Table of Contents

Unit 1 – How can the Parent/ Guardian help the DC Athlete in Planning in their dual careers

In this Unit 1 – Planning -You will learn

  • Why should you plan
  • What is the P/G role in supporting the planning process
  • Some tools for planning
  • Self Assessment of your own skills in planning and goal setting, self evaluation and reflection
  • You will be given some tools and case studies of a Planning Process
  • You will get some Goal Setting Tools
  • You will get some Time Management Tools
  • You will learn how to use these tools with the Dual Career Athlete


  • One of the greatest challenges for young DC athletes is to have an effective and comprehensive plan that covers all aspects of their dual career lives, not just in the here and now but in the short to medium term future. This is where the parent or guardian can work with the DC athlete most effectively. By contributing experience, objectivity and concern the p/g can co-develop a plan that helps an athlete meet their academic and sporting goals. The P/G’s role is to ensure the plan is pitched at the right level, is ambitious but doesn’t provide additional stress or burnout, is appropriate and achievable and they can act as the quality controller to ensure the plan is actioned by the DC athlete.
  • One of the major recent trends in applied sport psychology is a focal shift from the performance-enhancement perspective to the holistic lifespan perspective (Alfermann & Stambulova, 2007; Stambulova, Alfermann, Statler, & Cot ˆ e, 2009; Wylleman & Lavallee, 2004). The advocates of the holistic lifes- ´ pan perspective treat athletes as individuals doing sports alongside other things in their lives. Within this perspective, an athletic career is seen as an integral part of a life-long career. Helping athletes achieve both athletic and personal excellence and use athletic experiences for the benefit of a life-long career have become the major objectives of career assistance to athletes (Gordon, Lavallee, & Grove, 2005; Stambulova, 2010)

Self Assessment and Self- Reflection

“We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.” ― John Dewey

Self assessment (athlete)

Athletes will often go through a Performance Profile, to appraise their strengths and weaknesses in terms of their performance. This profile then should give them some idea of things they need to work on . It helps set goals and monitor progress, and shows gaps that the athlete feels they have themselves. Often this performance profile is done with a coach to see If the coach and athlete agree on what they need to improve on and therefor what the performance goals should be. It is usually carried out under the heading listed here

  • Performance Profiling
    • Mental
    • Physical
    • Technical
    • Tactical
    • Personal
    • Lifestyle

Self assessment for the Parent of the DC athlete

  • Why is it important? By reflecting on what knowledge and skills you do have it will make you more aware of the areas you need to strengthen and seek help in.
  • Why do it? Profiling is a very effective tool that will help your awareness of yourself and you skills and resources in helping the DC athlete in planning their Sporting and academic careers, especially through the transition to University. You will in this exercise evaluate your knowledge and skills in key areas of the DC planning process where you can be of assistance to the DC athlete. This will focus your need for information and learning, and for your own self improvement process to be the best support you can be to the athlete.

We have identified some key areas of knowledge and skills that will assist the planning process for the DC athlete and where the P/G can be a great facilitator if they have the right skills.

This exercise is for the P/G to complete for themselves.

Self assessment (Parent)

Asses your own capabilities under the following headings

  • Knowledge about Third level Courses
  • Knowledge about the Educational Supports available to the DC athlete
  • Knowledge about the Sports Supports Available to the DC athlete
  • I have strong planning skills
  • I have strong goal setting Skills
  • I can help the DC athlete have strong time management skills
  • I can advise the athlete on DC policies and supports in their country
  • I can help the athlete have strong independent living skills

Do this assessment by giving yourself marks out of 10. 10 being the highest level of knowledge in the area using a spider diagram.

For each of the questions mark a dot

And then joining the dots gives you a good indication of your own assessment of your strengths and weaknesses in this area, for example

Unit 1 – Goal Setting

“The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.” – Bill Copeland 

Helping the DC athlete set effective sporting and career goals

  • What’s your role- It is critical that is the P/G is to properly support the DC athlete they must understand what their role is. For younger, say school age athletes there will be a greater involvement in the design and action of the plan, however as the DC athlete moves towards the transition to adulthood the P/G becomes the facilitator of the planning process, possibly a quality controller and supporter.
  • Planning is a process that needs to be discussed and thought through. This is best done in discussion and parent/ guardians can act as critical friends to DC athletes developing their plans. In this module we will give you some examples of tools you might assist the DC athlete in using, to first identify their goals, then create a plan and some useful tips for time management to be able to implement that plan.

