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Investigating the Junior-to-Senior Transition in Sport: Interventions to Support the Transitional Process

Drew, K (2020) Investigating the Junior-to-Senior Transition in Sport: Interventions to Support the Transitional Process. Doctoral thesis, Liverpool John Moores University.

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This thesis extended knowledge of the junior-to-senior transition in the context of British track-and-field. The central purpose of this thesis was to (a) explore the junior-to-senior transition in sport and (b) design, implement, and evaluate an athlete-based intervention designed to support the process, within a UK context. To help achieve the overall purpose Study 1 provided a systematic review of literature focused on the junior-to-senior transition. Specifically, this Study: (a) provided an overview and critique of methodological and theoretical decisions which underpins current junior-to-senior transition literature; (b) systematically reviewed, evaluated, and analysed literature on the junior-to-senior transition in sport regarding key factors that are perceived to impact the transition; and (c) provided a synthesis of findings regarding the factors that influence the junior-to-senior transition in sport. A total of 27 studies were included in the meta-study. Meta-method, meta-theory, meta-data analysis, and meta-synthesis analyses were conducted on data. Data highlighted that the main method used to research the junior-to-senior transition is cross-sectional individual interviews, with two theories (Stambulova, 2003; Wylleman & Lavallee, 2004) used as the main underpinning theories for data collection. Analysis identified 59 factors that were perceived to impact the junior-to-senior transition. These 59 factors fell into one of 13 themes, which were then categorised into 4 overarching themes: individual factors, external factors, cultural factors, and intervention strategies. A model of junior-to-senior transition, which synthesises current knowledge, was proposed as a way to explain the process. Study 1 also identified gaps in current knowledge, highlights practical implications, and identifies future research directions (e.g., longitudinal designs). Moving on from Study 1, Study 2 looked to understand the junior-to-senior transition from a specific sporting context. To understand the progression rates of athletes from junior-to-senior level, Study 2 examined the transition within the specific context of British track-and-field. The purpose of the second study was to explore the performance progression of elite British junior athletes who have competed at the World Junior Championships. Specifically, the study looked to establish if these athletes go on to (a) achieve a personal best/peak performance as a senior athlete, (b) represent Great Britain at major senior championships, and whether (c) World Junior medallists are more likely to transition into the senior ranks than non-medal winners. Data were retrospectively analysed by tracking the Great British World Junior Athletics team (n= 317) from 1998-2012 and their subsequent sporting performances. The results showed that, of the athletes who competed at a World Junior Championships between 1998-2012, 63% failed to go on to improve their personal best as a senior athlete, whilst 67% of athletes failed to go on to represent the senior Great Britain team at a major championship. Additional analyses were carried out to establish if winning a medal at the World Junior Championships increased athletes’ chances of achieving success at a senior level. Of the 26 Great Britain World Junior individual medallists, 19 (73%) went on to represent Great Britain at a major senior championship. However, 69% of Great Britain World Junior medallists did not go on to improve their personal best as a senior athlete, peaking before they reached the senior age-group. The results from Study 2 quantify the transition from junior-to-senior in British track-and-field, with many athletes failing to make the required progression needed to succeed at a senior level. After developing an understanding of the progression rates of athletes negotiating the step up to senior sport evidenced by Study 2, Study 3 looked to explore the factors associated with the transition. This study aimed to add to the junior-to-senior literature by developing knowledge regarding the factors that can influence both a successful and unsuccessful transition outcome from a sport-specific context (e.g., British track-and-field). Participants (n=10) aged between 26 and 37 years took part in the study. Participants were all current or retired British track-and-field athletes who had experienced either a successful or unsuccessful transition outcome. Semi-structured interviews were employed, transcribed verbatim and thematically analysed (Braun et al., 2019). The results from Study 3 revealed that the process of transition from junior-to-senior sport is unique and involves various factors which have the potential to aid or hinder athletes’ progress. Both athletes who experienced a successful or unsuccessful transition were influenced by a range of individual, external, and organisational facilitators and debilitators. The results from the study highlighted similarities between the two groups of athletes - for example, athletes perceived there to be a considerable number of challenges concerning the national governing body and perceived a lack of organisational support. On the contrary, athletes who were successful in the transition discussed having access to a larger support network (e.g., coach, training partners) and psychological facilitators (e.g., determination, confidence, motivation) compared to their counterparts, who perceived various debilitators to their transition experience (e.g., lack of facilities, injuries, the coach, loss of motivation, competition behaviours) and appear to lack the individual (e.g., psychological attributes) and external facilitators (e.g., social support) that can be crucial when making the step up into senior sport. The results from Study 3 suggest that both successful athletes and those who are unsuccessful in making the transition into senior sport perceive several factors to influence their transition. However, one potential limitation of Study 3 was that it employed retrospective interview techniques, which may, not only be influenced by recall bias but may also not be useful in identifying whether factors associated with transition change over the transition period. To advance the literature on the junior-to-senior transition, Study 4 examined athletes’ personal narratives of the junior-to-senior transition, specifically the factors that influence athletes transition and identify any changes that occur during this period. A total of six athletes (4 female, 2 male) were purposefully selected, aged between 18 and 24 years (x ̅= 20.5). Interviews (n=3) with each participant took place over 12 months, with a total of 18 interviews. Interviews took place in June 2017, October/November 2017 and March/April 2018. