Original Research

Dual sport career experiences of student-athletes studying in South Africa and the USA

Louis J. van Zyl
African Journal of Career Development | Vol 6, No 1 | a96 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajcd.v6i1.96 | © 2024 Louis J. van Zyl | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 19 May 2023 | Published: 02 February 2024

About the author(s)

Louis J. van Zyl, Department of Humanities Education, Faculty of Education, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


Background: Institutions of higher education are hubs for student-athletes pursuing dual careers, in sports and higher education. The concepts of dual careers, transition models and support systems for student sports provide the conceptual framework for this study.

Objectives: The study investigated the dual sports career experiences of South African track and field student-athletes who studied at universities in South Africa and the United States of America (USA). Objectives determined satisfaction in terms of student-athlete support systems in their chosen localities.

Method: This qualitative study used a purposive sample of 12 participants from a general population of South African junior track and field athletes who pursued dual careers. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews.

Results: The respondents found the US National Association Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) sports system superior to the South African sports system. The dual-career student-athletes transitioning through the last two stages of the South African Long-Term Athlete Development model reported a lack of support that negatively impacted the success of their dual career balance.

Conclusion: The South African context of student sport is not generally conducive to creating and enabling a dual sports–academic career environment because of insufficient contextual, processional and sports-specific factors. The participants perceived the NCAA system of student sport as holistic and supportive of their dual-career development.

Contribution: This study adds to the limited pool of knowledge relating to the dual-career development of student-athletes, and provides a base line for future research studies.


dual career; student-athletes; transition; support systems; South Africa; USA.

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 4: Quality education


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