Why is Goal setting Important

  • It is important for the DC athlete as it can really help motivate them in their training and academic studies.
  • It provides clarity of purpose for the DC athlete, clear expectations (which can be checked and realistic), provides a focus and a pathway for their ultimate success and helps make them accountable especially to themselves.
  • Setting long term goals, which may be many months or years away are often “dream goals that are achieved by setting smaller medium and short term goals that are clear steps of improvement towards the long term goal.
  • Most of all goal setting provides a context for planning.

Goal setting tools

  • First set some goals
  • The athlete must “own” these goals so the parents role is to ask some relevant and probing questions that ensure that the goals are appropriate
  • The P/G should ensure in this process that there are dual goals set, for academic and sporting careers and that they are appropriately in balance for the DC athlete.
  • We recommend using the tried and trusted “SMARTER” method.

An example of some DC athletes short, medium and long term goals

Unit 1 – Career Planning

“It’s better to look ahead and prepare, than to look back and regret”- Jackie Joyner Kersee, Olympic Heptathlon Champion

How do you create an effective plan?

A bank wouldn’t lend you money without a business plan, governments get elected based on their manifesto and coaches have to have season plans to maximise the training and performance of their athletes. So why should it be different for a DC athlete.

But creating a plan needs some structure, so we present here a framework from Stambulova (2002) where she presents a model for planning the Dual career athlete.

The 5-Step Career Planning Strategy  Stambulova, 2007, 2010

Stambulova (2010) presents a simple 5 step process for developing a planning strategy for the Dual Career Athlete. The parent can work with the Athlete to develop this plan following these 5 simple steps

Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, 1:95–105, 2010Copyright © Association for Applied Sport PsychologyISSN: 2152-0704 print / 2152-0712 onlineDOI: 10.1080/21520704.2010.528829

Step 1: Make a Framework

Draw a life/timeline and mark your birth (e.g., the year) as an initial point on the left.

Mark your current age (or year) as the second point on the line. Now you have a framework: the past, the present, and the future.

For example:

Step 2: Structure Your Past

Please take some time to think and then tell about the most important events in your life before now. When did these events happen? Mark their time points on the lifeline.

Step 3: Structure Your Present

  • What are the most important parts of your life right now? Write them down as a column.
  • Rank these parts of life on three different scales:
    • (a) personal importance
    • (b) time spent
    • (c) stress level
      • Use 1 as the greatest importance/time/level.
      • Analyse your ranking: Do you devote enough time to your priorities (i.e. the most important areas)? How stressful are your priority areas? Why?

(You can use pie charts to divide up these parts of your life if that makes it easier)

Step 4: Structure Your Future

  • Think and then tell about the most important events you wish for/expect in the future?
  • During your whole life. Mark them on the lifeline
  • During the next 10 years (a bit more detail)
  • During the next 5 years
  • During the next 3 years
  • During the next year (the most detailed)

Note: It is also possible to use “pie-charts” here for “the next 10 years,” “the next 5 years,” “the next 3 years,” and “the next year” categories to reflect the importance of different areas of life at that time point.

Step 5: Bridge Your Past, Present, and Future (Part A)

From the present to the past and back:

  • What were the most difficult moments/periods in your life before today?
  • How did you cope?
  • What lessons did you learn from your hard experiences?
  • What were the most successful moments/periods in your life before
  • today?
  • What lessons did you learn from your positive experiences?

Step 5: Bridge Your Past, Present, and Future (Part B)

From the present to the future:

  • What do you want to achieve in the priority areas for you right now?
  • Formulate your goals (e.g., for the nearest six-month/one-year period).
  • Analyse your internal/external resources (helping conditions/factors) to reach your goals in your priority areas.
  • Analyse your internal/external barriers (interfering conditions/factors) to reaching your goals. Think about how to overcome them.
  • Make an action plan to reach your goals. Think about how to best use the lessons you learned from your past experiences.

