and the point of retirement. However, Avourdiadou & Theodorakis said that it is also imperative to notice that the transitions during the career of athletes are also considered crucial alongside implying formidable indications towards the impact of the consequences (Avourdiadou & Theodorakis, 2014). The two general categories of transitions that athletes are likely to face during their career are normative and non-normative transitions which are associated with distinct psychological impacts (Baker, et al., 2017). It is imperative to observe that athletes face substantial transitions during their career and could be variable for different athletes. Sports performers are not likely to encounter all forms of transition during their career albeit with prominent implications towards the impact of personal conditions as well as the level of competition on the transitions faced by an athlete.
The normative transitions are clearly defined and are expected by the athlete at some or the other point in their careers thereby pointing out the predictability of the transitions. According to Debois, et al (2012), some of the examples of normative transitions in the career of an athlete include promotion from junior to senior level of competition, amateur to professional transition, senior competition level to veteran competition level or shifting focus from part-time to full-time athletic career (Debois, et al., 2012). Athletes are also liable to experience normative transitions in the negative direction as can be identified in the case of athletes demoting to a lower level on the grounds of decline due to age.
Non-normative transitions are generally associated with unpredictability as they could occur spontaneously in the career of an athlete. The non-normative transitions could be shaped by personal circumstances as well as sports-related conditions. Some of the examples of personal circumstances leading to non-normative transitions in an athlete’s career include pregnancy and illness that can lead to a temporary transition in the form of distance from the competition or participating at lower completion levels as well as returning to the sport after recovery (Fukuda, 2018).
The other considerable examples of non-normative behaviour could be identified in the sports-related conditions such as change of coaching personnel, change in weight category or the level of competition and changes in a role within the team. As per Garcia-Fernandez, et al (2014), the promotion of the team into another league as well as the relocation of the athlete to the new team could also be accounted as a formidable reason for non-normative transitions within the career. It is also imperative to consider the influence of financial and environmental pressures that could cause transitions in the career of an athlete (Garcia-Fernandez, et al., 2014).
Drawing on the above inferences from literature, it is also essential to direct attention towards lifespan perspective which suggests that transitions encountered by an athlete during their career cannot be completely related to sports. The various levels at which athletes encounter transitions in their career include references to the psychosocial, athletic, academic or vocational and psychological aspects (García-Fernández, et al., 2017).
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Transitions in these different dimensions could be responsible for dictating the sports performance of the athlete. Therefore it is essential to observe the impact of transitions on these different levels on the performance of athletes. According to Kim, et al (2016), the impact on sports performance due to vocational or academic level transitions could be identified specification when the individual is promoted from primary levels education to secondary or higher levels of education and employment of the individual in a professional occupation or vocational training from higher education. In certain cases, the transition could occur directly from secondary education to professional employment (Kim, et al., 2016).
These transitions are primarily associated with implications such as challenges from social networks, changes in role definitions and expected behaviour from the athletes. Individually considering the influence could be reflective of the changes in the structure of education as well as the necessity for complying with a new social group and a substantial increase in the volume of work which could combine influence the participation of athlete in sports (Lee & Woo, 2017). The same factors could be identified in the context of transitions in the vocational or academic levels wherein changes in location could be reflective of a change in coaching and development of new social networks and increase in the level of competition. The employment of an athlete after higher education would be liable for causing issues for the participation in sports owing to the commitment of increased hours to the profession. The elements of financial and social pressure could also decrease the participation of individuals in sports (MacFarlane, Phelps & Schulenkorf, 2016).
Psychological development also changes the perception of transitions in the career of an athlete among which the two major transitions include a reference to the childhood to adolescence and adolescence to childhood. Generally, the adherence of an individual to sports is affected by psychological changes negatively. It can be observed that sports dropout rates are particularly higher in periods of changes from childhood to adolescence and adolescence to adulthood. As per MacIntosh, Doherty & Walker (2014), Psychological development into adolescence is explicitly associated with the development of mature social relationships, independence from parents and inclination for identifying roles (MacIntosh, Doherty & Walker, 2014).
