A festival of dual career: Delegates from 17 different countries attended the STARTING 11 Conference in the Amsterdam Olympic Stadium.

Policy-makers, programme coordinators, sport coaches, researchers, academics, teachers, psychologists, career counsellors, lifestyle advisors, player development managers, and of course athletes: The variety of dual career stakeholders gathering last week in Amsterdam is living proof for the steadily growing importance of the dual career topic in the European Union.

From policy and research to practice

The opening of project co-leader Dennis van Vlaanderen & rector Geleyn Meijer of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences gave a first insight into the origin of STARTING 11. The project, which started in 2019, originally built on the achievements of the first two EU Work Plans for Sport to close the gap between policy, research and practice. Positioned between the EU Guidelines on Dual Careers of Athletes and stakeholders wanting to implement these guidelines, STARTING 11 aims to professionalize the European dual career landscape.

In his keynote, project co-leader Wolfgang Stockinger of TWIN, deepened the view on the EU dimension of dual careers both from an athlete and an environmental perspective. He presented dual career development environments as “interactive patterns of beliefs, expectations, motives, disciplines, communication processes, services, ethical standards, traditions, and cultures”. Transforming a theoretical dual career concept into effective action is consequently a complex task, likewise on athlete, practitioner and programme level. This is where STARTING 11 comes into play.

Launch of the European Dual Career Toolkit

Emma Vickers (National research lead of TASS), Pascal Schaul (Director of Sportlycée Luxembourg), and Nicoleta Pana (Design & tech lead of the Digital Society School Amsterdam) then revealed the European Dual Career Toolkit to the audience: A digital ecosystem of dual career practice based on concrete implementation barriers EU stakeholders face, rooting in the practice of some of Europe’s leading institutions in dual career support, and translatable into different dual career development environments. The toolkit is from now freely accessible on the STARTING 11 website.‍

“I learned a lot and I really love that the toolkit that was presented today is very hands-on.”
Joost van Westing, The Netherlands

The following parallel sessions gave the delegates the chance to “customize” their own conference. At the event, they could move freely between thematic areas based on which offers were most relevant to their dual career practice:

  • The 3 Tool Workshops areas helped to get to know the European Dual Career Toolkit in detail. STARTING 11 Experts explained how selected tools could be applied in the daily dual career work. International practitioners provided associated examples of dual career practice.
  • The Athlete-Student Stories area saw the world-class athletes Larissa Klaassen (Paralympic Cycling), Cees Juffermans (Short Track) and Johan Kenkhuis (Swimming) share game-changing moments of their dual career.
  • The Speed-Dating & Networking area served as an open space for attendees to meet and exchange. On top, Stadium Tours gave the chance to go explore one of the most iconic buildings in European sport.

In the closing Round Table discussion led by Cees Vervoorn, the panellists Florencia van Houdt (European Commission – DG for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture), Larissa Klaassen (Paralympic Cycling), David McDermott (Liverpool John Moores University), and Laurent Carnol (National Olympic Committee Luxembourg) reflected upon future steps the dual career topic was required to take in the EU. Increasing the sport coaches’ buy-in and active support for holistic athlete development was addressed by several panellists and members of the audience.

“I am following the project since the very beginning, and I was looking forward to this conference for a long time. In particular, the presented ideas of the tool “Policy Push”, I will take back home with me to Bulgaria.”
Kristiana Kazandzhieva, Bulgaria

Watch the official aftermovie

1 day in 1 minute: Our STARTING 11 Conference Aftermovie captures the essence of the event which thanks to athletes, practitioners and policy-makers turned into an international celebration of dual career.