Unit 1 – Time Management

Time Management Tools

It’s all very well having a plan but you must have the time to implement that plan. Time is a resource that many dual career athletes feel they have little of, but with a little organisation and prioritisation, along with some good decision-making it can be handled well.

We here provide two tools of which there are many to assist in the process, the first to help to plan the academic and sporting years and the second to plan your commitment of time per week.

Managing your year

Download our excel yearly planner to help you create an annual plan with the DC athlete. Instructions are on the excel sheet

Managing your week

Download our excel weekly time manager to help you and the DC athlete plan their weekly schedule, that will allow them balance sport, academics, friends family and leisure

Unit 2 – Performance Lifestyle

Understanding the Performance Lifestyle

“The more difficult the victory, the greater the happiness in winning.”- Pele


In Unit 2. “Performance Lifestyle”- You will learn

  • What a “Performance Lifestyle” means to different stakeholders
  • How to best manage the balance between Sports and academics
  • Who are the important contact points for a Performance Dual Career Athlete and help the DC athlete create a Performance “entourage” around them
  • More about the role a parent can play in raising awareness of Anti Doping issues with the DC athlete
  • Be better able to support the DC athlete in having “difficult conversations” in Performance Environments
  • Be more aware of national policies/ strategies relating to high performance sport in my country

A performance lifestyle

A performance lifestyle is where sporting and academic achievement is supported by a balanced lifestyle. Sporting and Academic success can be achieved without a balanced lifestyle but it won’ be sustained and can lead to stress, ill health, burn out and social isolation. Here we consider all of the factors that go into supporting good academic and sporting performance in a DC athletes lifestyle

A performance lifestyle is based on a lifestyle that takes into account many factors. Click on each of the factors to find out more.

Tips for Parents and Guardians to support the Dual Career Athletes Lifestyle

  1. Remember it is possible for them to be successful at both academics and sport. We know this anecdotally and from research. Encourage but don’t force.
  2. Be engaged, be an enthusiastic supporter of the athlete but as they get older it is important to pass on responsibilities for their life onto the DC athlete.
  3. It is important in transferring responsibilities over time to the DC athlete that the P/G helps them to develop the skills to be able to take on these new responsibilities. Things like financial management, independent living, dealing with difficult conversations resilience etc. We hope the EMPATIA programme helps with this.
  4. Be a confidant and a checklist. Try and help the athlete plan and review the progress of those plans
  5. As a parent don’t focus on the outcomes. Focus on the process and the happiness health and welfare of the DC athlete. Don’t get too excited about Gold medals or too disheartened by last places.

Tips for DC athletes on managing the Performance Lifestyle

  1. Plan, prioritise, set goals and manage your time. You can do it all but only if you plan prioritise and set realistic goals.
  2. Communicate with everyone all the time. Coaches, family, friends, academics, sponsors. Keep everyone informed as best you can of what challenges you are facing and might need help with
  3. Allow time and space for a social life, family and friends, you are not just an athlete, or a student, but a friend, son, daughter etc.
  4. Balance training and study through planning
  5. Plan for when things go wrong
  6. Things WILL go wrong. That’s ok its part of the process of learning to become a world class DC athlete.

Managing the academic environment

Athletes in education have the dual demands of both sport and study. Among these demands are additional time, physical, social and emotional demands. Good planning goes a long way to helping manage this situation. Many schools, universities and institutes of sport provide assistance to athletes to manage the additional academic demands. Schools and Universities are likely to have their own local policies on how they support dual career athletes.. It is important for parents to familiarise themselves with the resources available to Dual Career Athletes in their school, University and country.

Most, third level institutions provide additional learning support for all students such as academic advisors or specialist support centres in say statistics or research writing. Again familiarise yourself with what is available and encourage the DC athlete to use them. Using the supports available will be an excellent investment of time.

