Pathway Decisions During the Student-Athlete Transition out of University in the United Kingdom



Vickers E & Morris R (2022) Pathway Decisions During the Student-Athlete Transition out of University in the United Kingdom. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 34 (4), pp. 803-824.

The student-athlete transition out of university requires athletes to make important decisions regarding their future. However, there is no research that focuses on the pathways that athletes take when they leave university and the factors that underpin athletes’ decisions. The current study explored the pathways athletes take when they leave university in the United Kingdom (UK), and their reasons for taking these specific routes. Eleven elite UK former and current university student-athletes (Mage = 21.4) from different sports were interviewed. Eight university stakeholders (e.g., head coaches, lifestyle advisor, performance sport manger) took part in a focus group. Data were thematically analysed. Results suggest that athletes take four different pathways following university: (1) advancing onto a postgraduate education and elite sport pathway, (2) full-time sport pathway, (3) sport and work pathway, and (4) dropping out of sport and moving onto an alternative pathway. There were multiple factors that led athletes to taking each pathway. These included a desire to qualify for the next Olympic Games, having an education ‘safety net’, goal of advancing onto a funded sport programme, and limited work-sport dual career opportunities. This article advances previous work in athlete transitions and athlete career pathways, focusing specifically on a key career transition point for UK athletes. Support providers could use the findings to help athletes critically reflect on their motivations and future goals and come to a decision around what their most suitable pathway should be.

transitions in sport; dual career; athletic retirement; athlete pathways; student-athletes

Journal of Applied Sport Psychology: Volume 34, Issue 4

Publication date31/12/2022
Publication date online25/02/2021
Date accepted by journal30/01/2021

People (1)


Dr Robert Morris

Dr Robert Morris

Associate Professor, Sport