From Elite Sport To The Job Market: Development And Initial Validation Of The Athletes' Competency Questionnaire For Employability (ACQE)

Sofie Smismans, Paul Wylleman, Koen De Brandt, Simon Defruyt, Francesca Vitali, Yago Ramis, Babett Lobinger, Johan Ekengren, S. Cecic-Erpic

Onderzoeksoutput: Meeting abstract (Book)


Aim and Research Questions

The general aim of this study is to optimize athletes’ vocational development during as well as after their athletic career by developing an instrument that measures athletes’ competencies required to successfully prepare for and engage in a new professional career. The specific objectives of this study are to (1) describe the development of the Athletes’ Competency Questionnaire for Employability (ACQE), (2) generate an initial competence framework using factor analysis, and (3) provide insights into the practical use of the ACQE competence framework.

Theoretical Background and Literature Review

Achieving top performances and international success in elite sport requires athletes to invest their personal and time resources to such a degree that being an elite athlete becomes equivalent to a profession (Conzelmann & Nagel, 2003). However, the ‘elite athlete profession’ is not a ‘lifetime job’ and typically lasts only for a relatively short period of time (on average 28 to 30 years; Wylleman & Rosier, 2016). Retirement from elite sport therefore leads athletes to a new professional career, rather than out of the workforce (Martin et al., 2014). In order for athletes to successfully prepare for and engage in a new professional career, Wylleman and Rosier (2016) emphasized that athletes require effective competencies such as career planning, life management, and interpersonal skills. While qualitative research (e.g., Torregrosa, Ramis, Pallarés, Azócar, & Selva, 2015)identified a range of competencies athletes require to successfully prepare for and engage in a new professional career, no specific instrument is available to date that measures athletes’ competencies required to optimize their vocational development. Such an instrument can be useful to obtain conceptual clarity about athletes’ vocational development, provide targeted feedback and set up effective interventions. Therefore, the ACQE was developed and used as part of the Erasmus+ Sport Project ‘Be a Winner In elite Sport and Employment before and after athletic Retirement’ (B-WISER).

Research Design, Methodology and Data Analysis

The development of the ACQE was based on (1) literature review targeting relevant (dual) career transition (e.g., De Brandt et al., 2018; Wylleman & Rosier, 2016) and employment research (e.g., Van Der Heijde & Van Der Heijden, 2006), (2) expert review (i.e., renowned international experts from the sport, education and employment sector), and (3) a pilot study with 45 active and former elite athletes.


Within the ACQE, a list of 31 competencies important for athletes to successfully prepare for or securing a new professional career (e.g., lead a group of people, cope with stress effectively) was composed. Active and former elite athletes were asked to assess their perceived possession of those 31 competencies by answering the question ‘To what extent do you possess this competence?’, using a 5-point Likert-type scale (“1 – Very poor possession” to “5 – Very strong possession).Exploratory Structural Equation Modeling (ESEM) was performed on the scores of athletes’ perceived possession of the competencies in order to investigate the factor structure of the ACQE and generate an initial competence framework.

Results/Findings and Discussion

After ethical approval, a total of 954 active and former athletes from six European countries (Belgium, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden) completed the ACQE (Mage=26.74, SD=9.9; 45.7% female). On average, athletes reported the strongest possession for ‘goal-orientation’ (M=4.26, SD=0.72) and the lowest perceived possession for ‘creating a professional network’ (M= 3.28, SD=0.94). ESEM resulted in a 28-item four-factor model of the ACQE with an acceptable to excellent degree of fit to the data (RMSEA = 0.058 – 0.051, CFI = 0.957, TLI = 0.94, arange= 0.71 – 0.85, rrange= 0.35 – 0.56). The four factors identified were: (1) Career & Lifestyle Management (e.g., self- discipline to manage the demands of different life domains) (2) Career Awareness & Communication (e.g., understanding own career interests and options), (3) Career Self- efficacy and Resilience (e.g., using setbacks as a positive stimulus) and (4) Career Engagement & Adaptability (e.g., being flexible and changing career plans if necessary). Adequate internal consistency scores (arange= 0.71 – 0.85) and correlation coefficients (rrange= 0.35 – 0.56) were observed for the four factors of the 28-item model, reflecting the four factors are distinct, yet related.

Conclusion, Contribution and Implication

The results of this study provide a first response to the lack of quantitative research in the topic of elite athletes’ transition to a new professional career. Practically, it is suggested that the ACQE can be used as an evidence-based tool for career support providers in sport, education and employment to structure and operationalize their work with athletes. More specifically, support providers can use the framework in their work to (1) target athletes’ competencies, strengths and points of improvement in preparing for or securing a new professional career, and (2) empower athletes’ by introducing the framework to athletes as a self-evaluation monitoring instrument in preparing for or securing a new professional career.

Originele taal-2English
TitelAbstract book of the 27th European Sport Management Conference
SubtitelConnecting sport practice and science
RedacteurenTim Breitbarth, Guillaume Bodet, Alvaro Fernandez Luna, Pablo Burillo Naranjo, Gerardo Bielons
Uitgeverij EASM (European Association of Sport Management)
Aantal pagina's3
ISBN van geprinte versie9788409140688
StatusPublished - 22 sep 2019
EvenementEuropean Association for Sport Management (EASM) 2019 - Seville, Spain
Duur: 3 sep 20196 sep 2019


ConferenceEuropean Association for Sport Management (EASM) 2019


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