Schooling Elite New Zealand Rugby Players for a Life after Sport: Using Higher Education for Career Transition

By Janet Davey, Wyndham Glyndwr Jones and Lynnelle Jellyman.

Published by Journal of Sports Pedagogy and Physical Education

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Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: June 17, 2014 $US5.00

The context of current elite sports participation has led to widespread interest in the career transitions, both abrupt (non-normative) and normative, faced by athletes throughout their careers. Despite increasing recognition of the importance of higher education to facilitate sports–career transitions, there has been little research on the structure and delivery of such programs in order to reduce the barriers to the engagement of elite athletes in higher education. This exploratory research evaluates a single professional development program for players within the New Zealand elite rugby environment. Eleven semi-structured interviews were conducted with elite rugby player-students, academic contributors, and program coordinators. Thematic analysis of respondents’ perspectives generated key themes of: flexible and relevant program design, the right people, and comprehension of the various roles. Collectively, these form a higher order theme of creating the optimal environment. Acknowledging the context, building on existing strengths and providing appropriate support combine to form the second higher order theme of empowering the individuals. We relate these themes to the potential for appropriate educational qualifications to ease sports–career transitions. Finally, we provide suggestions for improving elite athletes’ access to and engagement with higher education.

Keywords: Rugby, Higher Education, Career Transition, Elite Sports

Journal of Sports Pedagogy and Physical Education, Volume 5, Issue 1, December 2014, pp.1-13. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: June 17, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 329.083KB)).

Janet Davey

External Facilitator, Student Internships, Dean’s Office, Waikato Management School, University of Waikato, Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand

Janet Davey has an M.A. (Hons) in psychology and an M.Phil. (Dist.) in regional planning from Massey University, New Zealand. She has taught marketing research and supervised senior undergraduate research projects. Her areas of research expertise include qualitative research in consumer behavior and marketing strategy. She has a specific research interest in enhancing education experiences across diverse student groups and courses, including first-year students through to capstone courses and internships.

Wyndham Glyndwr Jones

Senior Lecturer, Department of Strategy and Human Resource Management, Waikato Management School, University of Waikato, Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand

Glyndwr Jones is a senior lecturer in the Department of Strategy and Human Resource Management in the Waikato Management School, University of Waikato. He acted as program coordinator for the PDP described in this paper. Glyn currently teaches the first-year management class as well as running the internship program for the Waikato Management School.

Lynnelle Jellyman

BMS/BSpLS Graduate, University of Waikato, Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand

Lynnelle Jellyman has a conjoint degree: a bachelor's degree in management studies, majoring in human resource management, and a bachelor's degree in sport and leisure studies from the University of Waikato.