Social connection for sport retirement

Navigating elite sport retirement with confidence

More Than Sport: Supporting identity change

Retiring from the world of elite sport can be an exciting new beginning for some athletes but may also present significant challenges for others. Whether it’s a planned or unplanned change, retirement from sport impacts an athlete’s sense of identity and who they will become after sport.  

Evidence shows that retirement from elite sport can lead to declining health and well-being, particularly for those whose lives are centred around their sport. This is because these changes challenge an athlete’s sense of who they are, affecting mental health and overall wellness. Tackling this issue is a new program we have developed - More Than Sport: Supporting identity change.

Tailored support to manage athlete identity change

More Than Sport is a specialised online program aimed at assisting elite athletes to manage identity changes they experience when retiring from sport.
This interactive program helps athletes to:

  • Understand the impact that career transitions, such as retirement, have on athlete identity, and the social relationships and groups that support these in and outside of sport.
  • Learn to identify key social groups that influence identity loss and change in career transitions.
  • Identify new groups that will support identity development and its ongoing management into the future.
  • Access tools and develop skills and strategies to move forward with life after elite and professional sport.

More Than Sport empowers athletes to take control of the identity changes that are inevitable in these transitions, paving the way for greater fulfillment in life after elite sport. 

Learn about More Than Sport: Supporting identity change

This program has been designed for sportspeople to support them to manage the identity changes that sport retirement poses. It is relevant to athletes across all sports, whether engaged in sport at a team or individual level.

The More Than Sport program covers five key modules to facilitate a smooth and successful transition. These are covered in the 5P’s shown below: Preparing, Powering, Positioning, Planning and Persevering.

Identity mattersRaises awareness of identities in and outside of sport, how they are based on the social groups we belong to (as us athletes, family, teachers, mentors, etc), and how they influence sport retirement outcomes.
Groups build identityLearn about the importance of the groups and identities outside of sport that impact your life.
Mapping identitiesUnderstand how social groups and identities can be harnessed to support identity change, mental health and well-being.
Managing identitiesEngage in social identity planning to extend and create new groups and connections in life after sport.
Sustaining identitiesExplore solutions to the challenges of identity management that help you to adapt, and thrive into the future.


Research collaborations

More Than Sport Pilot 

The More Than Sport program was piloted in collaboration with two universities and several sporting organisations .  This qualitative study involved 25 athletes (nearing or recently retired). Overall, athletes identified multiple benefits of the program that included: raised awareness of the building and maintaining social group networks, new knowledge and skills to manage identity in career transitions, and strategies to cope with identity change and associated losses.

More Than Sport Trials 

Extending the pilot, is a collaboration with KU Leuven to conduct a trial of More Than Sport in Belgian athletes. This research will examine the important role that social identities play in supporting athlete health and well-being not only during, but also after terminating, their sporting careers. Visit the Leading Insights website to keep up to date with project progress.