Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Laura J. Burton, Ph.D.; Joseph N. Cooper, Ph.D.

Field of Study



Master of Science

Open Access

Open Access


Since elite intercollegiate student-athletes often elect to transfer institutions for reasons of athletic dissatisfaction, it was hypothesized that members of this population have strong, exclusive athletic identities, making the transition out of sport extremely troublesome. The following research study utilized a mixed-methods approach to examine the athletic retirement experiences of elite transfer intercollegiate student-athletes. Nine former NCAA Division I women’s soccer players provided quantitative and qualitative information regarding athletic identity, transferring, and retirement from elite sport. Using the Athletic Identity Measurement Scale (AIMS) developed by Brewer et al. (1993), ‘at-risk’ individuals likely to have experienced negative transitions from sport were identified. All subjects were then asked to participate in individual in-depth interviews. Upon data analysis, it was found that only one of nine participants experienced a “negative” transition out of sport. However, many themes consistent with the literature review were ascertained, including divestment from athletic identity, psychological and emotional disturbance upon athletic retirement, and high life satisfaction following career termination. Due to a lack of exclusively identified participants and the overall idiosyncratic nature of athletic retirement, this study produced inconclusive evidence as to whether or not the AIMS can be used to predict difficult career transitions in elite transfer intercollegiate student-athletes. After discussing the study’s findings, this paper then concludes with implications for professionals working in intercollegiate athletics and/or higher education. Though CHAMPS/life skills programs were not necessarily supported by this specific research, there are other suggestions and strategies that coaches, advisors, and administrators should implement when facilitating smooth retirements for their elite intercollegiate student-athletes.

Major Advisor

Jennifer E. Bruening, Ph.D.