Welcome to the second research newsletter from TASS. The newsletter will be sent approximately three times each year and will provide updates on the latest findings from our master’s projects, PhDs, internal and external funded research projects, and the ERASMUS projects that TASS are involved in. The main aim of the newsletter is to help translate academic research into practice and help you to use the research to enhance your own systems/support services.
The Ecology of Dual Careers (ECO-DC)
TASS was recently involved in an ERASMUS+ project, the Ecology of Dual Careers, as an expert adviser. The project ran between January 2018 - January 2020. The aims of the project, managed by Dr Robert Morris, were to
1. Develop a comprehensive understanding of the dual career development environments (DCDEs) across Europe
2. Provide guidelines for the development and optimisation of DCDEs supporting talented and elite athletes in their pursuit of sporting and academic excellence
A DCDE is defined as ‘a purposefully developed system that aims to facilitate athletes' investment in combining their competitive sporting career with education or work.’
The figure above highlights the 8 different types of DCDE’s that emerged across Europe. This includes sport led systems (red), education/vocation led systems (blue), and combined dual career systems (orange).
For more information, please read the following publication ‘Taxonomy of dual career development environments in European countries’ (Morris et al., 2020) -
The project identified 9 categories of criteria for assessing the success of a DCDE:
· Perceptions of dual career
· Wellbeing of athletes
· Academic achievement of dual career athletes
· Sport achievement of dual career athletes
· Athlete resources and skills
· Program flexibility
· Dropout from dual career
· Facilities and service provision
The project also found that organisations can use 5 criteria to determine the efficiency of the DCDE, these include:
· Resources – e.g., identify where resources are wasted and provide support to maximum number of athletes possible
· Communication – e.g., distribution of roles for each service provision to ensure each service is adding value
· Policies and Procedures – e.g., putting in place policies and procedures for common practices, problems or situations to be solved with minimal time and resources.
· Individual Efficiency – e.g., Individual dual career athletes’ efficiency in time spent studying or on athletic pursuits compared to their result of goal attainment in these areas.
· Service Specific Efficiency Considerations – e.g., academic support, including speed of processing requests for additional flexibility.
Do you want to evaluate the dual career environment you operate within?
The end goal of the project was to develop a DCDE monitoring tool (DCDEM). The questionnaire takes approximately 10-15 minutes to complete. The DCDEM can be used by researchers, practitioners, or dual career athletes to evaluate a dual career environment. The person completing the questionnaire is required to respond to 50 statements about their DCDE, on a scale of ‘very strongly disagree’ to ‘very strongly agree’. Using a specified scoring system, it is then possible to assess which features are a strength of the environment, and which features are areas to improve practice within.
The final stage of ECO-DC project was to develop educational modules:
· Module 1 - supports dual career support providers to understand the different DCDEs that they work in and the dual career landscape for the athletes that they work with
· Module 2 - supports dual career support providers to understand the DCDE in which they are embedded, including its features, structures and philosophies
· Module 3 - supports dual career service providers to evaluate the effectiveness of the environment in which they work using the DCDEM tool.
For more information on the ECO-DC project, including more detailed project findings from each stage, and an overview of the monitoring tool and educational modules, please visit: https://www.ljmu.ac.uk/projects/dual-careers
If you have any further questions about the project, please contact Dr Robert Morris who has recently moved to the University of Stirling at firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the PhDs that TASS are supporting at LJMU is currently investigating how to maintain a balanced lifestyle within a dual career and its impact on sports performance. Libby Mitchell, a former GB swimmer, has outlined the below recommendations for practitioners working with dual career athletes based on the findings of her first PhD study:
1. What is a balanced lifestyle within a dual career?
The definition of a ‘balanced lifestyle’ is subjective and individualistic to student-athletes. The dual career experience is idiosyncratic and a student-athlete’s perception of ‘feeling balanced’ is personal to them and their identity. Balance is a fluid and dynamic concept and is likely to shift throughout the dual career.
Practitioner role: It is important for practitioners to discuss and understand what experiences and emotions student-athletes associate with feeling balanced/imbalanced within their dual career. How? Defining what ‘balance’ means to a student-athlete can highlight critical events that could trigger feelings of uncertainty or instability that, consequently, may impact their dual career success. When? During 1:1 sessions.
