chapter  5
14 Pages

Transitions in competitive sports

ByPAUL WYLLEMAN, PAUL DE KNOP AND ANKE REINTS

Introduction While at first glance the athletic career seems to be continuous in nature, that is a global ‘start-to-finish’ period, autobiographical reports reveal that (former) elite athletes actually outline their sport participation in terms of specific events which did – or sometimes did not – occur during their career. For example, fivetime Olympic gold medal winner Steve Redgrave reviewed his rowing career in terms of events such as a disappointing experience during his first Junior World Championships, his first Olympic medal, ending the collaboration with a rowing partner, establishing a new rowing partnership, his anticipated but unrealised athletic retirement after his fourth gold medal, the turbulent periods in his marriage, or his ‘date with destiny’ when going for his fifth gold medal at the 2000 Olympic Games (Redgrave and Townsend, 2001). In another example, legendary tennis player Pete Sampras (2008) linked his career to events and periods such as starting out in tennis, a period of wavering commitment, the winning moments at Wimbledon, and setting a new record of winning 14 Grand Slam titles. Interestingly, former elite athletes review the development of their athletic career not only in terms of performance-related events per se but refer also to events or periods that have shaped their personal development. This emphasis is, for example, underlined by Sampras who explicitly introduces his autobiography with the statement that he also wanted to acknowledge those events (e.g. his first coach spending time in jail, his mentor stricken by cancer and dying at an early age, a careerthreatening injury) which ‘aren’t the things that come to most people’s minds at the mention of my name’ (i.e. 14 Grand Slam titles) but of which he wanted to ‘reveal what they meant and how they affected me’.