- Written by Amy Longster
Raleigh, a former professional footballer, has turned his attention to learning how personal development can impact performance. Passionate about helping people, Raleigh's story takes us from his playing days in Scotland to helping others recognise their strengths and areas for improvement. He is a firm believer that better people make better athletes and this personal development is critical to successful transitions, both inside and to life outside of sport.
Both of them were firmly aware that a career in professional sport is short-lived for the vast majority of people.”
A sporting career will rarely exceed 20 years for the majority of sportspeople. A retirement from sport can be planned or unplanned. Efforts to get to the highest level take enormous sacrifice. And so, the reality that a career as an athlete may not last forever can be challenging.
Athletes must therefore explore what a life outside of their sport might look like. The transition out of elite sport can seem daunting, and many sportspeople will be unsure of what they should do or want to do after.
A number of years ago, Raleigh Gowrie chose to combine his studies with pursuing a professional football career. Through completing a degree in PE teaching, Raleigh was able to understand more of the world outside of football. Raleigh shared his thoughts on how he ensured the right balance between football and his studies.
“The concept of a dual career wasn't really in the culture of the sport at that time.
“It took self-discipline, and good time management and sacrifice to organise your life and identify priorities and to complete both.
“I didn't find combining sport with study that challenging really…both the academic institution and the football clubs that I played for were very supportive of it.”
After deciding to transition out of professional football, Raleigh spent 23 years at the University of Stirling pursuing his interest in academia and managing high performance sport programmes, including a world renowned elite golf scheme. Raleigh then joined the lecturing team at the University of West Scotland, where he commenced his professional doctorate surrounding his interest in the transition from amateur to professional golf. Raleigh gave an insight into the reasons for conducting his research in this area.
“90% of professional golfers who turn professional withdraw from the competitive arena within three years of entering. The reasons behind that had been left unexplored.
“That relationship between what it was that has helped some golfers be successful, and others struggle, fascinated me…and transition from amateur to professional became the focus of my interest.
“A number of golfers I had worked with enjoyed relative success in amateur golf. They then turned professional around the same period in their career. But some went on to enjoy success in the professional game, whilst others struggled.”
Although at the midpoint of the research process, Raleigh’s research has indicated that there is not necessarily one set way of determining progress and achievement at a professional level. However, some important themes have emerged, which might help contribute towards success. The research has highlighted the importance of having a clear career plan and a desire for constant improvement in performance to remain at the top of the sport.
“Having an understanding of how your career might develop, where the important transitions might be and how that path might form and which directions it may take.
“Players that are demonstrating an upwardly accelerating profile in their performance seem to continue with that developmental profile as they enter into the amateur game.
“Whereas golfers, whose performances have levelled off, albeit, at the very highest level of the amateur game, there appears a tendency for their progress to stall.”
“Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your own game and knowing which areas you need to work on and improve and having a plan for that. is really important.”
“Understanding of an attitude towards risk and developing resilience is also highly significant.”
Once completed, findings from this research will be used to establish a framework that can help identify athletes that are likely to experience success at a professional level. This will limit the failure of athletes entering the professional game when that are not yet ready to do so. Raleigh’s hope is to conduct similar research in other sports to see if these effects are generalisable across multiple sports.
“This initial project acts as a precursor for some further research to be conducted around transition from amateur to professional in other sports.”
“I hope that the transition to professional sport framework acts as a valuable tool to help inform athletes, coaches, parents, and sports performance managers…it will highlight whether or not athletes are ready at any given point to deal with and cope with the challenges of transition into professional sport.”
As the research highlights, there is a need for athletes to plan ahead in their career to ensure they will have the greatest chance of success at the professional level, which coaches and clubs can assist with. But also, planning for a career after sport is essential and therefore encouraging a dual career with elite players may be beneficial in ensuring success post-sport.
Last updated December 2020.