2. The feeling of 'balance’ is underpinned by meaning, values, and sense of purpose
The feeling of ‘balance’ is underpinned by the meaning student-athletes attach to certain areas of their lifestyle (e.g., social life, family, and friends). This meaning normally aligns with a student-athlete’s personal values. The meaning and importance of these values gives that student-athlete a sense of purpose, which leads to the prioritisation and motivation towards those life areas and establishes a sense of self satisfaction and fulfilment in the areas deemed important to them. Practitioner role: Practitioners should engage in activities to encourage reflection around what is meaningful to the student-athlete and what values are important to them to encourage life/dual career satisfaction. How? Develop written tasks which question student-athletes about what is meaningful to them and how this has and will impact their dual career. When? During the athlete’s own time or in 1:1 sessions.
3. A journey of self-knowledge and discovery
A dual career is an opportunity for a student-athlete to learn about themselves in a challenging, but supportive environment. It is important for student-athletes to be aware of their behaviours/decisions to promote personal development and consequently, the feeling of balance and success within their dual career. Practitioner role: Practitioners should be inquisitive and provide opportunities for student-athletes to reflect on their dual career and develop tasks/skills that promote student-athlete self-awareness. How? A reflective journal can be used to acknowledge the student athlete’s strengths and weaknesses, for goal setting, and
to write letters to their past and future self. When? During the athlete’s own time or in 1:1 sessions.
4. The concept of a ‘successful’ dual career
The definition of a successful dual career is individualistic and was framed in the context of, “what is doing your best?” and “reaching potential in both sport and academia.” Individuals described the benefits and success outcomes of a dual career with a future focus perspective. Practitioner role: Practitioners should work with student-athletes to define what a successful dual career is and explore the opportunities (e.g., personal and professional) that will facilitate this outcome goal. How? Establish short, medium, and long-term dual career goals. Goal setting techniques can help direct effort and attention towards goal-related activities/opportunities and can impact a student athlete’s persistence in tasks relevant to their dual career goals. When? During 1:1 sessions.
5. The transfer of success between sport and other areas of life
The psychological characteristics required to be successful in sport, academia, and other life areas differ and are contextually specific. However, there are certain core characteristics that are applicable in various life areas (e.g., motivation and commitment). Although student-athletes were aware of the characteristics developed throughout their dual career, it was apparent that they were unsure as to how these characteristics could be applied to other life areas (e.g., when applying for/starting a future career). The link between success in sport and academia was mainly reliant on the events experienced within the sporting environment (e.g., deselection), causing adverse situations. These situations allowed the student-athletes to develop specific psychological characteristics (e.g., resilience), which could then be transferred to other life domains (e.g., academia, social life). Practitioner role: Practitioners should work with student-athletes to increase their awareness of the transferable skills that they possess and how they can be applied to different life domains. How? Simple role-play exercises including ‘speed date’ networking and simulating interview scenarios between the practitioner and student-athlete, can be a beneficial way to assess and develop student-athletes’ responses in those specific situations. When? During 1:1 sessions and in group workshops.
For more information, please contact Libby Mitchell on: email@example.com
Academic Publication Update:
Within the TASS network, alongside the article on DCDE’s, there have been 2 new publications within dual careers (both of which were TASS masters projects). Below the link to the article, you will see some of the key findings from these research papers. If you are unable to access these papers, please let me know and we can share them with you:
1. Elite female soccer players’ dual career plans and the demands they encounter (Harrison, Vickers, Fletcher, & Taylor, 2020)
- A pull toward engaging in a dual career was the opportunity to attend university in America. The large investment into supporting student-athletes was a key factor in players desire to move to the US.
- Players’ choice of where to study was found to impact upon their dual career experience and their success in both pursuits. This emphasises the importance of supporting players to make an informed choice of where to study, with both their education and soccer aspirations in mind.
- Dual career difficulty was found to increase as players’ level of education increased (i.e. increasing difficulty from school to university and university to a vocation).
- As players’ level of education/vocation become more advanced, the priority players placed on soccer began to decrease. The unique challenges faced by dual career athletes within employment were identified, highlighting a need to further research this area of dual careers.
2. Sport migration from the UK to the US: The student-athlete experience (Garrett, Vickers, Fletcher, & Taylor, 2020)
- Perceptions of the US collegiate experience often do not match actual experiences
- Coaches use recruitment tactics to pull athletes into the Collegiate system – athletes need to be more informed about what these tactics are
- The high-level coaching, perception of athletic development, financial scholarships, available resources, and representation of Collegiate sport in the media were a pull factor for UK athletes to become part of the US system
- Athletes felt the training load of the Collegiate system was higher than what they had experienced before, with some athletes experiencing burnout
- Education on what to look out for, questions to ask, and potential challenges related to the experience should be delivered to young talented athletes considering the move