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Andrew T. Johnson
Professor of Psychology
ajohnson@park.edu
Department of Psychology and Sociology
Park University
I Almost Missed the Marathon: Self-determination, Injury, and Sport Termination

This case study is about a German man named Fritz Jähn. Fritz was physically active in his youth and an achievement-striving individual who was academically and professionally accomplished. He distinguished himself as an anesthesiologist and a father, but athletic competitions had been placed on hold. In his late 30s Fritz was inspired by a German Porsche ad: "By 40 years of age, a man has to have built a house, have fathered a son, have run a marathon, and driven a Porsche." Fritz was only missing the marathon, but with dedicated training he met this goal by the age of 40. He then progressed to triathlon events followed by five Ironman competitions. His competitive endeavors were terminated after an unsuccessful hallux valgus surgery in his 40s. This case study presents the details of these events along with information related to his personality dispositions, motivation, his response to sport injury, and sport termination. Designed for a sport psychology class, Fritz's story may be brought into any course that addresses concepts of identity, personality, motivation, lifespan development, and transition from profession.


Thirty-Two Seconds to Go: A Case of Motivation, Locus of Control, and Self-Efficacy 

In the 1983 Big Eight Conference championship football game, Neil Harris deflected a pass with 32 seconds to go in a play that stopped the University of Oklahoma from scoring and clinched Nebraska's perfect 12-0 season, a third consecutive Big Eight conference title, and the Huskers' 22nd-straight victory. This was just one of many victories that Neil enjoyed later in life although his beginnings were humble, prompting him to say "When you come from nothing, there is no way to go except for up." What other factors account for his success? This case study applies the concepts of self-efficacy, locus of control, motivation, and Bronfenbrenner's Bioecological Systems theory to Harris' life and experiences to examine this question. This case study was originally developed for a junior-level psychology of sport course as a capstone piece integrating the main concepts of personality factors, motivation, goal-setting, social context, handling adversity/injury, and career termination, but could easily be adapted for a variety of other psychology or sociology courses.