I. WHY Dual Career

Definition of Dual Career

The combination of sport and education that  is grounded on two fundamental human rights: The right of education, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (United Nations, 1948) and the right to play (United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989) to ensure the holistic development of talented and elite athletes.

The European Commission defined Dual Career as “the requirements for athletes to successfully initiate, develop and finalize an elite sporting career as part of a lifelong career, in combination with the pursuit of education and/or work” (European Commission, 2012).

Dual Career is a long term-process which aims to support the successful development of athletes in sport as well as in academics/work to allow them a holistic development and to adjust effectively to the post‐sport career (Stambulova et al, 2009; Stambulova and Wylleman, 2015).

Recently, 86% of elite student-athletes identified their parents as the most relevant supporters of their dual career (Condello et al., 2019), although effective dual career parenting would differ based on a number of factors including: the athlete’s sport and educational stages and needs, local/national/international sport and educational dual career organizations, and parental experiences and visions.

Dual Career structure

Dual Career is a multi-faceted domain involving several actors (e.g., individuals, stakeholders, organisations, and Governments) with specific roles, responsibilities, and interactions in the establishment of a positive support for the student-athlete. To pursue a successful Dual Career, athletes not only have to be strongly motivated to rely on personal resources, but also need a supportive entourage based on a well-structured cooperation system at inter-personal (e.g., relationships with parents, peers, teachers, coaches, sport managers), organizational  (e.g., organization of sport clubs/federations and educational institutions), and global (e.g., international, national, regional, local governing bodies policies) dimensions (Figure from Capranica and Guidotti, 2016) level.

Due to specific cultures and organizations, in Europe and worldwide a multiplicity of national approaches to Dual Career emerge in relation sport and education/work requirements. Therefore, the recognition of the student-athlete’s status and the provision of Dual Career programs and services differ significantly.

In light of the national/international mobility of athletes, it is imperative for parents to be aware of different Dual Career settings and cultural challenges student-athletes could face when relocating.

Figure 1: The Dual Career Athlete Framework

Source: Capranica & Guidotti, 2016, available at (link).

II. The importance of sports and educational careers

Dual Career is a strategic objective of the European Union (European Parliament, 2015; 2017), in recognition of the significant social, economic and cultural roles of educated athletes as prominent European citizens and future emerging leaders. In 2012, the European Commission published the Dual Career Guidelines for athletes in English, available also in Bulgarian, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Romanian, Slovak, and Slovenian.

III. Challenges of the Dual Career

Dual Career Challenges for Athletes

Dual Career is challenging for both the athletes and their parents. Several physical, cognitive, emotional, and social aspects change during the developmental phases and transitions of a student-athlete’s life (Wylleman and Reints, 2010). When confronted by the persistent demands of combining a sporting career with education/employment unless solutions are found, with the support of their established Dual Career entourage, to establish a balanced approach the student-athlete may be force to choose between their sport or academic/work which result in drop out.

Indeed, elite athletes greatly value the support of their parents in helping them finding bespoke arrangements to combine their sport and academic/work careers and other essential aspects of life to reach their full potential in life (Condello et al., 2019).

Dual Career Challenges for Parents/Guardians

Parents/Guardians use various ways to nurture, guide, aid, care for, and assist their talented athletic progeny to combine their academic and sports careers. It is not always easy to provide an effective parental support for dual career in light of a complex and evolving Dual Career scenario.

To provide Dual Career vision, encouragement, economical and logistic support for Dual Career athletes in specific sport and educational/work contexts, it is crucial for Parents/Guardians to be informed on the available Dual Career structure, policies, best practices, opportunities, challenges, and cultural evolution, as well as the benefits of a parental involvement to support adequately their student-athletes. Educated and informed  Dual Career Parents/Guardians would be empowered to articulate their role in the holistic development of their student-athletes and to contribute to the advancement of a European Dual Career culture.

By engaging in an educational program on the challenges and benefits of Dual Career paths of student-athletes, Parents/Guardians could be more aware of the necessity to establish permanent collaboration with relevant Dual Career partners/agencies and other Dual Career parents to coordinate efforts, and to follow the progress of Dual Career actions and policies at local, regional, national, and European levels.

IV. Dual Career in different countries 

Dual Career for athletes varies in relation to the national, regional, and local academic and sports contexts. The research report on the Dual Career framework in Europe (AUAS et al., 2016) provides National profiles of Dual Career systems in the Member States (link). 

V. Videos on the expert view

We invite you to listen to some of the thoughts of athletes, parents, coaches and decision-makers about Dual Career.

VI. References