When the lights go out, how do they turn back on?: a classic grounded theory on the transition out of the National Football League (NFL)
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The purpose of this classic grounded theory study was to examine the process of transition out of the National Football League (NFL) for former NFL players, and to develop a grounded theory around this substantive area. Twelve, diverse former NFL players were interviewed and asked to submit artifacts that represented or symbolized their transition experience. Based on interviews, artifacts, and relevant literature, a three-model theory was generated around the phenomenon of transitioning out of the NFL. Model 1 outlines the Former Player Life Timeline, Model 2 depicts the Post-NFL Macro Transition Sequence, and Model 3 displays the Process of Purpose Post-NFL. The main concern that participants sought to address emerged as rediscovering and redefining purpose in life post-NFL career. The supporting categories emerged as (1) vision for success in life; (2) intentional engagement in the process; (3) flesh out self-identity; (4) humble yourself; and (5) replicate the blueprint for success. Five properties for each the latter three categories emerged, each supported by relevant literature in neuroscience, sport psychology, and positive psychology. The resulting theory demonstrated a 95-100 percent reliability measure through professional triangulation, and was validated by fit, relevance, workability, and modifiability through participant and professional reviews. This theory offers a conceptualization of the psychoemotional experience of the transition process, while also offering a framework/game plan to assist individuals in preparing for and navigating life beyond the game.