Degrees of success: negotiating dual career paths in elite sport and university education in Finland, France and the UK
2014-10-06T10:52:45Z (GMT) by
The requirements placed on Olympic and professional athletes in contemporary world sport are such that they need to dedicate themselves more and more to achieving excellence. This immediately implies that most athletes' time is dedicated to developing their sporting career, with very little time left to develop other aspects of their lives outside their sport. The reality facing many elite athletes is that few are sufficiently financially rewarded to allow them to make a living out of their sport, and even fewer can rely on measures in place in their own country to assist with the financial and psychological impacts of their retirement from sport (Stambulova, Stephan, & Japhag, . 2007). This places even more importance on the need for the athlete to either have a 'dual career' or else to prepare for a post-athletic career while still participating in elite sport. However, though policy makers have begun to demonstrate an awareness of these needs, and programmes have been developed to assist in the educational and vocational development of athletes, little effort has been made to identify how athletes perceive the choices which face them and how they negotiate a way through the challenges of developing and maintaining a dual career. To redress this, a life story approach has been adopted during this research study to try to elicit student-athletes' own life experiences and to identify and evaluate the decision-making processes they go through, in order to combine an academic and elite sporting career successfully. The athletes selected for the development of life-stories are drawn from three countries, Finland, France and the UK which reflect different approaches to state intervention in sport/education (Amara, Aquilina, Henry, & Taylor, 2004). Crucial to an evaluation of these national systems is an understanding of what these policy systems are seeking to achieve. This may be expressed in terms of a balance between the roles; rights and responsibilities of the main stakeholders (including the athlete, the university, the Member State and the European Union) which are articulated within the study. This research study therefore seeks to develop an understanding of the perspectives on student-athletes' development in academic and sporting terms, identifying the principal challenges faced and how these may be overcome, and considers the implications of such insights for practitioners and policy makers.