The type of sport practiced may shape the athletic career, considered as the period in which an athlete is dedicated to obtaining their maximum performance in one or more sports. The aim of this study was to compare athletic careers and retirement in individual and team sports. Four hundred and ten former elite athletes (38.5 ± 7.6 years) answered an ad hoc questionnaire; 61.5% were men and 38.5% women; 45.1% were from individual sports, while 54.9% were from team sports. It emerged that the age of maximum sports performance and the retirement age occurred significantly later in team sports than in individual sports (U = 15,042 and U = 12,624.5, respectively p < 0.001). Team sports athletes combined their athletic career with work to a greater extent than those from individual sports (χ2 (3, N = 408) = 14.2; p = 0.003; Cv = 0.187). Individual sports athletes trained more hours per week (30.0 ± 11.7 h) than those involved in team sports (19.2 ± 10.7 h; U = 9682; p < 0.001). These athletes (team sports) were in a better economic and working situation at retirement transition (χ2 (3, N = 406) = 23.9; p < 0.001; Cv = 0.242). Individual sports athletes perform physical activity more frequently than team sports athletes (U = 16,267.5; p = 0.045), while team sports athletes participate more actively in veteran competitions (χ2 (1, N = 390) = 3.9; p = 0.047; Cv = 0.104) and more frequently attend events as spectators (χ2 (1, N = 390) = 8.4; p = 0.004; Cv = 0.151). dual career support providers should be aware that team sports athletes enjoy a longer athletic career, and they are in a better position to face the retirement transition than individual sports athletes.
Keywords: athletic career; dual career; elite sport; employment; lifestyle; performance; sports career.