Tips for athletes to manage the Academic Environment

  1. Unlike high school, you are now wholly responsible for your learning, and as you enter adulthood you are wholly responsible for all the decisions that are made by you and on behalf of you. Own those decisions.
  2. Know your rights in the Academic environment. What national or local laws or polices are relevant to you.
  3. Know who your tutors are
  4. Know your responsibilities. Be absolutely clear what you need to do and by when for your academic courses. Know when exams and assignments are due and how they might interact with your sporting commitments.
  5. Find out what academic supports are available at your school or University and use them.
  6. Plan accordingly. Work with your coach to make allowances for training at time of high academic demand and inflexibility and work with your DC advisor at times of high sporting demand where academics may be more flexible.
  7. Attend your lectures/ tutorials/ classes.
  8. Don’t leave assignments and study to the last minute. Use times when your sporting commitment are not high to try and get ahead with academic work
  9. If you have a sporting and academic clash try to communicate this to your academic advisor and your coach as early as possible. Leaving it to the last minute makes it more difficult to find solutions.
  10. Don’t assume anyone knows who you are. Introduce yourself to your lecturers, relevant DC advisor or School/ University authority. Make sure the first contact the have with you is not when you have a problem.
  11. Thank people for their help and use your social media platforms to promote your university and the support it provides.

Unit 2 – Managing the Sporting Environment

It is rare now that high performance athletes have just a Coach-Athlete relationship as the only one which they have to engage in. Many of the relationships are managed by the Coach or Manager but there is  a vast array of people that have an influence in an athletes sporting career. Here is just an example of the different support staff in one athlete’s entourage

The Coach or Manager is critical to this and an athlete and parent/ guardian should expect that  the coach

  • Understands and supports the importance of the Dual Career
  • Actively encourages academic engagement and excellence
  • Provides flexibility in training schedules to accommodate academic demands
  • Incorporates any additional academic demands e.g. exam time into training load

Communicating with coaches

  • Whose job is it?
  • Especially early in the transition from coach to coach, junior to senior, to a centralised programme or from school to University, a young D/C athlete may find it difficult to have difficult conversations with a coach or an academic, here are some tips on how you can assist or “train” the DC athlete in having those difficult conversations.
  • Its an important skill to develop not just from a personal point of view but from the aspect of developing into an independent person on and off the field of platy and its implications for performance

Some tips on managing difficult conversations

  1. Keeping Communication open and honest on an ongoing basis usually means that you have less difficult conversations to have
  2. If you have to have a difficult conversation, be calm, clear direct and unemotional
  3. Plan, what you are going to say broadly. Don’t have it rehearsed or a script because what if you get thrown off script. Have a few key points you want to make.
  4. Do try and be empathetic and understand the other side of the argument.
  5. Listen don’t interrupt.
  6. When making your point, slow the conversation down, be calm, concise, clear and firm.
  7. Where possible compromise, but always try to be constructive

Bullying/ Unhealthy Performance Environments

Parents/ Guardians, athletes and Coaches should always be aware of the importance of a healthy environment for all to participate in sport. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that it happens in elite sporting environments too. The link below looks at bullying in elite sport from a legal and social point of view. If best practise isn’t happening in your sport, in your country, be a force for change.

Anti Doping Awareness


The World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) produces a guide for “”parents seeking more information to ensure healthy athletic development and prevent the use of performance enhancing substances. This resource is relevant to parents of all levels of athletes from beginner to elite”

WADA recognises the key role Parents play in “forming athletes’ attitudes to doping and athletes often turn to them for advice”

To find out more visit

☐ I better understand what a “Performance Lifestyle” means to different stakeholders

☐ I have more know how in how to guide the DC athlete to best manage the balance between Sports and academics

☐ I understand who are the important contact points for a Performance Dual Career Athlete and help the DC athlete create a Performance “entourage” around them

☐ I know more about the role a parent can play in raising awareness of Anti Doping issues with the DC athlete

☐ I am more aware of what a “Bad” Performance Environment looks like

☐ I am better able to support the DC athlete in having “difficult conversations” in Performance Environments

☐ I am more aware of national policies/ strategies relating to high performance sport in my country

Unit 3 – Supporting Self-Managing DC Athletes

In this Unit you will learn about

  • What is the parents role in supporting self managing DC athletes
  • How you can help the DC athlete to better budget?
  • How you can better support the DC Athletes Health and Wellbeing
  • How you can support Healthy Eating and Nutrition?
  • More about Anti-Doping Issues and the role of the parent/ guardian


“What I tell student athletes is first of all, you’ve made good choices this far in order to be able to be in college and to be an athlete. Keep making good choices.” — Condoleezza Rice, former US Secretary of State

Good practice guidelines for P/Gs to support the athletes?

