To swim or not to swim? A qualitative interview study on why elite swimmers in sports high schools quit their swimming career

🇸🇪 Summary in Swedish

Dylan Saleh & Jørgen Bagger Kjær
Department of Sport Sciences, Linnæus University

The aim of this study is to examine how former elite swimmers experience the process of dropout when in sports high schools, and understand why these swimmers quit. To answer the research question the research team interviewed 9 elite swimmers who choose to drop out during or right after their time at a sports high school. The data was analyzed based on two theoretical frameworks, Ebaugh’s decision-making process and the push/pull/anti-push/anti-pull model. The results show that the decision to drop out appears to be multifaceted and complex, with one to four different factors together constituting basis of the decision. The factors include the two push-factors, dissatisfaction with coaches and lack of development, and the two pull-factors, social reasons outside of sports and studies. These factors were to a large extent linked to factors within the swim clubs’ control and in lesser part linked to the support from the sports school. However, in line with Henriksen (2010a, 2010b) these two environments should work together to contribute to a holistic environment for the athlete and thus be able to counteract the drop out. Enjoying the sport and the role of the coach is also emphasized as valuable to counteract the decision to drop out. In addition, this study makes a theoretical contribution to Ebaugh’s decision-making process by suggesting that you need to distinguish between short and long term alternatives. The result show that there was no alternative to seek besides finishing high school. Instead, they searched for long-term alternatives in further education after high school, without the sport.

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DYLAN SALEH is a swim coach in Mölndals Allmänna Simsällskap. He holds a B.Sc. in sport science from Linnæus University with a specialization in Coaching and Sport Management. He has written his first research article which content was deemed as Outstanding Qualitative Sports and Society Research by Ohio State University. In autumn he starts his master’s studies at Linnaeus University.

JØRGEN BAGGER KJÆR is a senior lecturer at the Sport Science Department at Linnæus University. He holds a B.Sc. and M.Sc. degree from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark and a M.A. from the George Washington University, USA. He earned his Ph.D. from George Mason University, USA. He conducts research within effective sport coaching, youth sport and professionalization processes in sport. He supports sport coaches through LNU’s bachelor and master programs as well as professional development courses.

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