Transition in Sport – What Does it Mean to You?

In a recent safeguarding in sport meeting, we realised that there are many definitions of the word “transition”.

This could obviously be problematic. To better explain the issue, Annamarie Phelps CBE put this short blog together.

What does “transition” mean to you?

Probably something very different depending on whether you are a coach, a sports administrator, a member of an athlete’s entourage, a parent, or a lead safeguarding officer. If you are a social care worker it could mean something else altogether.

One Word, Many Definitions

We asked the SASSP group how many interpretations ‘transition’ could have in sport.

This is what we came up with:

  • The process of changing from one gender to another.
  • The time in an athlete’s life when they move into a senior team, usually at 18 or 21.
  • A new coach or training programme.
  • An athlete’s journey out of sporting life at the end of their career.
  • The ‘handover’ of a young person’s documentation and responsibility of guardianship as they travel to an overseas training camp, or onto a new tournament. This could be as part of a team, on their own, or with a coach.
  • The period in which a looked-after child moves between foster parents. Or perhaps at age 18, when they leave the child care system to begin a new independent life with the support of adult services.

“Transition” might also refer to the period when young disabled people move from childhood to adulthood.

All of These Applications are Perfectly Valid

And I suspect there are many more. It’s easy to see how this could be a problem.

The language of safeguarding in sport is still in its infancy. In many ways, so is safeguarding in sport itself.

Researchers don’t always agree on what they mean by many phrases, such ‘sexual abuse’. EU states do not have a single agreed definition of sexual abuse and, despite excellent work by the Council of Europe, many do not yet specifically acknowledge abuse in sport in their legislation, government guidance or policies.

The lack of reliable and comparative research into prevalence of non-accidental violence in sport is hampered by the prevalence of different cultures, languages and methodologies. It’s also held back by a lack of real understanding of certain familiar words and phrases.

The Need for Clarity

This discussion of the interpretation of the word transition – how we use it and what we mean by it – raises some interesting questions. Are we are really understanding when we hear such familiar terms used?

But after a lively debate, it was clear that a period or process of transition is one of change, of vulnerability and heightened risk for anyone. It will be particularly tough for those who may be additionally vulnerable due to their circumstances, their background, ethnicity, age, disability, gender or religion.

How many other times should we stop and check to be clear that those listening really understand what we are saying?

Annamarie PhelpsAbout the Author

Annamarie Phelps CBE is a British rower and sports administrator. She competed in the women’s eight event at the 1996 Summer Olympics. She was Chairman of British Rowing from 2013 to 2018, and is currently the independent chair of the SASSP. Follow her on Twitter here.