The transition from youth level to professional level : An examination of the challenges and coping strategies of elite football players
: Thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of Southampton Solent University for the degree of Master of Philosophy

  • Leonard Idowu

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    This study focuses on understanding the lived experiences of youth academy professional football players during the process of career transition into professional-level football. This study took a case study approach in that only one club took part in the data collection process. The research had three main aims, which were: 1) understanding the different pressures, challenges and demands young athletes faced during their transition into professional-level football; 2) understanding what support systems/mechanisms were accessible to players during their transitional process; and 3) examining the coping strategies players employed in order to overcome the challenges they encountered. Face-to-face interviews were chosen as the method of data collection. The in-depth, semi-structured interview was considered the most appropriate type of interview for the methodological approach chosen for this research. This method of data collection enabled the interviewees freedom to discuss topics that are personal to them, in turn providing detailed, intimate information about their transitional lived experience. Semi-structured interview was the chosen methodology approach for this study, allowing the study to explore meanings rather than collect the facts regarding the players' transitional experience, thus capturing rich and detailed stories. During the process of data analysis, the "double hermeneutics" approach was used, whereby the athletes interpreted their lived transitional experiences, while the researcher interpreted the athletes? interpretation of their experiences. The analysis of the interviews produced some key themes that speak to the three main aims. These themes were: 1) challenges, including environmental, personal and leadership; 2) support, pertaining to emotional, mental, informational and tangible support; and 3) coping mechanisms, specifically problem-focused coping and emotion-focused coping. The most cited forms of challenges were in relation to training, social media and family issues. Sources of support varied depending on the challenge athletes faced, but one factor was constant: family was the ever-present source of support regardless of the challenge and pressure the athletes faced. Generally, when the athletes chose their coping mechanism, it seemed to be a combination of both problem-focused coping and emotion-focused coping. As athletes tried to figure out how to resolve the challenge(s) they encountered, they simultaneously aimed to keep their emotions in check as to not increase the pressure they felt.
    Date of Award2018
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Solent University

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