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and structural analysis was employed. Athletes identified various factors that they perceived as facilitative and debilitative towards the transition outcome that had also been recognised in previous studies in the thesis. For example, some of the factor’s athletes perceived to facilitate their transition included social support, focusing on personal progression, and developing a sport-specific knowledge. Whereas, factors that were perceived to hinder the transition included an increase in pressure to perform, lack of support, and a lack of motivation. The study highlighted several important considerations associated with the junior-to-senior transition in sport. First, the factors perceived to influence the transition vary amongst individuals. For example, a factor that one athlete perceives as particularly challenging (e.g., increase in pressure to perform) may not be identified by another athlete. Individual variation in athletes needs to be considered when negotiating the junior-to-senior transition. Also, Study 4 highlighted the factors associated with the transition are dynamic and are constantly changing throughout the process. The results may help practitioners understand the dynamic process of the junior-to-senior transition, specifically, how athletes’ perceptions can evolve and change during the course of the process. Furthermore, the results from this study may lead to the development of interventions to prepare athletes for the transition into senior sport by educating them on the challenges associated with the transition and support them in developing effective coping strategies to manage these changes. After developing a more comprehensive knowledge of the junior-to-senior transition in British track-and-field from studies 1 to 4 in the thesis, Study 5 looked to identify an approach to facilitate athletes’ transition. Specifically, the purpose of Study 5 was to develop, implement and evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention. The intervention spanned a 3-month period and looked to provide athletes with appropriate education to manage sport and non-sport demands whilst negotiating the transition. The intervention was made up of fourteen workshops (e.g., effective time management, nutrition, mentoring) and personalised one-to-one support was offered to participants. The intervention was conducted with male (n=2) and female (n=11) British track-and-field athletes aged between 16 and 21 (x ̅= 18.6; SD = 1.61). Athletes were competing at local (n=2), national (n=7), and international (n=4) level. The effectiveness of the intervention was evaluated using the Transition Monitoring Survey (TMS; Stambulova et al., 2012) and social validation interviews. The results imply that, amongst other factors, athletes felt more motivated to make the transition, better adjusted to compete as a senior athlete, and had developed a number of coping strategies that can facilitate their transition (e.g., seeing progress as long-term) post-intervention. Beyond this, the results showed that the intervention had a positive influence on athletes perceptions of the transition, their motivation to successfully make the step up into senior sport and had developed skills which could be used in the future (e.g., goal setting). Based on the results from Study 5, there is a need for researchers, practitioners, and governing bodies to implement and evaluate further interventions to support athletes through the junior-to-senior transition. The current PhD extends knowledge of the junior-to-senior transition in sport. The thesis has made a significant contribution to the literature by providing a review and synthesis of the current research on the junior-to-senior transition in sport and a new model of transition to better explain the various factors involved in the transition (e.g., individual, external, cultural model of the junior-to-senior transition; Study 1). The thesis went on to explore the transition from the specific context of British track-and-field. After identifying the current retention and progression rates of British athletes from elite junior-to-senior level, the need to explore the specific factors influencing the transition was apparent. Factors that were perceived to facilitate and debilitate athletes’ transitions into senior athletics were explored and subsequently informed the design, implementation, and evaluation of an intervention to support athletes approaching the junior-to-senior transition. It is proposed that this knowledge not only has the potential to benefit athletes but practitioners, coaches, sports organisations alike. Sports psychologists, national governing bodies, and other sports organisations should look to support young developing athletes through the delivery of educational interventions aimed at enhancing the necessary skills, attributes, and personal resources to increase the likelihood of experiencing a successful transition and flourishing in the competitive senior environment.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: junior-to-senior; transitions in sport; youth-to-senior; career transitions; youth sport
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation Leisure > GV561 Sports > GV711 Coaching
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation Leisure > GV561 Sports
Divisions: Sport & Exercise Sciences
Date Deposited: 28 May 2020 11:02
Last Modified: 13 Sep 2022 14:55
DOI or ID number: 10.24377/LJMU.t.00013008
Supervisors: Morris, R, Tod, D and Eubank, M
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/13008
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