Research from the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) in the United States shows that college athletes rely significantly on their families for academic, emotional and financial support . In units 2 and 4 we cover how family can support the athlete academically. In unit 3 we look at how the parent can support the health and well being of the DC athlete and in this unit we look at supporting self management and independent living.

One of the things that is emerging for the research is the additional stressors  that DC athletes face. From the NCAA research the idea of families being “appropriately” involved in their lives was key to the happiness and wellbeing of the athlete. “Appropriately Involved” will mean different things to different athletes but the idea of supporting independent living, resilient but strongly supported student athletes is the ethos behind the EMPATIA project.


How can I help the DC athlete to better budget?


Things to consider in going to college and managing your finances

  • The Competition and Consumer Protection Authority of Ireland give some useful hints and tips to managing your budget on a week to week basis. There are some simple tips that you can help the DC athlete integrate into their daily lives.
  • Follow this link to check out the article
  • Below click on the icon and you can download a simple excel sheet to help with your financial planning

Financial planning apps

There are some excellent easy to use apps out there already that will help you plan a budget and keep track of your spending. Click on the logo for a link

Presenting yourself to Sponsors

UK Sport has produced an excellent guide for athletes who want to seek their own sponsorship

Click on the picture to download

Unit 3 – Next to Supporting Athlete Health and Well Being

On this page you will find. Links, hints and tips to support Athlete Health and Wellbeing

You can do this by accessing some tools and tips assessing and maintaining athlete health for parents to spot signs and evaluate

  • Physical Health (what to look for)
  • Mental Health
  • Social Health
  • Addictions
  • Sleep

How can I spot signs of some common health issues?

Here are links to some useful sites that help parents spot signs of some common health issues. (these are external links), but come from excellent reputable sources.

Social Media Health

We are all becoming aware of the challenges that there are for young people with the pervasiveness of Social Media in their lives. It is particularly challenging for young athletes as they can often be more high profile than their peers and therefore be vulnerable to criticism and trolling. Social media can often be a home for ill-informed anonymous comment and this is particularly the case where performances are reviewed and commented on by those that have no expertise in the area. It is an irony that often Athletes can pay more heed to the negative online comments than to those positive ones in the changing room.

One tool to make parents more aware of some social media skills they can help their children with is available at


Sleep is crucial for the health wellbeing and performance of athletes. Dr. Giles Warrington Head of Department, Physical Education and Sports Sciences Department at the University of Limerick, and EMPATIA team member offers some useful tips

For everyone “Sleep Hygiene” is important.

Some useful tips to maintain good sleep hygiene

  1. Moderate exercise on a regular basis i.e. walking, jogging, swimming etc can help relieve some of the tension built up over the day.
  2. Caffeine interferes with the process of falling asleep and disrupts deep sleep. Have a warm milky drink or herbal tea as an alternative.
  3. Alcohol is a sedative and Nicotine is a stimulant both will lead to disruptive sleep!
  4. Keep a consistent sleep schedule- Have a regular bedtime
  5. The number of hours of sleep before midnight helps sleep quality
  6. Create a restful sleep environment
  7. Reduce light exposure 30 mins before bed time
  8. Put electronic devices away. Blue light disrupts sleep
  9. Phone on silent turned upside down –out of reach
  10. Your bedroom is a sanctuary- it should be cool, dark and quiet.
  11. Keep your room for sleep not study.
  12. Avoid smoking & alcohol
  13. Avoid training/ vigorous exercise 2 hours before bed time
  14. Stay away from big meals at night
  15. Minimise caffeine intake in evening
  16. Don’t take in too many liquids in evening
  17. Use a diary to note down tasks that come into your head.,You can then deal with them tomorrow. This quietens your mind.
  18. Keeping a periodic sleep diary can also be helpful

Also some good tips to pass on to the DC athlete on Pre and Post Competition (or exam) sleep strategies

  1. If you have a late start to your event you don’t have to stick to normal routine. You compress your sleep-Higher Quality in less time
  2. Reflect on competition within 2 hr. window. Have take home messages and positives . Then move on
  3. Try have a physical boundary between competition and sleep,e.g.Shower before bed Or short walk in evening. To clear your mind.
  4. Try stay awake with boring task, like counting backwards. Try reading to try kick start sleep process.You can rest in bed which is better than up with TV

How Can I Support Healthy Eating and Nutrition?

