DUAL CAREER TRANSITIONS & NEW ENVIRONMENTS: Transition of training & education

“If you can believe it, the mind can achieve it.” – Ronnie Lott

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 Parent/Guardian do

Help plan the transition:

  1. Is this a forced change to a centralised program? How does that impact on the athlete and their previous relationships?
  2. Understand what makes a great sports coach according to the International Olympic Committee.
  3. Interview the coach about their coaching philosophy and methods but also about their approach and support of the dual career.
  4. Plan an orderly transition between coaches and support teams. The Parent/Guardian can be the constant in the transition.
  5. Also transition yourself out from a key management position to a key supporter. Progressively work towards having the athlete be the key decision maker.
  6. Understand what are the potential conflicts between sport and education and what allowances does sport make towards education.
  7. 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. Among the challenges for the Dual Career athlete are that moving from a more dependent to independent learning environment often overlaps with transition from junior to senior. They gave to face with: possible change of location, a probable change of friends and a new social circle. a new coach, new support team, possibly a different doctor, physiotherapist etc., change or loss of structure and 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.

  1. Is there a balance? Does the institution allow athletes to balance training and competition by providing flexibility with timetables, schoolwork and assignments?
  2. Are there flexible ways of learning? Does the institution utilize 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?
  3. Is there help? Is there a dedicated coordinator 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 Dual career development? Is there an appropriate academic advisor for a Dual Career athlete? Does the institution provide scholarships or bursaries? How are these offered? What does an award entail?
  4. Team Sports. If you are a team sport athlete, how will your particular needs be addressed?
  5. 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?
  6. Links. What kind of links to the broader sporting community does the educational institution have? E.g. national federation, professional teams or national institute.
  7. 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 program 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?