Among all the impacts the concept of self-identity observed in adolescence is related to participation in sports which has a formidable influence on the reverse. The participation in sports could lead to the development of an identity of an athlete thereby leading to other roles being drawn into the background thereby leading to difficulties in coping with career transition (Ong & Yap, 2017).
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The priorities of athletes are also subject to change during the transition to adulthood which is generally associated with the need to develop loving and intimate relationships with other people thereby leading to obstacles for sports participation due to relationship commitments. It is also imperative to consider the influence of changes in psychosocial aspects such as changes with respect to the family or partners on the performance of an athlete in their career. The psychosocial changes are responsible for changes in priorities allocated to various individuals such as parents in childhood and partners in adulthood. Furthermore, the example of considering the coach as a significant figure in life is observed in adulthood. The changes in levels of competition could also be accounted as notable influences on the transitions in the career of an athlete (Polyakova & Mirza, 2016).
One of the general changes is observed in promotion of athletes to higher levels of competition that imply references to the prominence of demands in psychological or physiological contexts. The change in the level of competition could also be identified in the negative direction when athletes are demoted to lower levels of competition. This event is facilitated by various factors among which the notable ones include injury or age-related decline. The impact of such change is generally stressful for athletes as they have to cope with the demotion in status as well as reduction of training intensity and performance. Hence the lifespan perspective on career transitions provides a comprehensive impression of the factors that influence the behaviour of an athlete in their career thereby leading to variations in performance (Raven, 2018).
The inferences derived from theory regarding career transitions for athletes can be leveraged to drawn critical insights into the case of Francine. Prior to the evaluation, it is essential to provide a summary of the case of Francine and the various stages of transition in her career as an elite fencing athlete. The initiation of Francine into the sport of fencing was at the age of 8 from where she went on the achieve selection into the junior national foil-training centre at the age of 18 and the next year she was selected for the World Championship (Rovniy & Pasko, 2017).
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The following year Francine joined an elite-foil training centre and subsequently withdrew from the centre at 22 years to shift her focus towards sabre training and at the age of 23, she was able to get selected in an elite sabre training centre and accomplish a silver medal at European Championships. Francine then left the training centre for living with her partner at the age of 25. The following year marked notable accomplishments for Francine as she accomplished a bronze medal at the World Championships, three different world cup events and the European title. Francine also competed in the Olympic Games at the age of 28 and finished at the thirteenth position. However, subsequently, she took another break from her career to have a baby and then returned to training at 29 years of age.
Following her return to active training in the sport, Francine went on the accomplish team gold medals in two world championships before the Olympic Games (Williams, et al., 2014). The fencing career of Francine was characterized by another failure at the Olympic Games when she was not able to qualify for the event and this decided to put an end to her fencing career at 32 years. Francine then had a baby after 10 months from retiring from the sport. Therefore the transitions experienced by Francine in her career can be anticipated from these observations. It is also essential to observe the vocational and academic development of Francine that could impose a potential impact on the transitions in her career as an elite fencer. The earliest academic intervention in the case of Francine is identified in her participation in geography at the age of 19 which was ended prematurely at the age of 23 (Wright & Cunningham, 2017).
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The following year, Francine was able to obtain coaching diploma in fencing and the next year she was successful in an entry examination for police training college. Francine completed her two years of training and obtained employment as a policewoman. At the age of 28, Francine applied for sports education course only to fail and reappear for the examination leading to success at the age of 30. After one year of her appointment as a trainee sports ministry officer at 31 years of age, she was able to obtain tenure.
The events observed in the academic and athletic development during the career of Francine can also be associated with distinct implications towards psychological, psychosocial and level of competition changes affecting the transitions in her career. The interrelation between the different events could explain the reasons for the way Francine’s career was developed. The change from the elite foil training centre to elite sabre training centre depicts an athletic improvement alongside the role of poor performance in the former at the age of 22.
This period could be associated with psychological changes initiated by the change from childhood to adolescence which led to her search for self-identity. The decision of Francine to live with her partner at the age of 25 depicts psychological development into adulthood thereby implying the need for an intimate and loving relationship with her partner. This depicts the prioritization of relationship commitments as compared to sports participation (Rovniy & Pasko, 2017). The frequent leaving of the sport by Francine could also be accounted as the reason for psychosocial changes owing to her commitment to family and having children. The vocational development of Francine could also be associated with notable inferences in relation to the sporting career.
