A prospective study of the developmental biographies of Great British Pathway athletes

Lead Research Organisation: Bangor University
Department Name: Sch of Sport Health and Exercise Sci


Elite sport is big business, yet the developmental journeys of the world's best athletes are not well understood. In the Great British Medallists study, Hardy et al. (2013) performed a retrospective, in-depth, multi-disciplinary, biographical analysis of 32 former super-elite and elite GB athletes to identify the most important determinants of athletes becoming World's best. This study has had a substantial impact on the Performance Pathway in British sport. Nevertheless, limitations remain: the retrospective nature of the study; the focus on athletes from a previous era; and an inability to identify between sport differences. The present study will address all of these limitations and will also focus directly on the engine room of talent development - the Performance Pathway.

To enhance UK Sport's talent development pathway by identifying the most important Performance Pathway attributes with regard to different achievement criteria.

Specific Research Questions
How do higher and lower achieving Pathway athletes differ with regard to: social and cultural background; positive and negative critical events; personality; lifestyle attributes; motivation for, and commitment to, their sport; physical characteristics; training volume and intensity; practice structure and conditions; and coaching environment?
What is the athlete's experience of the Pathway?
How is technical and tactical ability developed by the Pathway curriculum?

This PhD will be part of a larger 8 year project spanning two Olympic cycles. Because UK Sport is the world leader in this area, the results will have impact worldwide.

Methods and Design
1) Quantitative data will be collected annually from all Pathway athletes across five different sports using upgraded versions of UK Sport's annual review of Performance Pathways.
2) Pattern recognition analyses will identify which attributes predict Pathway achievement with regard to: subsequent Olympic medal achievement; continuance in the Pathway; injury prevalence; and successful transitions (e.g., junior to senior, Performance Foundations to Podium Potential, Podium Potential to Podium, retirement, etc.).
3) Detailed longitudinal qualitative case studies of 20 athletes at different stages on the Pathway will complement the quantitative analyses. Participant observation and social media evidence will supplement athlete, coach, and parent interviews. The first year interview will be a modification of Hardy et al.'s (2013) GBM interview (see above). In subsequent years, the interviews will focus on the athletes' experience of, and interaction with, the Pathway curriculum.
4) The qualitative data will be analysed using a combination of traditional consensual inductive/deductive content analysis and inductive grounded theory analysis techniques.


10 25 50

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P00069X/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
1947272 Studentship ES/P00069X/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2020 Eleanor Langham-Walsh