Athletic Identity, Institutional Support Services, and Transition: An Analysis of Student-Athlete Perceptions and Implications

Publication Date


Document Type



Kinesiology & Recreation


Rebecca Achen

Mentor Department

Kinesiology & Recreation


Brewer, Van Raalte and Linder (1993) defined the term athletic identity as the degree to which a person identifies with the role of an athlete and seeks outside acknowledgement of that role. Those who have a high athletic identity tend to be those who have achieved elite levels within athletics. These elite athletes tend to base their self-worth and self-esteem on their ability, performance and the appreciation of their athletic talent, while gradually neglecting other aspects of psycho-social development (Cieslak II, 2004). These resulting deficits have been attributed to what is called identity foreclosure in the literature. Good, Brewer, Petitpas, Van Raalte and Mahar (1993) summarize this concept as “a construct used to describe people who have committed to an occupation or an ideology without first engaging in exploratory behavior” (p. 2). This can lead to a perceived lack of need to make decisions based on anything other than one’s primary identity. This issue was recently explored by Kulics, Kornspan and Kretovics (2015) whose findings were consistent with the supposition that high-stakes athletes take a short-term outlook rather than focusing on their post-sport careers. This aversion to long-term and transitional planning can have tremendous behavioral and psycho-social consequences resulting from individuals’ inability to identify as anything other than an athlete. International table tennis player and sport psychology student, Emma Vickers, had this to say about life post-athletics, “many will struggle with adapting to a ‘regular life’ where they are no longer in the limelight and perhaps in their eyes, become forgotten members of society” (Vickers, 2013). This posit from a high-stakes athlete is consistent with expert researchers on this topic. As Murphy, Petitpas, Brewer and others (1996) noted, “Failure to formulate mature career plans may account for some of the difficulties athletes encounter when faced with disengagement from sport roles” (p. 244). While no data have been collected yet, this study will utilize quantitative survey data to explore potential links between student-athlete perceptions of self, service offerings, service usage, and perceived preparedness for transition from college to career and life beyond elite athletics. It will also include interviews with student-athlete service coordinators for qualitative triangulation from an institutional perspective.



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