Author ORCID Identifier

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Health Science

First Advisor

Patti Berg-Poppe


This dissertation utilizes a mixed-methods design to explore adaptation to sport retirement among Division I student-athletes. Sport retirement is a major life transition that can elicit changes in support systems, identity crises, and feelings of loss, failure, and grief. Transitioning out of sport is a phenomenon that over 90% of collegiate student-athletes experience when their four years of NCAA eligibility expires. It is a phenomenon that all athletes experience at some point in their lives. To transition out of sports, one must adapt to post-sport life. Study one of this dissertation explored the phenomenon of occupational retirement through concept analysis and applied it to sport retirement. The analysis revealed that satisfaction with life can be used to assess adaptation to retirement. Study two used a mediation model to determine the impact of athletic identity on meaning in life and life satisfaction. It was hypothesized that athletic identity would predict life satisfaction in post-sport life, with a strong athletic identity predicting decreased life satisfaction. This hypothesis was not accepted, but it was found that meaning in life significantly predicts life satisfaction, and athletic identity does influence the search for meaning in life, but not the presence of meaning in life. The effect of sex, type of sport played, and predictability of retirement on identity, life satisfaction, and meaning in life among retired athletes was also analyzed. Study three was conducted using a phenomenological design to describe the lived experience of retirement from sports among student-athletes. Findings from the phenomenological study elaborated on the quantitative findings, further describing the transitional process of adapting to life after sports and achieving present-day life satisfaction outside of athletics.

Subject Categories

Psychiatry and Psychology | Sports Management


athletes, athletic retirement, college sports, sport retirement, student-athletes

Number of Pages



University of South Dakota



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