A prospective study on the reasons why promising and elite athletes (do not) initiate the combination of elite sport and higher education

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Objective: The specific objectives of this study were to 1) examine the decision process on sport, study, and dual career level and 2) investigate which and how multilevel factors contribute to the decision (not) to initiate a dual career (i.e. combination of elite sport and education) in higher education.
Design and Method: This study investigated career-decision making in two stages using a prospective study model. In stage one, 49 athletes in their last year of secondary education (Mage= 17.59, SD= 0.69; 51.0 % male; 9 competing in individual sports and 4 in team sports) completed an online survey about their decision process. In stage two, 16 athletes (Mage = 17.76, SD= 0.50; 56.25% males; 5 individual sports and one team sport) were interviewed about why the athletes would (not) initiate the combination, using the Holistic Athletic Career model (HAC) and the Push Pull Anti-Push Anti-pull as theoretical frameworks.
Results: Stage one showed that 67% of the athletes agreed they would start with the combination of elite sport and higher education. The results of stage two showed that 14 push (e.g., importance of education, support of the environment), 8 pull, (e.g., different job opportunities, importance of degree), 9 anti-push (e.g., lack of spare time, lack time to study), and 10 anti-pull (e.g., afraid of the combination elite sport and higher education, higher probability of injuries) multilevel (i.e., athletic, psychological, psychosocial, academic/vocational, financial) factors influenced athletes’ decision to initiate the combination of elite sport and higher education.
Conclusions: The athletes’ decision process takes up to one year. By this time the majority of the athletes have already decided what they will do on sport, study, and dual career level. The Push Pull Anti-push Anti-pull framework in combination with the Holistic Athletic Career model has shown to be useful in investigating the athletes decision process to start a dual career.

Keywords: Elite athletes, Push Pull Anti-push Anti-pull, Holistic Athletic Career model, Athletes’ decision process, dual career
Date of Award8 Sep 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Vrije Universiteit Brussel
SupervisorPaul Wylleman (Promotor), Koen De Brandt (Promotor) & Simon Defruyt (Promotor)

Cite this