Coming back for more

Top athletes, including Team GB's gold medalist Greg Searle, have come out of retirement especially to compete in London 2012. Meanwhile other Olympians such as Victoria Pendleton and Chris Hoy have announced their plans to retire after the Games.

There may be many different reasons that trigger these decisions, but what could be the psychological reasons that make them decide to return?

Research conducted by Ms Sunghee Park, Professor David Lavallee and Dr David Tod, with retiring or retired athletes, suggests athletes leave their sport when they experience various lifestyle changes. The changes can be sources of negative emotions, including feelings of loss, identity confusion and meaninglessness. This study is due to be published in Athletic Insight.

Other research shows that if athletes retire from their sport in early age or involuntarily, they may see their sporting careers as an unfinished task. People tended to remember unfinished tasks nearly twice as often as finished tasks, especially when individuals had high ambitions for the task.

Therefore, we can hypothesise that athletes come out of retirement for various reasons, such as coming back to where they used to be (identity), searching for competition and public attention (feelings of loss), pursuing sporting goals (searching for meaning), and searching for closure.

The latest sports psychology news and features, during the Olympics and Paralympics, can be found on our Going for Gold website.

Once there you can take part in our online experiment, which gives you the chance to walk the path of a judoko preparing for a judo bout.