ATHLETE FUTURES: Elite athletes make superior employees says new University of Stirling research

Companies are invited to recruit an Olympian and hire a leader at Athlete Futures careers fair

Athletes have been shown to make exceptional employees according to new research from the University of Stirling.

The research conducted through the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust by Professor David Lavallee and Dr Pete Coffee from the University of Stirling demonstrates that being an elite athlete significantly impacts employability potential because they are more confident in their abilities to carry out broader roles in the workplace, and excel in identifying opportunities, taking action and lifting the productivity of their colleagues.

Companies and organisations are invited to attend the Athlete Futures careers fair at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry in 1 November where more than 300 elite athletes, including Olympians and Paralympians, will have the opportunity to meet employers from organisations as diverse as Aldi, Procter & Gamble, the London Stock Exchange and Goldman Sachs.

Professor Lavallee, who will be discussing the implications of the findings at the Athlete Futures event said: “The employment market is one of the toughest in history, not just for job seekers but also for employers. We are at the dawn of an unparalleled skills crisis across the world and witnessing a significant transformation of the workforce.

“Because jobs are changing so rapidly and it is nearly impossible to predict the competencies needed to succeed in even a few years, employability is not solely whether a person has the right skills or not; it’s also whether they have the potential to develop and adapt into fundamentally different and increasingly complex roles and environments.”

Liz Dimmock, CEO of Moving Ahead which is managing the careers fair on behalf of UK Sport, the British Olympic Association, the British Paralympic Association and the English Institute of Sport, said: “This research proves that athletes make exceptional candidates. The Athlete Futures event provides the missing link between athletes and employers. It is critical that we harness the skills and potential of this diverse sector of the UK workforce, and this careers fair is a real step forward.”

World-class athletes have exceptional transferrable skills including a commitment to excellence, natural leadership and resilience under extreme pressure. They are proven team players with strong communication skills. This week’s Heroes Parade in Manchester demonstrated the enormous respect Great Britain has for its athletes and has inspired many new employers to sign up to the event in a bid to add this influential future leadership element to their team.

Richard Branson famously advocates hiring athletes because they are goal driven and achievement oriented, learn from failure quickly and have ‘grit’.

Monica Relph, Senior Client and Programme Manager at Moving Ahead is also a former member of the GB rowing team. She said: “Elite athletes represent a unique talent pool that is full of potential. I can say from experience that bringing my athlete’s positive mindset to work has helped me progress my career quickly. Athletes bring in diverse ways of thinking, a total commitment to the team and discipline. They can also offer motivational speaking for your organisation and become a brand ambassador you will be proud of.”

Employers are asked to come to the event with tangible opportunities such as job shadowing, an internship, mentoring or a part or full-time job. Pledges so far include six-month internships, mentoring packages and a 360° shopfloor to boardroom experience.

All athletes attending have either retired after Rio or a previous Olympics or Paralympics, or they have their sights set on Tokyo 2020 Olympics and are planning their post-sport career. The Athlete Futures careers fair has been organised by Moving Ahead on behalf of UK Sport and in conjunction with the British Olympic Association, the British Paralympic Association and the English Institute of Sport to help athletes secure a fulfilling future after their sports career ends.

Companies, organisations and education providers that would like to attend the event can contact Monica Relph at Moving Ahead on 01189 406828 or


Notes to Editors

1.     Press enquiries to Timma Marett at or on 01189 406828 / 07901 682219.

2.     Moving Ahead works to develop leaders in business and sport through our unique athlete transition programmes that offer corporate partners the opportunity to support and learn from an elite group of people who have dedicated their lives to performing at the highest level. We also design and deliver mentoring schemes and coaching programmes for sports and business leaders, and maintain a roster of exemplary and diverse keynote speakers that includes Olympic and Paralympic athletes, explorers, business leaders and world-class MCs.

3.     The objective of the University of Stirling research was to test whether a unique population – elite athletes who have made the transition from their sport into work - have ‘employability potential’. Our initial research involved an experiment inviting employers to evaluate curricula vitae for a typical entry-level graduate position in their organisation. Results demonstrated that engagement in sport elevates evaluations of potential job candidates ( The research then compared elite athletes who had made the transition from their sport into employment with matched employees who had not participated in sport.  The results demonstrate that being an elite athlete significantly impacts employability potential by being more confident in their abilities to carry out broader roles in the workplace through, for example, being more open to organisational changes. Further, athletes reported higher levels of identifying opportunities, taking action, and persevering until they brought about meaningful change. Athletes reported higher levels of taking personal initiative to have an impact on the world around them and being more able to make changes regarding job demands and job resources. Finally, athletes were reported by their supervisors to have superior job performance in their roles compared to the matched, control participants.  All relationships between the study variables were found to be positive and significant. Self-efficacy was also found to predict job performance and the relationship is explained through employability potential.  

4.     Findings from the research showed that engaging in elite sport elevates employer evaluations of potential job candidates; elite athletes making the transition into work possess essential employability skills; employers should view elite athletes in transition as valuable resources and capitalise on their extraordinary skills to manage challenging economic times.

5.     The research was first presented at the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust More than Medals event last week. More Than Medals is a campaign aimed at raising awareness of the benefits of world class athletes to our society and economy. The Dame Kelly Holmes Trust develops world class athletes beyond sport then supports them to deliver programmes that transform the lives of young people facing disadvantage.