16 August 2018

Research finds retirement planning boosts sport performance

Research finds retirement planning boosts sport performance

Athletes who plan their retirement well in advance are more likely to enjoy success in their playing careers, research from Abertay University has found.

Abertay University’s Professor David Lavallee – the world’s first Professor of Duty of Care in Sport - will present the findings of his new research during at keynote speech at the Professional Association of Athlete Development Specialists conference in Daytona Beach, Florida today (August 16).

The study, which analysed 632 players in the Australian National Rugby League across three seasons (over 28,000 games in total), found that higher levels of engagement in pre-retirement planning were linked to improved levels of performance on the field and length of playing career.

Professor David Lavallee

Prof Lavallee said the findings can be explained through “cognitive dissonance theory”, whereby athletes who engage in planning for the future feel less stressed and are better able focus on their sporting performance.

The Professor said the study also found that the levels of support provided to athletes in planning their retirement can also influence performance.

He said: “Retirement from sport has the potential to be a major loss for professional athletes.

“Yet, many athletes resist engaging in career transition planning programs prior to their retirement.

“Many athletes also experience feelings of loss following retirement from sport, but athletes who are effectively supported in preparing for retirement can realise a potential competitive advantage in their sport.

“Teams can also benefit by retaining athletes in the system for longer, along with the sport itself.

“These downstream impacts can occur when the value players place on pre-retirement planning is greater than the pressures to focus exclusively on sport performance."

“It is important for players, sports coaches, and senior administrators who may have misconceptions that engagement in pre-retirement planning is time poorly spent, to understand the positive benefits in relation to team selection, team tenure, and career tenure.” - Prof David Lavallee

Previous research has shown many athletes resist engaging in pre-retirement programs, possibly due to the perception that such engagement could be a distraction from their sporting performance.

However, this study found the value players placed on pre-retirement planning to be greater than the pressures to focus exclusively on sport performance.

Prof Lavallee works within the Division of Sport and Exercise Sciences, which offers a broad range of degree programmes in the area of sport and physical activity, underpinned by strengths in both research and consultancy.

The Professional Association of Athlete Development Specialists conference is a high level meeting of governing bodies and teams, with global partners including the ATP World Tour, Major League Baseball, NASCAR, NBA, NFL, US Olympic Committee, Women’s Tennis Association, National Rugby League, LPGA, Atlantic Coast Conference and WWE.

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