Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Patrick H. Munley


There has been very limited research on sport retirement concerning the experiences that female collegiate athletes face when retiring from a sport due to injury. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore, understand, and describe experiences that former NCAA Division I female gymnasts had when they retired from gymnastics, part-way through college, due to injury. The main objective of the study was to attempt to understand female collegiate gymnasts' sport retirement experiences and the impact these experiences may have had on their identity development and college experience. The study also considered female collegiate gymnasts' perceived needs and coping skills during the injury and sport retirement processes.

Initial and follow-up phone interviews were conducted with nine former female collegiate gymnasts who experienced difficulty when becoming injured and transitioning to retirement. Interviews were conducted to explore and understand the women's experiences with sport injury and retirement. A phenomenological approach was utilized to analyze the qualitative data in order to find common elements of female collegiate gymnasts' experiences with retirement due to injury.

Several themes emerged from the women's experiences, including the role of gymnastics in the women's lives, the injury experience, the transition to retirement, the impact on their college experience, the impact on their identity, what was beneficial to them in coping, challenges in coping, and needs experienced in transitioning to retirement. The women also shared their advice for other collegiate athletes facing a similar situation and their feelings about participating in the study. Findings are discussed in terms of understanding female collegiate gymnasts and retirement due to injury, implications for psychologists and other professionals who work with female collegiate gymnasts, and implications for future research.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access