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Career Development with Elite Youth Athletes

A career as a professional athletes: coveted by the many, realized by the (very) few. Oftentimes, the dream of professional status starts young in the various developmental pathways that exist to cultivate those dreams. Think the IMG academy or the NCAA in the United States, the academy football system in the United Kindom, or the Olympic training centers in Australia. These function as elite development environments facilitating skill development and progression toward a professional career for elite youth athletes. The rewards awaiting those aspiring to a career in professional sport have never been greater. With talent, diligence, commitment, and luck on their side, a career in professional sport remains within the realm of possibility for all those immersed in these elite development environments. However, the statistics expose a harsh reality that one’s likelihood of securing a professional career in sport is exceedingly low. Furthermore, a consequence of enrollment in these development systems is that most youth become separated from advanced education and career development opportunities and are consequently are less prepared to transition into alternative occupational opportunities. To compound the matter, these transitions are also often accompanied by clinical levels of psychological distress, particularly when these transitions are involuntary (e.g., athletic injury, deselection). In the context of athlete career transitions, we have evidence that engaging elite youth athletes in career planning can buffer against the adjustment difficulties and psychological distress so often experienced as a result of the transition out of sport. By assembling and mobilizing career management skills, youth in this context perceive themselves to have more control over this transition away from sport, and consequently higher self-efficacy related to post-sport adaption. In a world in which elite youth sporting environments are not optimized for the duty of care and well-being of youth, efforts must be made to shift the future readiness of elite youth athletes from the periphery of our thinking, to the forefront. In order to promote wellbeing and facilitate adaptive transitions, this population must be provided with opportunities to cultivate self-exploration, career exploration, and career planning skills pre and post-transition.

Potential resources:

PFA Youth Advisory Resources:

LFE Life Skills Development:

The CCD Center is an industry-led non-profit, non-partisan organization focused on making career readiness the number one education priority in America.

The BU Center for Future Readiness is internationally and nationally recognized for supporting the design, implementation, and evaluation of equitable and responsive career readiness programs and services.


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