Meeting the entrepreneurial learning needs of professional athletes in career transition

Breda Kenny (Hincks Centre for Entrepreneurship Excellence, School of Business, Cork Institute of Technology, Cork, Ireland)

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research

ISSN: 1355-2554

Publication date: 13 April 2015



A career at the professional, elite level in sports does not last forever. One way or another, the day comes when players have to hang up their boots and move on, but to what? Some stay in the sport as managers or coaches, become broadcast announcers, or use their name recognition to pitch a product. However, for many their future opportunities lie in entrepreneurship. The purpose of this paper is to explore the concept of the entrepreneurial learning needs of professional rugby players preparing for a career transition and asks the following questions: What are the specific needs of professional athletes in relation to entrepreneurial learning?, and, what are the key elements of designing an entrepreneurship programme to meet these needs?


The author adopted an interpretivist philosophical standpoint for this research, with an inductive research approach to explore various components of a tailored entrepreneurship training programme called the “Certificate in Enterprise Potential” (CEP) using the process of emergent inquiry. This programme was designed specifically for professional rugby athletes in Ireland. In gathering the data for the case study, the author pursued established principles of data collection, and used multiple sources of evidence.


The findings provide evidence of the entrepreneurial learning needs of professional athletes in career transition and identifies the key elements to be considered when designing an entrepreneurship programme to meet these needs. The findings are presented under the headings context, objectives and outcomes, audience, content, pedagogy, assessment and evaluation.

Research limitations/implications

There are multiple implications from this study. For entrepreneurship educators, the various components of designing a tailored entrepreneurship programme for professional athletes are identified and outlined. For researchers, it opens the door for research with other sports people from different contexts. For professional athletes and professionals working with athletes, it provides evidence of a non-athletic and an entrepreneurial career transition model that builds on the player’s social identity, social networks and taps into an existing HEI entrepreneurship ecosystem. The research was confined to a single case study for a specific target audience and needs replication with other cohorts in order to reduce the chance of these findings being unique to one single case.


This paper focuses on the career transition and mid-career aspect of entrepreneurship education and in particular the career transition needs of the professional athletes. These findings provide a deeper understanding of mid-career entrepreneurship education, specifically in the contexts of professional athletes and HEI’s. Many athletes are forced to end their sporting careers early and with little hope of a meaningful or alternative long-term career options. This paper goes some way in addressing this concern.



Kenny, B. (2015), "Meeting the entrepreneurial learning needs of professional athletes in career transition", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 21 No. 2, pp. 175-196.

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