No professional athlete is an island: A case study exploring personal and family experiences of transitions through an early NHL career


The careers of professional athletes are both exciting and tenuous. Normative and non-normative transition experiences (Stambulova, 2000) are both in play and how an individual is able to cope with these transitions is a key element to persistence and health (Stambulova et al., 2009). Throughout the course of an athletic career, several transitions will occur that affect the individual as well as significant others (Debois et al., 2012; Wylleman & Lavallee, 2004). In early work related to transitions, Schlossberg and colleagues (1981; 1995) point to four factors that could influence a person's ability to transition: 1) the situation, 2) the self, 3) support, and 4) strategies. Wylleman and Lavallee have also suggested a developmental approach to studying transitions through sport and highlight the roles of the individual and context throughout development to adulthood. The purpose of the current case study was to gain further understanding of transition experiences as they are currently happening throughout the early stages of a professional hockey career. Using a constructivist approach, a current NHL athlete as well as his parents and sibling were interviewed yearly over the past three seasons. Using previous frameworks, data collected were deductively analyzed to highlight or critique various components of the current models. Results point to the importance of continued family support throughout the early stages of a professional career and suggestions for individual and family preparation as an athlete enters the professional ranks.