“There is Nothing That I Learnt in Sport That Doesn't Apply to Business, or Life” * : The Continued Education and Career Development of Professional Sports People.

Author Faculty (Discipline)


Document Type

Conference Proceeding

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Global Conference on Education & Research (GLOCER)


130202 Curriculum and Pedagogy Theory and Development

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The business of sport has always been popular in countries all over the world. This research shows the success of organisations such as RUPA (Rugby Union Players Association), Universities, Industry and Players of Rugby when they play together off the field in educating professional sports people. This research was completed over 3 years, with 2 different rugby organisations, the NSW Waratahs and the 2016 Olympic qualifying Australian Rugby 7s’. The use of the Curriculum, Assessment and Pedagogy (CAP) model, shows a tailored education program designed specifically for professional sportspeople, not used to sitting in a classroom for any length of time. The CAP model provided rugby players/students with guest lectures by industry experts and using their industry partners enabled students to tour major industry facilities to cement their classroom learning. Outcomes included 20 rugby players graduating from the advanced diploma of management program over a 3-year period. The collaboration of such organisations over a 3-year period also resulted in reciprocal university research for these sporting clubs, and their industry partners. The CAP model designed for professional sports people bring sport, industry and education together off the field, a collaboration resulting in win-win outcomes for all.

Hayes (2003) sees curriculum as a shared vision for classroom learning, she also believes there is a strong link and commitment to be able to align curriculum, assessment and pedagogy. Bernstein (1973) says “curriculum defines what counts as valid knowledge, pedagogy defines what counts as valid transmission of knowledge and assessment defines what counts as valid realisation of this knowledge”. Allen (2004) defined pedagogy as is “the art of teaching where different practices are informed by different educational philosophies”. Gore (2001, p.124) refers to pedagogy as “to what takes place in the classroom and other teaching sites”. Pedagogy can “provide the university and the school communities with unique perspectives on teaching and learning” (Lytle and Cochran-Smith, 1994, p.24). Studies by and Newmann and Associates (1996); Avery (1999); Avery and Palmer (2001) all state authentic pedagogy in conjunction with assessment has a positively link to authentic performance of students.

Traditionally assessment has been used to grade students or satisfy the demands of external parties via a form of accountability (Shepard, 2000). Assessment however, should also be used to support the learning of students and encourage an enhancement of understanding of course materials. Some academics have shown a shift in traditional assessment methods to what is known as a type of continuous quality improvement known as learner centred instruction and assessment. This type of assessment involves classroom assessment techniques (CATS) which attempt to shift the focus from teaching to learning by linking it with various assessment tools.

However, current research has found that the link of the three criteria is not being used by teachers in the classroom in terms of the “framework of intellectual quality, relevance, supportive classroom environment and recognition of differences” (Gore 2001p.124). Current and new teachers according to Gore (2001) are not producing what she coins “Productive Pedagogy” or student learning outcomes that can be measured. In fact, research by Newmann and Associates (1996) found in the United States that it was rare to find authentic pedagogy. This leads to the research problem: “Can a course be delivered to professional sports people using the CAP model?”.

The research problem then led to each of the following research questions:

RQ1: Can Curriculum be tailored to meet the needs of professional sports people?

RQ2: Can Assessment be tailored to meet the needs of professional sports people?

RQ3: Can Pedagogy be tailored to meet the needs of professional sports people?

The challenge for teaching professional sports people is that they are not used to long periods of time sitting in a classroom, so careful planning was essential in the delivery and course content organisation.This paper reports on the findings from two case studies, the NSW Waratahs and the Australian Rugby 7’s, who undertook further education by selected players in 2014 and 2016. Case studies are useful when the “boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident” (Yin 2003, 13) and is therefore appropriate given the inextricable connection of curriculum, assessment and pedagogy (CAP). Eisenhardt (1989) defines case study as “a research strategy which focuses on understanding the dynamics present within single settings”. Merriam (2009:40) defines case study as “an in-depth description and analysis of a bounded system”. Convenience sampling was used to select these cases with the intention of extending current theory (Eisenhardt 1989) by exploring this phenomena in sporting organisations, with varying organisational contexts. All case organisations were based in one NSW region in Australia (Sydney CBD), students were all paying members of RUPA, and operated in the professional sports sector (rugby). The two cases discussed in this paper were selected as they provided interesting contextual contrast in terms of players, the game and location of delivery.

After the first 2014 delivery of the advanced diploma of management to the NSW Waratah players, academics from the UON business school were able to form a close network between RUPA and the NSW Waratahs players and their business stakeholders. During 2015 and 2016, UON academics were able to use these networks for research, and university student learning. Students undertaking the bachelor of Business or Commerce at the University of Newcastle (Ourimbah Campus) who were undertaking the Work Integrated Learning Unit of Project in Business BUSN3001 are sourced from all disciplines. As part of their learning, they were invited by RUPA and the NSW Waratahs to tour their training facility and to gain an understanding of the running of a professional sporting club where revenue was from members, television rights, ticket and gate sales as well as merchandise. Due to the close relationship that professional sporting clubs have at Alliance stadium in Sydney, students were also invited to tour the Sydney Roosters facility and talk to the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) regarding the differences in revenue streams by Rugby Leagues clubs. QANTAS also invited the UON students to tour their training facility. The Australian Rugby 7’s also invited a student in to research the possibility of a membership base for the 7’s. The relationships were now becoming truly reciprocal. This reciprocal collaboration has resulted in students undertaking projects as part of their work integrated learning (WIL) with both the NSW Waratahs and Sydney Roosters. The NSW Waratahs project saw a student review the current membership initiatives and research other possible initiatives.

The case studies of the NSW Waratahs and the Australian Rugby 7’s shows that this CAP model suits their style of learning. Students like that the curriculum is designed with their future careers in mind, that the assessment tasks enable them to write business plans and deliver presentations as both a group and as an individual. Finally, the use of guest speakers and excursions compliments the theory learnt in the classroom. The CAP model in particular suits professional sports people not used to spending huge amounts of time in a classroom. The model compliments their physical needs with their educational needs by stimulating them with a combination of classroom learning, guest speakers and excursions, and led to the unexpected external engagement with stakeholders from the University, Sports, and Industry. Truly a win-win situation for all parties.


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