The transitional experiences of recreational and elite sporting

Lingam-Willgoss, Candice (2017). The transitional experiences of recreational and elite sporting. In: BPS DSEP Conference 2017, Dec 2017, Glasgow.


Objectives: Current research exploring career developments in sport has acknowledged them to be both unstable and multifaceted containing many emotional transitional episodes. While this area has had extensive investigation there still remains a gap in research focusing on the experiences of athletic mothers. The study aimed to examine the lived experience of transitional episodes of both recreational and elite sportswomen, in particular to explore the impact of motherhood on their relationship with sport.
Design: The study was informed by the qualitative traditions of phenomenology and narratology in order to gain a deep and holistic understanding of the psychological experiences of each athlete.
Methods: Two athletic mothers were purposively sampled, ‘Ellie’ had competed at elite level and ‘Kerry’ at recreational level. Semi structured interviews were conducted with each athlete. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using an inductive approach whereby patterns, themes and categories were identified.
Results: Three key similarities were found between the narratives of each athlete: guilt, identity management and time. However, differences in support networks were evident and in turn impacted on the athlete’s ability to maintain their relationship with sport.
Conclusions: Findings of the study suggest that support is a key factor when it comes to sporting mothers maintaining their relationship with sport and sporting identity. Irrespective of whether they complete at an elite or a recreational level guilt is the associated dominant emotion that is generated through the internalisation of an ideal mother identity.

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