An athlete’s career duration is not only influenced by his performance, but also by age, sport specialisation or in the most unfortunate cases, by irreparable injury. This is why it is very important that athletes are supported in securing a career for when they will retire from sports.
The concept of dual careers is starting to take shape at international and European levels. Dual careers programmes are designed for young, high level athletes to ensure that they receive professional and educational training alongside their sport careers, to help them obtain a new career when they will retire from sports.
Athletes have demanding schedules, constantly training and often competing across borders. It is very difficult for them to follow the regular education or training programmes on top of their busy schedules. A consequence of this is that they often miss out on the educational and training steps that would prepare them for a career after their retirement from sports.
Often athletes decide to drop out of school in order to focus on sport or the other way around. Many talents are lost. Participation of athletes in dual career programmes that built on their specific needs will help reduce the number of dropouts from school and sport and help preserve talent. In France, for example, regional French training centers must sign a general agreement with educational structures where athletes can pursue their education. These arrangements allow facilitation of the schedule of athletes, making it easier for them to plan their exams during competitions.
At international level, the International Olympic Committee is devoted to support athletes beyond their sports careers. The IOC Career Athlete Programme was founded in 2005 and it covers 30 countries. It offers resources and training to elite athletes in the areas of education, life skills, and employment. Alex Baumann, an Olympic silver medallist in bobsleigh, is one of many elite athletes who joined the programme in 2012 via the Swiss Olympic Athlete Career Programme. He now works in the food industry where he can combine his work schedule with training and study obligations.
According to the European Commission, the increasing trend in the European Union is that athletes train or compete abroad which makes the organization of individual pathways in education or distance learning difficult. An example of how to address this is given by the Portuguese Winter Sport Federation. The federation works together with the National Institute of Sport which, together with schools, secures the help of tutors who keep in touch with the athletes and offer them educational and psychological support during training abroad and after their return.
Employers also have difficulties adjusting to the needs that athletes have at the different levels of their careers. But things are moving forward. In Germany for example, there are companies that employ and offer traineeships that are compatible with full-time competitive sport. These companies are compensated by the the Sports Aid Foundation for the loss of earnings.
Achieving successful dual career programmes requires real efforts and collaboration of a large number of parties: governmental, financial and educational institutions, sport federations, sport clubs and sport governing bodies, educational organizations, employers, across a large number of policy areas. In its guidelines, the European Commission provides many examples of how the European member states support dual careers. It is a positive sign that countries are increasingly focusing on securing the future of athletes beyond their sport careers.
Athletes are not only valuable during their sporting careers. The implementation of dual careers programmes will ensure that no talent and investment is lost, at the same time maximizing the contribution of athletes to society. Educated athletes are valuable assets as they will help promote sports and serve as role models for young athletes.
Read more about dual careers on:
Athlete Career Programme https://www.olympic.org/athlete-career-programme
European Commission on Dual Careers https://ec.europa.eu/sport/policy/societal-role/dual-careers_en