Handball 4 Dual Careers: supporting players on their academic and professional paths
Dual careers in handball have been a major topic for three European clubs taking part in Handball 4 Dual Careers project co-funded by the European Union’s Erasmus + Programme. The European Handball Federation, the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) and the Federation of the European Sporting Goods Industry have joined forces to promote and support this important subject.
BM. Granollers, Fenix Toulouse Handball and IK Sävehof are three participating clubs that have been utilising the support service. The project started in January 2017 and was designed to span 30 months in three phases.
The objective is to design support services and supervise and evaluate 120 athletes throughout the pilot project. A written report of policy recommendations transferable to any handball or other sports club will be produced at the conclusion.
In the first phase, the athlete support service model was established following comprehensive studies and research by AUAS. AUAS identified the specific needs of the three participating clubs if they were to offer an improved combination of studies with the practice of sport to players. The second phase focused on introducing the pilot project to the three participating clubs.
The Handball 4 Dual Careers project will end in June 2019 with dissemination of results and conclusions.
“Our first big achievement up to this point is raising the awareness, across all stakeholders, that Dual Careers are a topic that need to be addressed and not ignored,” says Melanie Klemann, education centre specialist on the research and definition of dual career programmes at AUAS.
“For many stakeholders in the clubs, the topic was new, and they were happy that it is now officially being addressed and taken care of.”
During the second phase of the project, clubs have established a dual career team, including career club managers, tutors and career counsellors. The players are divided into three groups: bronze (15-17 years old), silver (18-23 years old) and gold (professional players).
“The stage of the support service differs from club to club, as each club operates differently. However, each club is implementing the services and training methodologies that were developed in 2017 to test which ones are most beneficial to their own elite athletes,” explains Klemann.
There were several levels of implementation of the pilot project into the clubs. The clubs organised different activities, such as presentations to raise awareness; personal development workshops; individual sessions with tutors; talks from experts about sports psychology, employability and more; and meetings with external stakeholders.
External stakeholders, including universities and private sector representatives, play a significant role in the project. Clubs have partnered with universities to ensure special conditions for players to study and play handball at the same time. Outreach to the clubs’ partners has also been the key factor for success, as they have helped with internships and integration into business.
Klemann stresses that personal motivation remains the key when it comes to combining professional sport and education: “Motivation among talents can be an issue when they cannot see the bigger picture of future implications yet.
“In the end, all you can do is involve them in activities and guide them through small steps instead of trying to make them understand that they are working for something that might still be 10 years away. It is each athlete’s own decision whether or not they join the programme.”
One of the most important findings of the research is relevant to the role of the coaches and clubs themselves: “Coaches play a vital role in the realisation of a flexible schedule in coordination with schools/universities and the labour market,” says Klemann.
“Without their full involvement and willingness to support the club’s approach to Dual Careers, the implementation becomes twice as hard.”
The project will officially end in June, with dissemination of the results and conclusions.
“We expect to present all the positive and negative experiences we had implementing the support service and hopefully be able to draw recommendations for other handball clubs and European sports clubs on what was essential when trying to address Dual Careers in their own club.
“We also hope to motivate others to implement Dual Career structures of their own and spread further awareness on the topic,” concludes Klemann.