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


Kristin Hildegard Behr,

Bayreuth University, DE
About Kristin

Kristin H. Behr did her Master of Science in Sport, Business & Law at the University of Bayreuth and is a former elite fencing athlete. Before that she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Mannheim whilst competing on an international level. She is a four times German Champion with the team, a twice runner-up to the German Individual Champion and aimed the 4th place at the U23 European Team Championships.

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Peter Leonhard Kuhn

Bayreuth University, DE
About Peter

Peter L. Kuhn, PhD, is adjunct professor for sport science at the university of Bayreuth. He is founder of the Committee of Martial Arts Research in the German Society of Sport Science and editor-in-chief of JOMAR: Journal of Martial Arts Research. He predominantly researches on agents’ perspectives in the fields of education and martial arts. His main academic interest lies in quality development in these fields based upon a pragmatistic bottom-up approach. His current research project, ‘A Fighter’s Life’, focuses on how life careers of both amateur and professional elite fighters develop, proceed and come to an end, and what comes afterwards.

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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.

How to Cite: Behr, K.H. and Kuhn, P.L., 2019. Key Factors in Career Development and Transitions in German Elite Combat Sport Athletes. Martial Arts Studies, 7, pp.19–35. DOI:
Published on 21 Jan 2019.
Peer Reviewed


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