UAS, our Academic partner from Amsterdam, has been focusing on the desk study for the last few months.
From May until July the partners in Spain, Finland, Bulgaria and Italy were visited to conduct focus groups with athletes, coaches and staff and representatives from the business market.
Young and former elite athletes were questioned on their experiences and beliefs regarding their dual career.
Were they able to organize their dual career? How did they cope with the pressure? Where they able to maintain an elite athletes’ lifestyle within a changing social environment as they were maturing? Did they have a plan for life after their study or elite sport career?
We asked coaches and staff about how they thought their athletes coped with all this and asked representatives from the labor market about their thoughts and vision on hiring an elite athlete.
We also send out questionnaires to athletes to ask them where they learned and developed these Dual Career soft skills and which environment of their social-, school, sport- and work/internship environment had had most influence on them in this learning process.
The labor market received a questionnaire about soft skills and had to mark the crucial ones for being hired at their company. Furthermore, we asked those companies that had already hired former athletes if they were pleased with the skills level.
Overall,athletes were positive regarding their Dual Career. They were all aware of their own discipline and willingness to sacrifice things for their sport and study to be as successful as they are. Athletes see the advantage within these skills and mentioned especially teamwork as a great asset for a future job.
The sports environment is very important with regards to where athletes develop these skills and how they value the environment. All this was confirmed by the conversations we had with the coaches and staff.
However, we found that there was a lack of vision when it came to clearly envisioning the life after the dual career and athletes, coaches and labor market representatives pointed out in all conversations that there is a lack of knowledge about career options in both study and sport.
In spite of this, over 80% of the companies that had experience with hiring athletes, are positive regarding the skill level of their athlete-employees.
However, almost half, 43% of the companies, had no experience in hiring an athlete and within the focus groups it was mentioned that companies do not always see the benefits of the skills that athletes have already acquired through elite sports. They mainly see problems and fear having to face compatibility issues between the job and the sports career.
Since the sports environment is being indicated as very influential for the development of the skills, we also looked at what a coach needs to be able to facilitate this process.
The results give a clear answer : coaches are not able to do this by themselves, they need the involvement of parents, school, psychologists and the labor market. They need information about career options for their athletes and a network of role models so they can show their athletes that it is possible to have a successful Dual Career.
They treasure their strong coach-athlete relation and encourage their athletes to step out of their comfort zone and also step out of their sports environment and explore their career options in a much broader way.
Based on all these results, a Train-the-Trainer program has been created and is now enrolled within the partner organizations.
The program enables coaches to recognize soft skills within their athletes and create a network to support the dual career of those athletes.