December 2019

Welcome to the first research newsletter from TASS. The newsletter will be sent three times per 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.

On 6th November, TASS held its second ‘Dual Careers in Sport Research’ Forum at Senate House, University of London. 65 delegates attended and listened to researchers from across the UK and Europe discuss various dual career related projects. These presentations included topics such as supporting student-athletes in an Irish system (Emma Saunders), enhancing dual career support providers’ professional practice (Dr Simon Defruyt), and creating the conditions to promote positive stress adaptation of dual career athletes (Dr Paul Davis). The forum will be back in 2020, so please keep an eye out for updates! You will also see a word cloud above developed by participants at the forum detailing what research they would like to see developed in the field of dual careers.

Dr Paul Davis presenting at the TASS Research Forum, Senate House

The focus of this first newsletter is to highlight Dr Emily Cartigny’s PhD research findings. Throughout her PhD, Dr Cartigny worked closely with TASS to produce the ‘Mind the Gap’ model, that challenges practitioners and athletes to consider the implications of different dual career approaches. Below, Dr Cartigny identifies what the model represents and how the model could be used in practice.

Introducing the ‘Mind the Gap’ Model of Dual Careers in Sport

‘Mind the Gap’ model of dual careers in sport (Cartigny, Fletcher, Coupland, & Taylor, 2019)

What does the ‘Mind the Gap’ model represent?

The model outlines the different ways a dual career athlete can prioritise their two careers and how the approach they select can impact their career pathway in the long term. The three pathways are:
1) a sporting pathway, that represents a greater focus on the sporting career and can lead to being unprepared for life after sport

2) a dual career pathway, that represents an equal focus on sport and education or vocational career, but is in reality demanding and difficult to manage
3) an educational or vocational pathway, that represents a greater focus on their career outside of sport and presents concerns for sporting organisations in the loss of potential talent.

How can practitioners use the ‘Mind the Gap’ model?

As a practitioner, you can use the model to understand the different approaches to a dual career that your athletes might take. In doing this, you can then target your support to address the negative consequences of that approach.For example

- If an athlete shows a greater focus on their sporting pursuits than their education or work (i.e., the sporting pathway), then as a practitioner you would need to encourage them to consider the importance of preparing early for athletic retirement, exploring vocational career interests, and developing interests outside of sport. If athletes do not do this, then they are more likely to need greater support in their athletic retirement.

- For the dual career pathway, as a practitioner, the focus should be on supporting dual career athletes to manage their demands through developing their planning, time management and organisational skills. You can also encourage them to select universities, schools, or sports programs that are supportive towards a dual career.

Can athletes be encouraged to engage with the ‘Mind the Gap’ model?

The model could also be used to help athletes to understand and map out their own pathway, including the consequences of the path they choose. This way, athletes can make informed career decisions and select a dual career approach that suits them.

What are the wider implications of the ‘Mind the Gap’ model on sporting policy/practice?

The educational or vocational pathway, in particular, presents considerations for sporting organisations. The research showed there were a number of key barriers to pursuing sport that lead athletes down this path:
1) a lack of opportunity to pursue sport as a profession (mostly seen in female sports)

2) a culture in sport that promotes the idea that to ‘make it in sport you must sacrifice everything’. This idea was found to discourage some athletes from pursuing elite sport, in particular those individuals who did have interests outside of sport and did not want to give them up

3) the premature deselection from talent pathways that discourage late developers from elite sport or athletes to transfer to different sports (both of which have shown to be legitimate pathways to success in sport).

Therefore, sporting organisations should consider:

1) the equal opportunities to pursue professional sport
2) if professional support is not available, the promotion of the possibility of a dual career at the highest level
3) the promotion of the possibility of a dual career as an alternative to an exclusive focus on sport
4) the development of talent pathways that promote sport participation for the maximum number of athletes for as long as possible
5) the promotion and support of talent development rather than talent selection
6) the encouragement of talented athletes, who have experienced deselection, to consider talent transfer programs.

What are the key take away messages around the ‘Mind the Gap’ model that practitioners should consider ?

1)  There is more than one way to balance a dual career

2)  Practitioners should aim to understand the dual career athlete they are working with and their career pathway

3)  Practitioners can then use this understanding to support the dual career athlete to access the benefits of their pathway and avoid the negative repercussions

If you would like to read more about the model, Dr Cartigny’s work has been recently published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology (there are access rights): https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10413200.2019.1654559?journalCode= uasp20