The period when she obtained a coaching diploma in fencing at the age of 24 could be considered as a positive influence leading to her silver medal at the European championships (MacIntosh, Doherty & Walker, 2014). The performance of Francine at the Olympics at the age of 28 years could be attributed to her appointment as a policewoman thereby implying the influence of professional commitment on the level of sports performance. The preparations of Francine for competitive examinations as well as her tenured appointment in the sports ministry could also be accounted as of primary reasons for her failure to qualify for the Olympic Games at the age of 32 years.
The critical evaluation of the case of Francine from the perspective of theoretical underpinnings regarding nature of transitions in the career of an athlete provided insights that the factors influencing transitions are not sports-related and the effect of personal as well as social characteristics play a crucial role in determining the pathway of career development for athletes.
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The use of various methodologies in career transition research could be identified in different sources of literature. The selection and implementation of an appropriate research methodology are profoundly dependent on the orientation and objectives of the research. It is essential to consider the comparative advantages of each research method to determine the suitability of methods to the research initiatives (García-Fernández, et al., 2017).
The use of written narratives in research could be approached through distinct viewpoints that reflect on particular implications regarding the complexity of methods. While some written narrative methodologies are reflective of emphasis only on the story of the athlete, it is also essential to recognize the significance of supporting methodologies that can help obtain comprehensive data thereby leading to viable inferences regarding specific cases. The supporting methods include references to the use of an in-depth interview with the concerned athlete as well as third party interventions regarding the case which can provide an unbiased assessment of the case (Avourdiadou & Theodorakis, 2014).
The use of psychological interviews of the athletes over the course of their career could also be adopted as feasible complements to the written narrative approach. The prospects of comprehensiveness in the case of narrative research methods could be associated with the implications of qualitative data that are obtained from the athlete as well as psychological assessment. However, it is essential to consider the application of other approaches for career transitions research which can be identified in the form of references to the focus group interviews and observation.
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The element of bias is profoundly observed in the case of written narratives as they are dependent on the perception of the athlete as well as the researcher and assessors. On the other hand, observation of the career of the athlete would provide and external perspective on the transitions encountered by the athlete in their career. The method of observation also allows the researcher to derive critical insights into the common factors that influence the career transition effectiveness by comparing different cases of athletes and problems encountered by them (MacIntosh, Doherty & Walker, 2014).
The observation method is also reflective of elimination of bias from the perspective of athletes as they would not be able to form any sort of involvement in the research thereby leading to transparency in the collected data. In the case of written narratives, the respondents could also prefer to refrain from communicating specific aspects of their personal life that could be underlying causes for transition thereby leading to a discrepancy in the final inferences of research. Focus group interviews could be associated with promising outcomes in the case of career transition research as it enables the selection of specific criteria and assumptions that narrow down the scope of research thereby inducing precision in the outcomes.
It is essential to notice that focus group interviews are conducted with the selection of few specific candidates and in the case of career transitions research the criteria for selection could be varied according to the objectives of the research. For example, the researcher could include athletes of the same age group or belonging to similar sport in the focus groups that ensures limited ambiguities regarding differences in characteristics of respondents that are responsible for discrepancies in the data collected in career transitions research. The advantage of focus group interviews over written narratives could be explicitly identified in the collection of data from the viewpoint of multiple respondents rather than focusing on a single participant.
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This allows for effective generalization of the final research outcomes which cannot be realized appropriately through narrative interviews as the conditions of the participant could not be applicable to other individuals. Furthermore, focus group interviews are generally associated with interactions among respondents in similar categories thereby leading to opportunities for better expression of opinions in a group of peers (Polyakova & Mirza, 2016). This element is favoured by the fact that an individual perceives comfort in communicating with peers in the same field thereby leading to the acquisition of transparent insights into the careers of the respondents. Despite the prominent distinction between written narratives and focus group interviews as well as observation methods for career transition research, it can be concluded that each of them is associated with definite functionalities that can be considered for selection of appropriate methods according to research requirements and intended objectives.
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