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A theoretical and empirical investigation of the multitude of dual career experiences in sport

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posted on 19.09.2019, 08:30 by Emily Deason
This thesis sought to explore and examine the multitude of dual career experiences in sport, (i.e., the experience of combining a sporting career with an educational or vocational career). The research focus upon dual careers in sport derived from several research approaches within sport psychology including: the transitions literature (e.g., Wylleman & Lavallee, 2004; Wylleman, Reints, & De Knop, 2013), the holistic athlete perspective literature (e.g., Henriksen, Stambulova, & Roessler, 2010; Wylleman et al., 2013), and the athletic retirement literature (see Knights, Sherry, & Ruddock-Hudson, 2016). The research approaches highlighted the importance of considering an athlete’s life outside of sport and/or their preparation for life after sport. This led to an increased interest in the ability of athletes to pursue an education or vocation alongside their sporting endeavours and the impact these activities have on factors such as, sporting performance, academic performance, well-being and ability to cope with transition and/or adversity. One aim of this thesis was to provide a fundamental contribution to the research field by comprehensively reviewing and synthesising the evidence which addresses the factors that facilitate positive experiences of managing a sporting career alongside an education or vocation. The results outline factors that have been identified as impacting the experience of a dual career, such as: the academic environment, sporting environment, personal resources, and social support.
The thesis was then guided by the gaps in the research knowledge that were highlighted by the review. One area that was identified to be of interest for further research was the spectrum of dual career experiences that are presented in the literature and the lack of theoretical conceptualization which explain the development of these different experiences. For example, on the one hand, previous research identified a variety of positive experiences from pursuing a dual career (e.g., Aquilina, 2013; Lavallee & Robinson, 2007; Miller & Kerr, 2002; Murphy, Petitpas, & Brewer, 1996; Pink, Saunders, & Stynes, 2015). However, the negative experiences of pursuing two career goals have also been extensively reported (e.g., Cosh & Tully, 2014; Knight, Harwood, & Sellars, 2018; Singer, 2008; Ryan, 2015; Ryba, Stambulova, Ronkainen, Bundgaard, & Selänne, 2015; Tekavc, Wylleman, & Cecić Erpič, 2015). The thesis then employs a method that has, thus far, not been used in this research area and further explores these contrasting experiences via a grounded theory analysis (chapter 4) which integrates inductive interview data with previous research (e.g., Aunola, Selänne, Selänne, & Ryba, 2018; Chamorro, Torregrosa, Sánchez Oliva, García Calvo, & León, 2016; Ryba, Stambulova, Selänne, Aunola, & Nurmi, 2017; Stambulova, Engström, Franck, Linnér, & Lindahl, 2015). The findings present experiences of dual careers as categorised into one of three pathways: the parallel dual career pathway, the sporting pathway and, the educational/vocational pathway. All three pathways exhibit varying outcomes, benefits, and detriments, which are outlined as: the educational gap, vocational skills gap, and the sporting gap. This chapter also outlines a suggested process for the development of these pathways, dual career development mechanism, which incorporates identity, motivation, and self-efficacy. The research contributes to the understanding of dual career athletes as a heterogenous group, as opposed to a homogeneous group. However, this research advances the current understanding by viewing the experiences from a developmental standpoint and presenting a theory of the whole dual career lifespan.
The findings presented in the grounded theory development led to the hypothesis that individuals in each pathway would exhibit different patterns of athletic identity, career identity, and self-efficacy. For example, (a) individuals in the parallel dual career pathway are hypothesised to exhibit a balanced career identity, career self-efficacy, athletic identity, and athletic self-efficacy’ (b) individuals in the sporting pathway are predicted to show a higher athletic identity and athletic self-efficacy than a career identity and career self-efficacy; and (c) individuals in the educational/vocational pathway are predicted to show a higher career identity and career self-efficacy than athletic identity and athletic self-efficacy. The categorisation of dual career individuals and the suggested relationship between sporting development and career development according to the pathways presented in chapter 4 are then further explored and supported via the results of a principle component analysis and cluster analysis (chapter 5). The results upheld the hypothesis by identifying three heterogeneous groups based on their scores on identity and self-efficacy measures. The inclusion of retired dual career athletes provided us with two further groups identified as representing individuals who were further along the three pathways. Previous research has conducted similar methods with elite youth or school-aged athletes (e.g., Aunola et al., 2018; Chamorro et al., 2016) but focused on measure of motivation to categorise individuals. This research, therefore, makes a novel contribution through, confirming the hypothesis of athletic identity, student identity, and self-esteem as factors that impact dual career experiences. These findings conclude that dual career support systems and practitioners must consider the type of dual career pathway which best suits the individual in question and take steps to prepare the individual for the associated gaps of each pathway.



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences


Loughborough University

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© Emily Deason

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.




David Fletcher ; Christine Coupland

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