Research, supported by TASS and Loughborough university, has recently been published that suggests dual career athletes can, in fact, be split into three different groups or types. The different groups showed different psychological characteristics and should be supported by practitioners with this in mind.

This research supports and extends our understanding of the Mind the Gap model as a framework for dual career pathways and the ‘gaps’ that each pathway can lead to, therefore guiding the support that is needed for athletes in each pathway.

Mind the Gap model of dual career pathways

What the research did?

116 dual career athletes gave their responses to a questionnaire that asked about the career identity (i.e., the value they place on their role as a student or in work), athletic identity (i.e., the value they place on their role as an athlete) and self-efficacy (i.e., their confidence in their ability to achieve their goals in sport, education or work).

What the research found?

Student-athlete

More strongly relate to their student role but sport is still an important feature of their live

e.g., BUCS national league athlete studying at university

Dual career athlete and student

Both student and athlete roles are equally important

e.g., an aspiring international level athlete currently studying at university

Athlete-student

More strongly relate to their athlete role but education is still an important feature of their live

e.g., Athlete competing internationally whilst studying part time or distance learning

How to support different types of dual career athletes?

An athlete-student is more likely to prioritise their athletic career to the detriment of their career goals. These individuals will require support to prepare in advance for their post-sport career (e.g., part-time study and distance learning techniques), but are likely to require the most support in their transition out of sport (e.g., support with a changing identity and starting a new career – educational and vocational skills gap).

The dual career athlete and students will aim to achieve both career and sporting goals, however, this pathway requires substantial amounts of support and flexibility from sport and education/vocation organisations.

Finally, a student-athlete suggests a reduced commitment to competitive sport. This pathway is problematic for sport because it signifies a potential loss of future talent from sport, rather than a continued sporting development that could enable late developers to succeed (i.e., the talent gap). It is important, therefore, for practitioners and sporting organisations to understand the typologies of dual career athlete that they support and how best to support their career decisions, including the continuation of sport.

A summary of the research can be found in the TASS research database - https://www.tass.gov.uk/resource/typologies-of-dual-career-in-sport-a-cluster-analysis-of-identity-and-self-efficacy/