In practice


Case study: Field hockey player

Jane Doe is a 28-year-old British field hockey player. For the last 11 years, she has been a member of the senior national team, competing in 3 Olympic Games. She struggled with hip injury for many years before having a hip surgery 1 year ago. However, the pain in her hip returned a few months ago, and Jane has decided that because of the strain on her body, she will not come back for the new season and is instead ending her elite sporting career.

Jane is struggling to come to terms with the fact that her athletic career has ended but feels that it is the right time to start the process of considering employment options and what her life outside of sport could look like. At this stage, Jane Doe is unsure about what employment to apply for, although she has a university degree in Sports Coaching that she completed 5 years ago. She has not done any work experience since she finished university.

Reason to select this tool

The tool Game Changer is chosen by her counsellor to support Jane to understand the values she perceived to be impactful during her sporting career. This tool is particularly important for Jane because although she has an academic degree, she is unsure about her future vocation or what her life could look life outside an elite sporting environment. Jane is keen to have a life outside of sport that she has enjoyed as much as her athletic career.

Session 1: Creating the Book of Values

Initally, Jane and her counsellor discuss the importance and role of values based on the information given in the STARTING 11 Dictionary. After the overall idea of the upcoming intervention is explained, they start by folding the Book of Values (pdf) template into a booklet.

First, the counsellor asks her to choose a title for her book. Jane writes down “New dreams?” on page 1.

The counsellor now wants to understand the emotions that Jane connects to her athletic retirement experience. Jane is instructed to draw her emotions in the face on page 2 of the booklet. Jane draws a sad face (see below), but also reflects that she is looking forward to new options in life. Therefore, one eye cries while the other seems to look to the future. She discusses her sadness at having to retire on terms that are outside of her control (injury) because she had hoped that she would be able to participate in one more Olympic Games.

Game Changer Smiley

On page 3, the counsellor prompts Jane to consider what her most impactful values were from her time as an elite field hockey player: “What has been meaningful to you during your sporting career?” Jane is asked to write down her 3 most impactful values. Upon further discussion with the counsellor, Jane explains why she has chosen these values:

  • Being in strong and connected team environment – Jane has enjoyed being part of a high functioning team during her sporting career. She has been fortunate enough to be amongst a team and network of support staff where everyone encourages one another, both on and off the pitch, and there is a common understanding that everything is working towards the same goal.
  • Being a role model – Jane has significantly valued her time as an “older member” of her team who has had the opportunity to act as a role model to up and coming players. She enjoys the sense of being able to give back to hockey and motivate players to want to achieve their sporting dreams.
  • Continual learning – Continuing to learn new skills, knowledge, and methods of coping has been a valuable part of her sporting career. This was particularly valuable for Jane when the team gained a new coach a few years ago, who introduced new techniques and tactics the team had not considered before.

Without further stimulation by the counsellor, Jane expresses her fear to lose these values with retiring from her athletic career. The counsellor points out that she has the chance to reinterpret her sport values and realize them within different contexts, and thereby creating a continued sense of fulfilment. Based on this notion, Jane is asked to open out the booklet and her attention is turned to the big page that she is presented with. The concept of “turning a new page” and “opening up new possibilities” visibly resonates with Jane. She seems to feel a first sense of empowerment by connecting to the chance of shaping her life moving forward.

Up to this point, the session has been energetically intensive. Thus, at this point, the counsellor decides to conclude by providing Jane with a home task linked to page 4: “Until our next session, gather concrete ideas on how your impactful values from your sporting career could be reinterpreted into the new contexts of relationship/family, friends/hobbies/sport, education/vocational life and social projects/other.” Simultaneously, the counsellor asks Jane to turn her attention to the right-hand corner of the opened-out booklet, where the treasure chest sits. The counsellor explains the process of obtaining the hidden gift during the change process of being an active athlete to a retired athlete; a process that happened very quickly for Jane due to her injury. “Reflect upon your secret treasure. You can decide if you want to discuss your personal treasure next time we meet or if you prefer to keep it secret.”

Session 2: Giving direction

1 week later, Jane and her counsellor meet again. Given her appearance, Jane seems to have made a substantial move forward when it comes to imagining her future. She confirms by pointing out that she has collected a large amount of ideas on how to realize her sport values in her post-athletic life. After briefly discussing these ideas, Jane and her counsellor agree on first focusing on the employment part. How can her sport values be reinterpreted in a vocational context and what does this imply regarding her job search?

  • Being in strong and connected team environment – Jane is keen to move into a vocational career where she is part of a team that work in a close-knit environment, where each member is valued. She also discusses how she would enjoy working with people within different disciplines as she as always been interested in how multidisciplinary teams interact with one another during her sporting career. Together, they discuss that Jane would prefer to continue working in a sporting environment.
  • Being a role model – Jane and her counsellor discuss the last few years of her sporting career, where Jane acted as a mentor for young players in the junior field hockey pathway. During this time, Jane provided both 1:1 and group support to young players and has always enjoyed giving advice and giving back to the sport she loves. Together, they discuss that Jane would enjoy working with children in her chosen vocation and continue passing on knowledge and expertise. This amounts to a discussion about Jane becoming a school teacher within physical education.
  • Continual learning – Jane discusses her passion for learning during her sporting career, and also has fond memories of her time at university. Jane always thought about going back to university to do a postgraduate degree, to continue the process of developing her skills and knowledge. Jane and the counsellors discuss the possibility of Jane going back to university to a one-year teacher training degree.

The above discussions about Jane’s most impactful values from her international hockey career and how they might transfer into a vocation amount to a discussion about Jane choosing a career as a physical education teacher. This vocational path would mean that Jane has the opportunity to work in an area that she is passionate about and would echo the values of her sporting career. Jane and the counsellor identify concrete next actions to be completed until their next session:

  • Explore postgraduate teaching course opportunities close to the area that she lives
  • Explore options of continuing to engage with youth hockey players as retired athlete

Unearthing the secret treasure

At the end of the session, Jane decides that she would like to discuss her treasure with her counsellor. She has come up with two different treasures that she feels the retirement process has unearthed.

  • Express gratitude everyday – Jane discusses how going from athlete to a retired athlete without any control has helped her recognise how lucky she was to spend 11 years competing at the highest level in the sport she loved. She pledges to be grateful for other than the hip injury, being fit and healthy.
  • Reconnecting with family – Jane also recognises that although the injury has been a difficult life event to cope with, although she had not initially considered this, a major positive that has come out of ending her sporting career is that she is able to reconnect with loved ones.