Tips for parents to encourage and supporting healthy eating

It is important for the athlete to consult a registered dietician with experience of sports nutrition.

One of the key skills that any parent or guardian can pass on to a child is to pass on is how to cook and how to cook healthily. A good relationship with food is critical to athletes. Making sure they are properly fuelled for the demands of training and study. Making sure you eat well is as much about planning and some basic skills as it is about having the right nutrition plan. So be prepared. One of the simplest things you can do is to make sure you shop weekly and have good ingredients to hand to maintain healthy nutrition.

This is an area that P/G of athletes themselves need to be skilled and knowledgeable in as often they are the head chef and chief nutritionist for an athlete who is still living with their parents.

Shopping list for athletes

The links below are examples of healthy shopping list that can be a useful guide and help for athletes. This list can create some good habits and a healthy eating environment for the athlete when they have to independently cook and shop for themselves .

This is an excellent resource available on the internet for athletes from the International Athletics Federation.


See Unit 2 with regard to Anti Doping awareness. Athletes should take advice from a registered Dietician before they take any supplements and should know the ingredients and source of the product and remember they are liable for any product they take under anti doping rules.

Unit 3- Checklist

  • ☐ I better understand my role in supporting a self-managing DC athlete
  • ☐ I can better support the DC athlete to better manage their time? (see also unit 1)
  • ☐ I have more information and tools to help the DC athlete to better budget?
  • ☐ I feel I have more information to help me better support the DC Athletes Health and Wellbeing
  • ☐ I feel I can support the Healthy Eating and Nutrition of the DC athlete better?
  • ☐ I know more about Anti-Doping Issues and my role as a parent/ guardian

Unit 4 – Adapting to new Environments

In this Unit 4. Adapting to new Environments -You will learn:

  • About the different types of transitions that Athletes go through in the course of their dual careers
  • How to help athletes adapt to those transitions
  • Understand the transitions in your own role as a parent supporting the DC athlete
  • Specific information on some key transitions
  • School to University
  • Relocation of Training
  • Healthy to Injured
  • Competitive to Retirement

Throughout all of our life spans we go through a number of transitions, for example maturation, such as childhood to adolescence, adolescence to adulthood. We go through transitions of where we live, or where we work. We go through social transitions such as single to married or married to single, changes in our social circle, retirement and so on. Change is normal, but it does bring challenges. Athletes go through all of these changes but they also go through sporting career changes in parallel and this presents some additional challenges for the athlete and those that support them.

This unit will highlight what some of the new environments or transitions that athletes go through, what are the key challenges in dealing with them and how can you as a P/G help.

What are the transitions?

There are a number of different interpretations of the names and types of transitions that athletes go through in their career life span. For the purposes of this programme we are going to lean on the model of Wylleman. Alfermann and Lavelle (2002)

Performance transitions

  • All along the athlete life cycle, there are transitions in level of ability and performance. A number of different authors have described these stages of development differently, but essentially we go from being introduced to a sport, to beginning to develop a level of specialisation, to becoming proficient and maybe a high performer.
  • So what are the challenges with transitioning from a proficient level to becoming a high performer and how can the P/G assist.

Managing Expectations

  • One of the things that the P/G can be aware of is to help the athlete manage their expectations in their transition into a high performance environment. Elite young athletes will have been used to being he best in their age group but they may not necessarily, immediately have the same level of success when moving into the Senior ranks. Performance development is not a straight line and the amount and regularity of success will, most likely reduce.
  • In assisting the athlete to plan talk to them about their goal setting (and subsequently their evaluation of their performance against those goals) If using a simple goal setting mechanism such as SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) make sure you discuss how achievable and realistic in the time frame proposed are those goals for the athlete. Are their more achievable short-term goals that will lead to the longer term “dream goals” that are realistically achievable now?

