n African Journal for Physical Health Education, Recreation and Dance - The special needs of student-athletes in track and field : a case study analysis s research - : sports research

Special issue 1
  • ISSN : 1117-4315


Student-athletes comprise a pool of talent which is a vital resource for national stakeholders tasked with the development of a country's sporting elite. Underpinned by the structural-functional perspective on socialisation, this investigation aimed at identifying the sport and educational needs of elite student athletes at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). A self-designed questionnaire was completed by 68 elite student-athletes (UJ, A and B teams) who competed during a national competition of University Sport South Africa in 2008. Interviews (n=5) were also conducted with key decision-makers (the Director of Sport, Manager of Athletics, the Sport Psychologist and two lecturers from the Department of Sport and Movement Studies). The results indicated that all student-athletes have special needs for additional tutoring at convenient times (that will not interfere with competition and/or training times). They also require flexibility in terms of the completion of assignments. Students from relatively impoverished backgrounds (n=23; 32.9%) indicated that they were in need of more comprehensive scholarships, as they had to generate additional income through part-time employment. Various challenges contributed to the stress experienced by athletes due to excessive demands on their time, a large proportion was already dedicated to training and competition. Although the majority was satisfied with the opportunities afforded to them to pursue an athletics career, all expressed a need for medical coverage and professional rehabilitation services, as injuries are considered part and parcel of competitive participation. Sport-related injuries are perceived as the biggest threat to the continuation of a sporting career, and, despite being socialised into accepting and even competing with minor injuries, athletes perceive that injuries remain a real threat to their careers.

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