‘If you’ve got a fire, you can rekindle it’: Learning how to re-engage in sport following a lapse through a multiple-case study of Masters athletes


The COVID-19 pandemic led to the implementation of socio-sanitary restrictions and a mass exodus from organized sport and physical activity (PA). As restrictions are lifted, many individuals are attempting to re-engage with sport. Masters athletes (MAs) are optimal for studying successful re­-engagement because they adhere to sport throughout adulthood. 'Rekindlers' are MAs who participated in organized sport during their youth followed by a lapse in PA, often due to competing responsibilities (Dionigi, 2015). Uniquely, ‘Rekindlers’ have overcome prolonged disengagement from PA in the past. The purpose of this study was to understand the facilitators, barriers, and strategies of ‘Rekindlers’ during their re-engagement following a sustained lapse in PA. A multiple-case study grounded in critical realism was conducted with eleven MAs (9F, 2M), ranging from 43-70 years of age. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews and data was analyzed through thematic analysis. All MAs were competitive in youth sport as children and adolescents and experienced a lapse in sport (ranging from 3-40 years) due to varying factors (e.g., career, injury). MAs spoke about reasons for re-engaging (e.g., health, identity, social involvement) and the research they did to re-engage (e.g., club websites, spoke with established MAs). MAs’ re-engagement process was influenced by their personal strategies (e.g., preparatory PA, goal setting), and social (e.g., support from MAs/coaches), external (e.g., proximity to training), and psychological factors (e.g., identity, emotions). These results offer an example of successful re-engagement and may be helpful for others attempting to re-engage following the COVID-19 pandemic.