Key Factors in Career Development and Transitions in German Elite Combat Sport Athletes



The purpose of this study was to systematically identify key factors that facilitate and constrain career development and career transitions. Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted and analysed using both deductive and inductive analysis. The sample was purposefully composed of 14 active (n=7) and retired (n=7) male (n=8) and female (n=6) international level athletes, including Olympic gold medallists and World and European champions with 120 medals won between them. Findings relate to difficulties and critical events in athletes’ attitudes toward their career development. Six key factors were identified: second pillar, higher-level competition experience at a young age, coach, federation, setbacks, and way of coping with career termination, out of which three factors (second pillar, higher-level competition experience at young age, way of coping with career termination) were theory-based and the other three factors (coach, federation, setbacks) were collected from the transcript material. We concluded that an athletic career is a highly complex, multi-layered, and individual process. Significant differences were found between statements of student-athletes and sports soldiers concerning the second pillar and financial support. Participation at senior competitions at an early age is required for a smooth transition to a world-class level. Other aspects, such as improved communication in federations and career assistance programmes, adaption of foreign coaches to the German sport system, and supporting activities of universities have to be investigated in further research.


a fighter’s lifeathletes’ careerskey factorscombat sportselite sportinterview
  • Volume: 7
  • Page/Article: 19-35
  • DOI: 10.18573/mas.73
  • Published on 21 Jan 2019
  • Peer Reviewed