From the rink to reality: Exploring transition experiences of recently graduated NCAA Division 1 women’s ice hockey players

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University of New Brunswick


The end of a sports career marks a significant transition for collegiate athletes. The existing literature has predominantly overlooked the transition experiences of female ice hockey players. This qualitative study explored the experiences of 14 recently graduated NCAA Division 1 women’s hockey players adapting to life beyond collegiate sport. Semi-structured interviews were grounded in Schlossberg's (2011) 4 S Model (situation, self, support, strategies). Thematic analysis was conducted to identify recurring themes within participant narratives. Findings highlighted participants' varying degrees of preparation for change, experiences of athletic identity loss leading to self-discovery, a mix of effective support and gaps in institutional support, and the implementation of coping strategies to manage uncertainty. This study contributed to a deeper understanding of the post-collegiate experiences of women in elite ice hockey, informing support systems and strategies tailored to their specific needs. Recommendations are provided for researchers, coaches, counsellors, and institutions committed to athletes’ well-being.