Dept. of Psychology, Lund University
Athletes’ Career Across Cultures was written to address the complex issue of athletes’ careers around the world as well as to build a link to the International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology (IJSEP), published by Taylor and Francis since 2011.
The book contains three main parts. In the introductory chapter the significance of a cross-cultural view on the athletes’ careers is discussed. In the main body, athletes’ careers in different countries are examined from a variety of perspectives. The final component of the book outlines emerging themes as well as limitations of current practices and future challenges for career research and assistance programs.
The main body of the book is compiled of 18 chapters written by different researchers from all corners of world. The countries discussed are as follows: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the USA. Each chapter starts with an overall fact sheet for the specific country, including demographics, sport information and current career research and assistance particulars. Next is a thorough investigation into the history of athletes’ career assistance programs and research in that particular country followed by the current state of affairs, where recent developments in the field as well as the key issues particular to that country are reviewed. Last, future directions and challenges are debated and recommendations for researchers and governing bodies are made.
As the editors explain, the book has been written to challenge the existing research on athletes’ careers. Traditionally, research on career transition within the sport context has been conducted as any other scientific investigation: “to produce a detached, valid and generalizable research product which can be used universally” (p. 2). Therefore, the various career models have proposed that athletes follow similar pathways and undergo similar experiences despite their cultural backgrounds. This book, however, challenge this belief, and in line with the “cultural psychology movement” it advocates that culture and socio-historical contexts underpin psychological processes such as career transitions of athletes. Stambulova and Ryba assert that current career studies lack a cultural aspect and thus there is a need to refocus “the study of athletes’ careers on processes and connections between psyche and context” (p. 13). They express that the book is written to develop a discourse within the field of athletes’ career research, which “will infuse production of knowledge with lived culture and social action to safeguard athletes’ well-being” (p. 12).
I find the cross-cultural aspect of the book very intriguing. The chapters on Brazil (authored by Brandão & Vieira) and Denmark (by Henriksen & Christensen) are particularly interesting. The contrasting sport cultures in these two different countries – both with successful athletes – are quite fascinating and informative. The chapter on Brazil (chapter 4) is an eye-opener that exposes the problems underneath the glamorous façade of Brazilian soccer culture. This chapter reveals that the Brazilian soccer culture believes geniality and improvisation to be innate personality traits as well as the only keys to success. Therefore, in such a culture, hard work and planning are not deemed worthy and hence underemphasized. Such beliefs are also transferred to preparations for various career transitions (i.e. moving to another country, developing other skills, career termination) and as a result any factor influencing these transitions is underestimated.To sum up, the cross-cultural aspect of the book appeals to me, not only because it investigates the career transition of athletes in different countries in depth, but also, because of today’s globalized sports culture.
In contrast Denmark (chapter 7) has adopted a holistic ecological perspective in order to effectively assist young talented athletes to develop into successful senior athletes. In this perspective, the environment plays a major role in successful talent development of athletes. In this chapter, such environments are referred to as “the athletic talent development environment (ATDE)” (p. 81). The chapter goes on to point out that when successful ATDEs were examined, it was found that they all share some common features. These features are examined thoroughly as the chapter continues. An example of such common feature is presence of psychosocial skills and competencies for life, which is described as “ a focus on developing psychosocial skills and competencies for life and /…/ aiming beyond just making skilled athletes” (p. 85). The chapter concludes that Denmark has managed to develop the athletic talents in a “socially responsible manner” (p. 87) and create a sport culture where career transition is emphasized, researched and assisted successfully.
My only criticism to this book is the lack of depth in the chapter on China (chapter 6). In my opinion, this chapter is analyzing the Chinese career transition research and assistance programs in a superficial manner and does not delve deeper into current important issues in Chinese sport culture. For example the issue of education is discussed very briefly where the authors (Huang, Menglin & Qiao) point out that “education and athletic training are often contradictory for Chinese athletes” (p. 73) but do not analyze the impacts of this crucial factor on athletes’ career transition.
To sum up, the cross-cultural aspect of the book appeals to me, not only because it investigates the career transition of athletes in different countries in depth, but also, because of today’s globalized sports culture. The editors are successful in challenging the universality of current athletes’ careers research and theories and emphasize the limitations of such beliefs as well as point out the lack of culturally specific research in such a sensitive and significant topic. Moreover, with its many and diverse chapters this book can serve as a standard reference for both students and researchers of sport sciences. I recommend this book not only to academics but also to applied sport professionals (i.e. coaches, psychologists) who are bound to encounter athletes from various cultures in the course of their professional lives.
Copyright @ Sepand Mashreghi 2014