Date of Award

August 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Psychology

First Advisor

Stephen Wester

Committee Members

Nadya Fouad, Rajeswari Swaminathan, Barbera Meyer


Athlete, Coach, Transition


The following dissertation explored six (n = 6), current, professional baseball coaches' experience with transitioning from playing to coaching. Some experiences associated with athletic transitions based on the literature include missing sport or competition, body changes, social status changes, and vocational concerns (Wylleman & Reints, 2010; Park & Lavallee, 2015). Additionally, the salience of one's athletic identity can create difficulties such as identity loss, emotional distress, and grief (Lally, 2007; Fortunato & Marchant, 1998; Grove, Lavalle, & Gordon, 1997). Within vocational concerns, there can be uncertainty about the next career's link to sports. For many professional athletes, their age of retirement is different compared to non-athletes (Park & Lavallee, 2015) resulting in the potential need to find employment after playing is no longer an option. One potential path is coaching. Shachar, Brewer, Cornelius, and Paptitpas (2004) studied former, Israeli athletes who became coaches as well as those who did not. They found athletic identity did not play a significant role in the decision to coach although athletic identity was higher in those who chose coaching as a second career as opposed to those who did not. The current study's purpose was to understand the experience of becoming a coach after retirement from a professional baseball career. According to Super life-span, life space theory (Hartung, 2013) 14-24 years old is when individuals are exploring potential career paths. While draft ages for professional athletics all fall under this window, baseball's draft age is the youngest therefore exploration may not be happening if these athletes are already employed.

Three significant themes emerged from semi-structured interviews: Mental Preparation, which captured the preparation involved to take on career transitions and handle potential challenges successfully, Multilayered Motivation, which considered the combination of intrinsic and extrinsic influences to becomes a coach, and Identity is not Stagnant, which noted the ebb and flow of athletic identity. The coaches' shared journey demonstrated the determination and resiliency that was involved in order to pursue a field that had no guarantee of success, twice. In addition, to strive for a dream regardless of challenges, doubts, or uncertainties.