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World Academy of Sport releases research on challenges facing student-athletes maintaining a dual career

World Academy of Sport releases research on challenges facing student-athletes maintaining a dual career
May 13, 2019

The World Academy of Sport (WAoS) has released a new research report on the challenges faced by student-athletes who have to balancing training with study.

Released at last week’s SportAccord 2019 Summit on the Gold Coast, Maintaining a Dual Career; Results from Providing Flexible Options to Student-Athletes Completing the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program 2015-18, is based on research undertaken through WAoS’ partnership with the International Baccalaureate in order to investigate how higher education schools can better provide flexible options for high performing student-athletes. 

Following recommendations in 2004 from the European Commission on the Education of Young Sportspersons, WAoS created a framework accreditation entitled, Athlete Friendly Education Centres (AFEC). This framework follows the premise that the best way to assist student-athletes in balancing their sporting and education commitments, is to provide them with flexibility in their education options, have a critical mass of student-athletes and maintain academic standards within the education delivered to them. 

A selected number of International Baccalaureate World Schools that fulfilled the accreditation framework were accredited as WAoS Athlete Friendly Education Centres and formed the pilot group (the ‘International Baccalaureate Sport Pilot’). These schools were then able to offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program to recognised student-athletes, over an extended period of either three or four years, adding an additional one or two years to the standard two-year Diploma Program.

Throughout the pilot, WAoS and the International Baccalaureate have supported AFEC schools, and in 2018, a research project was conducted to inform how the project would continue. The research objectives were:

• Evaluate the adequacy of the support that schools provide to student-athletes. 
• Evaluate student academic and socio-emotional outcomes. 
• Identify student-athletes’ needs for additional support. 
• Evaluate the impact of running an extended Diploma Program on participating schools.
• Identify schools’ needs for additional support.

All pilot schools were invited to participate in the research and there was a 54% take up across three complimentary surveys. These were sent to the Diploma Program Coordinators, Heads of Sport and all student-athletes within the pilot schools. 

Some key findings from the research were:

• Student-athletes undertaking an extended Diploma Program are getting longer sleep on average when compared with student-athletes undertaking a two-year Diploma Program. Sleep and rest are fundamental developmental pillars for adolescence. This is of further relevance when considering that student-athletes have an additional physical load over and above that of the broader population, as well as ensuring that they are properly rested to effectively manage the risk of injury. 
• This pilot project increased access to the Diploma Program for student-athletes who would otherwise have chosen a different Program of study. Indeed, 40% of student-athletes who are completing an extended Diploma Program reported that they would have chosen a different Program had the extended option not been made available to them.
• There were comparisons of responses undertaken between student-athletes undertaking an extended Diploma Program and those completing a standard two-year Diploma Program which provided great insights as to the efficacy of the project and its impact throughout the pilot phase. Those completing an extended Diploma Program indicated that their academic workload was more manageable when compared with those completing a two-year Diploma Program. 
• Schools are motivated to offer student-athletes the option to undertake an extended period of study and the most common approach to support student-athletes is through adapting existing roles of school staff rather than employing or taking on additional resources.
• The practical support provided by schools is mainly in the areas of extensions on deadlines and providing a flexible timetable.

With these findings and many others identified throughout the research report, AFEC schools can now begin to make informed decisions on how best to provide flexible approaches to balancing sport and academic commitments for student-athletes. It has allowed the project to progress from its pilot phase to now allowing all those who meet the respective criteria for AFEC schools and those of a student-athlete to access flexibility in the Diploma Program.

The World Academy of Sport originated in Australia in 2003 and has offices in Melbourne; Manchester, UK; Dublin, Ireland; Athens, Greece and Etoy, Switzerland. WAoS works with industry partners in order to create a learning pathway for those involved in sport from high school through to on-going professional development and executive education Programs.

For more information go to

Images: International Sport College Australia students at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

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