The P/G role is going to change

  • We know that throughout an athletes career that the P/G is will always be an source of emotional support for the athlete (1). However, as an athlete gets older and moves from a Junior to a senior training environment or into a High performance athlete, the role of the parent may change significantly. For example, many Junior Athletes are coached by their parents and while some as seniors continue to be coached, successfully by a parent, most often it is another coach that works with an athlete at a senior level.
  • As a young athlete, the P/G is the most significant planner, decision maker, emotional & financial supporter and role model for the DC athlete. (4) However as the athlete gets older there is an “increased reliance on and solidarity with peer athletes”(4) and the coach becomes a more prominent social agent of change

How can the P/G help?

  • Be aware and prepared for our changing role. It can be difficult to accept this letting go of responsibility and connection but keeping hold of it is just an increased stressor for the athlete.
  • Prepare for the change. Help your athlete plan for that new environment. Be aware of the increased reliance on coaches and peer athletes/ students that comes with these transitions and factor that into the decision making process in terms of selecting a new coach and training environment in co-operation with the DC athlete. Do not just choose a new training environment and coach purely on their track record on results but is this also the environment that can provide the kind of supportive environment you would wish for.

Unit 4 Supporting the Transition of Training & Education relocation


Transition of Training relocation

  • Quite often either in the transition from Junior to Senior or from School to University it will mean a relocation of the training environment for the athlete
  • That will probably mean a change in Coach, support team, training partners/ team mates.
  • The athlete may be going from being the best athlete by far in their previous training environment to just being one of many talented athletes.
  • Their support network will change and they are at risk of having an insufficient support network.

What can a P/G do?

  • Help plan the transition
    • Is this a forced change to a centralised programme? How does that impact on the athlete and their previous relationships?
    • Understand what makes a great sports coach according to the International Olympic Committee
    • Interview the coach about their coaching philosophy and methods but also about their approach and support of the dual career.
    • Plan an orderly transition between coaches and support teams. The P/G can be the constant in the transition.
    • Also transition yourself out from a key management position to a key supporter. Progressively work towards having the athlete be the key decision maker.
    • Understand what are the potential conflicts between sport and education and what allowances does sport make towards education.
    • Talk to others, is the new training environment, supportive, ethical, ambitious and nurturing?

How can I support the transition from Second Level to Tertiary Education?

For any young person the transition from second level school student to University can be a hugely daunting and challenging experience. Amongst the challenges for the DC athlete are that;

  • Moving from a more dependent to independent learning environment
  • It often overlaps with transition from Junior to Senior
  • Possible change of location
  • A probable change of friends and a new social circle
  • A New Coach
  • New Support Team, possibly a different Doctor, Physio s and C Coach for example
  • Change or loss of structure. The normal everyday structure that they are used to is gone and must be replaced.
  • Less family support

Advice for an athlete on high school and University Course Selection

The following is adapted from a Sport Ireland Institute guide on Athlete questions for potential educational Institutions that an elite athlete might attend.

  • Is there a balance?
    • Does the institution allow athletes to balance training and competition by providing flexibility with timetables, schoolwork and assignments
  • Are there flexible ways of learning
    • Does the institution utilise online leaning or other flexible learning methods so you can keep up with school/ university work when you need to travel?
    • Does it cater for different learning requirements and various educational abilities, whilst maintaining the highest academic standards?
    • Is there a flexible entry pathway for Elite athletes?
    • Is there a system to support absence for training camps and international competition?
    • Does the course I wish to pursue involve an external accreditation that may not be able to provide a flexible approach to learning?
    • If my circumstances change can I transfer credits within the institution, to another institution or internationally?
  • Is there help?
    • Is there a dedicated co-ordinator or person within the institution that is the key point of contact to assist the Dual Career athlete, and their support team to resolve any issues and support DC career development?
    • Is there an appropriate Academic advisor for a DC athlete?
    • Does the institution provide scholarships or bursaries?
    • How are these offered?
    • What does an award entail?
  • Team Sports
    • If you are a team sport athlete, how will your particular needs be addressed?
  • Facilities
    • Are the facilities provided “fit for purpose” for an elite athlete.
    • Where are they located in relation to where I will be living and studying?
    • How and when can I get access to these facilities?
    • What are the available transport options to help me get to and from the facilities?
  • Links
    • What kind of links to the broader sporting community does the educational institution have? E.g. national federation, professional teams or national institute
  • Support
    • Does the educational institution have access to the required expertise in terms of coaching and support service (for example strength and conditioning, nutrition, physiotherapy etc.)
    • Is that expertise on site?
    • How is it accessed?
    • Does the institute have national or international links from which to draw expertise and advice?

