Gracie Struthers, PsyD, is a 2023 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, Seattle.

Dissertation Committee

Christopher Heffner, PsyD, PhD, Committee Chair

Eric Brymer, PhD, Committee Member

Melissa Kennedy, PhD, Committee Member


elite sports, extreme sports, action sports, retirement, sports retirement, existential crisis, sports psychology, well-being

Document Type


Publication Date



This study explored the lived experiences of sports retirement among elite, action sport athletes. This study examined participants’ retirement experiences, their well-being post-retirement, and recommendations participants had for current athletes about retirement. Interviews were conducted remotely with four participants. Participants identified as Caucasian, in the 25–38 age range, had been involved with their sport competitively for 17.75 years, and had been retired for 3.37 years. Data was collected and analyzed utilizing Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Participants’ experiences during retirement illustrated a significant disruption in their lives and the way they lived. This disruption was characterized by significant grief and distress, followed by a prolonged existential crisis and lack of meaning. Given their level of sport involvement and intensity, athletes struggled to relate with others who had typical social development. As a result, participants felt alone and misunderstood, which compounded their grief, loss, and overall existential crisis. Participants navigated their new lifestyles that were characterized by agency over what they wanted to portray and disclose to others and increasingly living by their values. As participants stepped into their new lives, they had accepted themselves more, were more present, and had an increased sense of well-being. This dissertation is available in open access at AURA ( and Ohio Link ETD Center (


Gracie Struthers, PsyD, 2023

ORCID Scholar ID# 0000-0003-3251-4666