User:U3025472/The Importance of Athlete Education for Successful Career Transition

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BPS2011 Essay
Author u3025472
Word count
Overall rating 2/5
Closing comments Good outline, im looking forward to reading the final result. U3017206 23:36, 26 October 2011 (UTC)


This paper outlines the need for greater involvement from the Government and Sporting bodies in athlete education schemes. A high propensity of young athletes lack the required skill set or desired knowledge for a career after sport. Although education initiatives have been developed in sport recently, additional support is required to maintain their effectiveness.


For many professional athletes, their first job is in fact playing their sport. Once their sporting careers are complete and the athletes move into the professional working environment, many are left with a distorted sense of workplace politics. Thus finding themselves unprepared for this next stage in life. Furthermore, the athletes who remain out of the spotlight for the most of their sporting careers often miss out on education and career development opportunities; as their sporting club focused more on their marquee athletes.

The workplace politics of sport have come under question in recent times with support network bias becoming more prevalent among athletes. Of late, it has become more common that high profile athletes not only receive greater salaries than some of their counterparts, but also receive greater career development support. Whilst this bias can be beneficial for those players who possess great talent, many of those who fall just short of the elite level in sport, may find themselves in an educational limbo.

A recent trend has seen the emergence of education and training for athletes at a club or team level. Nevertheless, further steps need to be taken to ensure these training programs are offered to all athletes and carried out either individually or in small groups. It is crucial for sporting bodies and families of athletes to cooperate and support studying athletes to ensure they remain grounded in their busy lifestyle. Internal bias is an issue that needs to be addressed by all sporting codes to ensure a standard duty of welfare is carried out for all athletes.

Athlete Career Transitions[edit]

Most elite athletes are selected by their respective sporting bodies during the high school years of their education. As such, these final years of education, where many choose their career path and develop a skill set to match, become a second priority to these talented athletes. This is mainly due to the extensive hours of training dedicated to the athlete’s sport, resulting in minimal time for study.

Whilst some athletes may have the ability to balance their priorities of sport and study, there is a high percentage who dedicate their life to their sport. Educational scholarships have become more prominent through many sporting codes. Nevertheless, these scholarships are limited in numbers and often require candidates to meet strict credentials in order to be eligible.

For a privileged minority of athletes, a post-retirement career within their sport may develop. Nevertheless, in today’s highly commoditised sports industry, coaching staff with tertiary qualifications are highly sort after. In many sporting teams, the challenge of building an effective coaching department is usually amplified by the financial barriers of the team’s budget. Some clubs then choose to minimise this issue by hiring former players or recently retired athletes.

“From a practical standpoint, managers have often struggled with hiring decisions: how to assemble an effective staff by optimizing fit between employee and organisation on a number of levels, including knowledge, skills, abilities, values and work attitudes.” (Roach, 2006)

Positive functions of hiring former players or athletes may include; valuable contribution from the staff, innovative coaching methods, a greater social bond with current athletes and a higher rate of strength and agility. Nevertheless, specialisation in the field, difficulties in asserting authority over former teammates and a failure to adjust to the added pressure and workload are all common negative impacts which result from internal recruiting within sport. (Roach, 2006)

Many athletes see themselves entering into the sport coaching industry upon their competitive retirement. However, the athlete to job ratio in this field does not cater to this perception. Further to this, most sporting bodies now require coaching and management staff to have tertiary qualifications to ensure the operations of the club or team will meet its objectives for the year.

According to the AFLPA Player Transition Manager Rayden Tallis

"It is vital that younger players understand that a football career does not last forever and there is a strong emphasis in getting this message across as early as possible.
How a player navigates their transition in and out of the game is a critical factor in ensuring that his football experience is a positive one that sets him up for long and sustained success throughout his life." (Tallis, 2011)

Without the correct educational foundations, many athletes will struggle during their career transition and this can have not only economic impacts but social or psychological impacts on the athlete as well.

National Athlete Career and Education[edit]

Jared Tallent Image by Franz Richhter

The National Athlete Career and Education (NACE) program was developed in the mid 1990’s and has been implemented and continuously reviewed by the Australian Sports Commissionand the Australian Institute of Sport. NACE was introduced to incorporate tertiary education into the skills set of eligible athletes with minimal impacts on their athletic goals.

“ACE staff complete the Graduate Certificate in Career Counselling for Elite Performers, which is the only accredited course of its kind. This, combined with the professional requirements of ACE staff, ensure quality control of program development and service delivery, as well as accountability guidelines of the highest order.” (SASI, 2011)

The program provides educational support to athletes through career counseling, educational assistance, including course selection assistance, and endeavours to encourage athletes to pursue interests in careers outside of their sport. Furthermore, through the ACE program, athletes are invited to take part in career development workshops and face-to-face interactions with future possible employers. (Australian Institute of Sport, 2010, 4).