Some good general advice on selecting an institution, some questions to ask yourself/ the athlete

  • What are the demands of the course in terms of contact time and independent learning that you hope to pursue?
  • Are there compulsory elements of the programme that can’t be flexible?
  • What is the qualification I will receive and how is it seen in the industry?
  • Does location matter to you?
  • What is the cost and is there financial assistance that you are eligible for?
  • What are the criteria for admission?
  • What is the graduation rate?
  • What other facilities (apart from sporting) are there?
  • What kind of career and academic support services are there?
  • What is the job placement rate?
  • Is this a career you could potentially see myself doing post/ in parallel with  a sporting career
  • Will you enjoy the course?

Unit 4 – Supporting other transitions

Transition from Healthy to Injured- Some of the challenges that Athletes face

One of the biggest challenges that athletes can face is when they become injured. It is a time when the P/G can be of the greatest support. Some of the challenges that the P/G should be aware that the athlete typically faces:

Time -Do other things /fill with other things Often athletes can in fact have more time, which may be a positive thing but often athletes fill this time with some negative behaviours from an athlete lifestyle point of view
Identity Athletes will question their identity as an athlete if they can’t train as a “normal” athlete would for a prolonged period of time
Mental Health The stressor of injury and its impact on identity and sense of loss may be a factor in increasing an athletes risk to poor mental health.
Isolation They may not form part of the main group when injured, they may even have to train and rehabilitate on their own
frustration Rehabilitation from long term injury is rarely a straight line path and the setbacks can lead to great frustration. Injury might also cause frustration with the loss of opportunity to perform
Loss of Funding Injury may impact on funding or opportunity to earn from their sport
Fear (will I get back, will I be as good as I was, will I lose my position, waiting) It can be real or perceived but athletes may lose their position on a team or worry about losing a position on a team when they are injured and not get it back
Conflict with the coach It may be a bad behaviour from a coach but often conflict can arise between athlete and coach over different views on an injury and return to play dates for example
Play through injury, RTP too soon In training environments where there aren’t strict RTP protocols athletes may or coaches may force athletes to return to training competition too early
Diet/ Nutrition Athletes may not make an adjustment to their requirements when less active during periods of injury or may indulge in bad nutritional habits while injured.
Loss of independence Significant injury may mean loss of ability to drive for example

Transition from Competitor to retired athlete

Planned/ Unplanned The decision to retire from competitive sport may be something that the athlete has decided themselves and planned for or could be imposed on them due to injury or he decision of a coach
Identity Athletes often report a sense of a loss of identity in the transition from an athlete.
Mental Health The loss of identity, routine, social group etc, may have an impact on mental health
Career Options It is important to plan and asses in advance of retirement what career options are available and to have a next step on the day of retirement from competitive sport
Finances (funding stops) What might be the impact of the loss of funding from government, prize money and sponsors, on the athlete
Diet Does the retiree athlete make the necessary changes in diet to reflect a less physically demanding lifestyle
Lose a social group Athletes would most likely now lose their interaction with a social group that would have been close and daily. Once you are out of the “dressing room” athletes may feel isolated from the group
Transferrable skills Athletes need to understand what transferrable skills they have gained and how best to present them to employers


Unit 4 – Checklist

☐ I know more about the different types of transitions that Athletes go through in the course of their dual careers

☐ I know more about how I can help athletes adapt to those transitions

☐ I better understand the transitions in your own role as a parent supporting the DC athlete

I know more about the transitions from:

☐ School to University

☐ Relocation of Training

☐ Healthy to Injured

☐ Competitive to Retirement