High performance school-age athletes :a study of conflicting demands

Maureen O'Neill
Bill Allen
Angela Calder

Peer reviewed

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to report on the findings from, and consider the implications of, a doctoral study into high performance athletes who are still at school. High performance athletes are defined as those in national or international senior or age grade competition, or in academy/talent identification squads. These young people are, in effect, leading two full-time lives, that of a full-time school student and that of a full-time athlete. The research has focussed on how these athletes cope with these untypical demands, but also explores the perspectives of two groups who play a major role in their lives, their parents and their teachers. This qualitative, interpretivist study has involved in depth-interviews with thirty nine participants, including nineteen current and past school-age high performance athletes from a range of sports, ten parents of such athletes, and ten teachers. One important aim of the study has been to give voice to the athletes in an area previously untouched in research. The findings report on a range of issues identified by the athletes and their ???significant adults???; these include, physical, social, economic and educational issues. From these findings the paper explores the implications for policy and practice in schools and in sports, and makes suggestions for how young athletes, their parents and teachers can optimise the demanding situations in which the athletes find themselves.