Summary

Athletes must overcome multiple transitional challenges to reach optimal performance development (Wylleman & Rosier, 2016). Overcoming these transitions and the way in which such challenges are dealt with, plays a key role in athlete progression towards expertise (MacNamara et al., 2010). Research has shown that transitions within an athlete’s career are both concurrent and reciprocal with transitions in other domains of an athlete’s life (e.g., academic, psychosocial, and financial). Athletes must therefore be adaptable, to juggle the development of a successful athletic career and the parallel pursuit of their academic/vocational development (Tekavc et al., 2015).

The Holistic Athletic Career model (HAC; Wylleman & Rosier, 2016) provides a detailed framework to explore the normative stages and transitions faced by athletes at athletic, vocational, psychological, psychosocial, and financial levels. Wylleman and Rosier (2016) argued the need to consider the ‘whole person’ and as such the HAC provides an appropriate framework to interpret athlete progress that includes psychosocial development. For talented athletes who strive to combine their sporting career with continuing education at secondary level or within higher education, it is essential to continually balance their time and energy within their academic, athletic, and social roles (Bruner et al., 2008).

Previous research has suggested that talented athletes have a tendency to perform well in both their sport and in the academic setting by being highly motivated to succeed in both domains (e.g., Brettschneider, 1999; Durand-Bush & Salmela, 2002; Umbach et al., 2006). Student-athletes are reported to be committed to both their education and sport when both pursuits connect to their sense of identity, purpose and well-being (O'Neill et al., 2013). However, combining education and sport careers has also been linked with a number of challenges faced by athletes, including struggling to incorporate study with training and competition schedules, dealing with fatigue, facing financial concerns, being forced to make personal sacrifices which can impact on their wellbeing and psychosocial development (European Commission, 2012; Burden et al., 2004; O'Neill et al., 2013; Petitpas et al., 2009; Pummell et al., 2008).

To date there is limited research that has explored the transitions of athletes from the development to mastery levels of athletic development within the HAC. Furthermore, it is often alongside this athletic transition that athletes are also undertaking substantial transitions in their academic lives and psychosocial support network. One such transition is that of talented Irish athletes making the transition into US collegiate sport. This novel transition within sport involves critical moments in the lives of athletes such as moving countries away from established psychosocial support networks, changes in coaching, training, and competition environments, in addition to transitions in academic structures and provisions.

Guided by the Holistic Athlete Career Model (Wylleman & Rosier, 2016), the aim of the proposed program of research is to explore Irish athlete experiences of transitioning into the US collegiate sport system and the impact that those transitions have on athlete mental health and well-being.


Essential criteria

Applicants should hold, or expect to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class Honours Degree in a subject relevant to the proposed area of study.

We may also consider applications from those who hold equivalent qualifications, for example, a Lower Second Class Honours Degree plus a Master’s Degree with Distinction.

In exceptional circumstances, the University may consider a portfolio of evidence from applicants who have appropriate professional experience which is equivalent to the learning outcomes of an Honours degree in lieu of academic qualifications.

  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • First Class Honours (1st) Degree
  • Masters at 65%
  • Work experience relevant to the proposed project
  • Publications - peer-reviewed

Funding and eligibility

The University offers the following levels of support:

Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)

Full award (full-time PhD fees + DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £15,840 (tbc) maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

Vice-Chancellor’s Research Bursary (VCRB)

Part award (full-time PhD fees + 50% DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £8,000 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fees Bursary (VCRFB)

Fees only award (PhD fees + RTSG for 3 years).

This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

Department for the Economy (DFE)

The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £15,840 (tbc) per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

  • Candidates with pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, who also satisfy a three year residency requirement in the UK prior to the start of the course for which a Studentship is held MAY receive a Studentship covering fees and maintenance.
  • Republic of Ireland (ROI) nationals who satisfy three years’ residency in the UK prior to the start of the course MAY receive a Studentship covering fees and maintenance (ROI nationals don’t need to have pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme to qualify).
  • Other non-ROI EU applicants are ‘International’ are not eligible for this source of funding.
  • Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

Due consideration should be given to financing your studies. Further information on cost of living


The Doctoral College at Ulster University


Reviews

My research examined the ability of exercise to inflict damage to DNA and other biologically important structures. During my PhD I had the pleasure of being supervised by Prof Gareth Davison and Dr Ciara Hughes. Pursuing a PhD was never a goal from the outset of my academic career - I wanted to be a PE teacher and completed my BSc in Sport and Exercise Science. However, I carried on with my studies and completed a MSc in Sports Nutrition before enrolling in my PhD.If I could give advice to any new graduate student, it would be the nature of research means that things will not always go according to plan. Keep calm, take a break and then carry on. Have a life outside work. Although your lab group is like your work family, it’s great for your mental health to be able to escape work especially when things don't go to plan.

Joshua Williamson - PhD in Sports Science