Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Kinesiology (MKin)


Kinesiology and Physical Education


Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Jill Tracey

Advisor Role



According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), 98% of student-athletes will retire from sport during and/or after their collegiate career (NCAA, 2015) from one of four causes (e.g., eligibility, deselection, injury, or choice) and this number is even higher in Canadian student-athletes. Athlete retirement has been widely studied across professional and elite athletes using multiple theoretical models (Schlossberg, 1981; Stambulova, 1997; Taylor & Ogilvie, 1994); however, student-athletes’ experiences are not widely studied. Furthermore, Canadian university sport (U SPORTS) does not currently have programs or services dedicated to support student-athletes through retirement. The purpose of this cross-sectional qualitative study was to explore athlete retirement of Canadian student-athletes across different phases of the transition process. Semi-structured interviews in conjunction with descriptive questionnaires (e.g., demographics questionnaire; AIMS, Brewer et al., 1993; and PASS-Q, Freeman et al., 2011) were conducted cross-sectionally with 20 current and former student-athletes within one of four stages of retirement (e.g., current players, retiring players, transitioning players, and former players). Data analysis included a two phase eight step deductive and inductive content analysis process (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015).

Many factors were identified to contribute to student-athletes’ responses to retirement across all phases of retirement. Quality of transition was dependent on the ability to cope with resources and barriers presented pre-retirement and during the transition. Participants identified student-athletes’ unidimensional identity and isolated social circles served as barriers to healthy identity adaptation and quality of transition. Resources, such as retirement planning and time, and barriers, such as lack of appropriate support influenced the transition process. Student-athletes with well-rounded holistic development of multiple areas (e.g., personal development, career development, social development) experienced fewer transitional difficulties.

A majority of participants did not reach out for formal support throughout the transition process and relied mostly on informal sources of social support. However, student-athletes suggested a variety of coach and institutional-led interventions to assist with the retirement process, such as coach-initiated conversation and transferrable skills workshops. With many student-athletes who retire from sport across Canadian institutions, it is important appropriate resources are established by stakeholders (e.g., institutions, coaches, and researchers) to prepare and support student-athletes for retirement.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season