AIS athlete Jared Tallent, is currently completing a Bachelor of Business Studies in Financial Planning and believes his study and sport balanced lifestyle is a contributing factor to his success.

“There’s definitely a positive relationship between my life balance and athletic performance,’ he said. ‘I have been able to maintain long periods of being injury free mainly because I haven’t over-trained and have spent time on other commitments.” (Australian Institute of Sport, 2011, 5)

In order to be eligible for the NACE program, athletes must be offered a scholarship through the Australian Institute of Sport. Nevertheless, this selection criteria only caters for the athletes fortunate enough to receive AIS scholarships. Therefore, a large proportion of young athletes are left in the balance and must fend for themselves in order to complete some form of higher education. Nevertheless, 2011 saw an increase in athlete participation in the program with over 3000 elite athletes taking part in athlete career and education initiatives. (CICA, 2011)

The National Rugby League's Player Welfare and Education Program[edit]

Cameron Smith from the Melbounre Storm in the National Rugby League currently takes part in the NRL's Welfare and Education Program Image by Stormfan85

Many other sporting codes in Australia have now adopted similar athlete education initiatives. In recent years, the National Rugby League (NRL) in conjunction with the Rugby League Players Association (RLPA) has introduced the ‘Welfare and Education Program’. This program endeavours to foster success for players both on and off the field. According to Mark Coyne the Chairman of the NRL’s Welfare and Education Committee,

“It is the responsibility of the NRL / RLPA Welfare and Education Committee to ensure the game provides its players with a balanced Welfare and Education program that not only enhances a player’s involvement within the game, but also supports his ability to develop a successful career outside of Rugby League.” (National Rugby League, 2011 - 2012)

The Welfare and Education Program lends itself to providing educational assistance through the implementation of five steps throughout the course of a players career. These steps include;

  • Exposing players to professional courses and stimulating their interest in other fields of employment.

  • Inducting players into their chosen apprenticeship, course or bachelors degree. Through this phase, the NRL have adopted a ‘No work, No study, No play’ policy.

  • Engaging players in financial planning, educational assistance and career counseling.

  • Preparing players for their career transition. This phase is usually adopted once a player reaches the age of 26 as this still allows time for players to adjust to their new lifestyles and careers.

  • Implementation of acquired skill sets and continued career counseling. Career counselling services are offered free of charge to all players even after they have retired from their professional involvement with the NRL.

The NRL will endeavour to continue this program and others relating to career development in the future. However, an increase in government funding is required in order to deliver these initiatives effectively.

Additional Support Networks[edit]

Another crucial element in the success of athlete education is the support base from not only the sporting body but family and peers.(Wuerth, 2004). Often, athletes begin the professional sporting career with little or no future objectives other than sport, focusing highly on their athletic development. However, once athletes reach the latter years of their sporting careers is when this thought process begins, which for some may be too late. Further to this, in the ten to fifteen years for which their professional sporting career may span, family members, friends and spouses may also invest a large amount of time into the sporting career of the athlete. (Lally, 2005)

It is crucial for the athlete and their family to plan for the future in detail to minimise the shock of retirement and lessen the economic, social and psychological impacts this lifestyle change will have on all involved. Preliminary studies in 2004 found that

"Planning of retirement contributed to significantly better cognitive, emotional, and behavioural adaptation. In addition, high athletic identity contributed to less positive reactions to retirement and to more problems in the adaptation process." (Alfermann, 2004)

As such, it is important for sporting bodies to implement appropriate support systems to not only assist players through this transition phase but to educate their families on what measures can be taken to minimise any phychological stress. These systems also require funding which at this stage, is minimal. It is crucial for the government to consider the funding of welfare programs as part of the athlete education initiatives.(Alfermann, 2004)


Most elite athletes are selected to compete professionally in their sport at a young age. As such, many struggle to balance both their sport and education workloads, often choosing to continue on with sport rather than complete their senior years of schooling. For the highly talented athletes, an educational scholarship may be provided. However, this only caters for a select minority and at this stage many athletes who are not considered for this initiative, receiving educational assistance is difficult. Therefore, the highly talented athletes not only receive higher salaries but greater benefits for their post-retirement career.

In recent years, the emergence of education and training for athletes at a club, team and individual level has seen a steady growth.

The Australian Institute of Sport and the National Rugby League have both developed effective athlete education programs to assist with the career transition of their elite sportspeople. Although these initiatives do receive government funding, many resources are at capacity and sporting bodies will require further government assistance to continue these programs I the future.

Moreover, the support of the athlete’s family is crucial to the success of athlete career transitions. Families provide the social and psychological support needed at this time in the athlete’s career and it is important that the sporting bodies can provide welfare and support services to not only the athlete, but their families as well. Again, these resources need continual funding and it is crucial in the modern sports industry for the government to provide this financial support.


  • Australian Sports Commission, 2011, Supporting ACE, accessed October 1 2011.

A View from the Field] Journal of Sport Management, Vol. 20, p. 137 - 158.