In this article we explore how the stories an athlete tells throughout life in sport affect her career transition experiences. We base our enquiry on a social constructionist conception of narrative theory which holds that storytelling is integral to the creation and maintenance of identity and sense of self. Life stories were gathered through interviews with two professional women golfers (Christiana and Kandy) over a six‐year period. Through a narrative analysis of structure and form we explored each participant’s stories of living in and withdrawing from professional golf. We suggest Christiana told monological performance‐oriented stories which, while aligning with the culture of elite sport, resulted in an exclusive athletic identity and foreclosure of alternative selves and roles. On withdrawal, Christiana experienced narrative wreckage, identity collapse, mental health difficulties and considerable psychological trauma. In contrast, Kandy told dialogical discovery‐oriented stories which, while being in tension with the dominant performance narrative, created and sustained a multidimensional identity and self. Her stories and identity remained intact, authentic and continuous on withdrawal from tournament golf and she experienced few psychological problems.
- elite sport
- career transition