Journal of Human Sport and Exercise

Implementing the European Sports Leadership Programme: A vehicle to help development graduate workplace competencies

Julie A. Brunton, Francisco José Cánovas-Alvarez, Lourdes Meroño, Alejandro Leiva-Arcas, José Luis Arias-Estero, Elena Conde, Emanuele Isidori, Andrew Decelis, Charalampos Samantzis, Alper Yıldız, Yeliz İlgar Doğan, Alessandra Fazio, Oliver Mallia, Athanasios Koustelios, Antonio Sánchez-Pato



This research was part of a large intervention study implementing the European Sports Leadership Programme (ESLP). This paper reports the outcomes of the qualitative study that employed focus groups to assess the students’ perceptions of the 15 competencies determined according to the Framework for qualifications of the European Higher Education Area, before and after the ESLP. Focus groups were carried out at each of the five universities. The ESLP involved university students working as a sports leader for 24 months with the aim to engage more students in university sport, whilst they took part in a graduate employability programme. Each university recruited five sports leaders in their second year at university, to deliver 10 new sport and recreational activities targeting the wider inactive or semi-active student population. Findings highlighted that Organization and planning, Oral and written communication, Development of planning and decision making, and Teamworking, followed closely by Emotional control and Adapting to new situations, were the most commonly reported competencies. They affirmed that this programme had helped to develop these competencies. Use of information, communication and technology, Communication in a foreign language, Research and Emotional control were the most common competencies that students stated they needed to improve further. This research found that implementing the ESLP helped to develop students’ perceptions of their workplace and career competencies. The ESLP is therefore, recommended as one approach to helping universities to develop student’s workplace and career competencies.


Graduate employability; Sport and career competencies; Extra-curricular programme; Leadership programme; Intervention and evaluation; Sport pedagogy


Agran, M., Hughes, C., Thoma, C. A., & Scott, L. A. (2016). Employment social skills: What skills are really valued? Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals, 39, 111-120.

Aldous, D., Sparkes, A. C., & Brown, D. H. (2016). Trajectories towards failure: Considerations regarding post-16 transitions within the UK Sport-Education sector. Sport, Education and Society, 21, 166-182.

Allen, K., Bullough, S., Cole, D., Shibli, S., &Wilson, J. (2013). The impact of engagement in sport on graduate employability. British Universities and Colleges Sport, 2013, 1-59.

Bentley, T. (2012). Learning beyond the classroom: Education for a changing world. London, UK: Routledge.

Bologna Working Group on Qualifications Frameworks. (2005). A framework for qualifications of the European Higher Education Area. Copenhagen, Denmark: Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.

Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3, 77-101.

Brunton, J.A., & St Quinton, T. (2020). Applying stage-based theory to engage female students in university sport. Journal of Human Sport and Exercise.

BUCS (2020). BUCS Homepage. Available at Accessed 16 July 2020.

Cánovas-Alvarez, F. J., Meroño, L., Arias-Estero, J. L., Leiva-Arcas, A., Zurita Ortiz, B., Brunton, J., Isidori, E., Decelis, A., Samantzis, C., Mülazımoglu Ballı, Ö., Fazio, A., Sánchez-Pato, A. (in press). Effects of a sport leadership programme on the perceptions of university students about their leadership competencies. Cultura, Ciencia y Deporte.

Cánovas-Alvarez, F. J., Meroño, L., Leiva-Arcas, A., Arias-Estero, J. L., Conde, E., Isidori, E., Decelis, A., Samantzis, C., Mülazımoğlu, O., Fazio, A., & Sánchez-Pato, A. (2020). Effect of a sport leadership programme on students' perception of their professional development as a measure of involvement. Rivista Italiana di Pedagogia dello Sport, 5(1), 1-11.

Cappelli, P. (1999). The new deal at work: Managing the market-driven workforce. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.

Choudhury, N. ,& Mcintosh, A. (2013). Retaining students as employees: Owner operated small hospitality businesses in a university town in New Zealand. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 32, 261-269.

Chung, G. H., Du, J., & Choi, J. N. (2014). How do employees adapt to organizational change driven by cross-border M&As? A case in China. Journal of World Business, 49, 78-86.

Clark, R. L., Morrill, M. S., & Vanderweide, D. (2014). Defined benefit pension plan distribution decisions by public sector employees. Journal of Public Economics, 116, 73-88.

Clarke, M., & Patrickson, M. (2008). The new covenant of employability. Employee Relations, 30, 121-141.

da Silva, R. C., Trevisan, L. N., Veloso, E. F. R., & Dutra, J. S. (2016). Career anchors and values from different career management perspectives. Revista Brasileira de Gestão de Negócios, 18, 145.

Dhar, R. L. (2015). Service quality and the training of employees: The mediating role of organizational commitment. Tourism Management, 46, 419-430.

EC (2016). EUROPE 2020. Available at: Accessed: 2 May 2016.

EC (2017). Communication from the commission to the European parliament, the council, the European economic and social committee and the committee of the regions. Available at: Accessed 17 July 2020.

EC/EACEA/Eurydice. (2015). The European Higher Education Area in 2015: Bologna process implementation report. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

EC. (2016). EU Competency Framework for the management and implementation of the ERDF and the Cohesion Fund. Available at: Accessed 30 October 2020.

EUSA (2020) EUSA. Available at: Accessed 16 July 2020.

Finch, D., Peacock, M., Levallet, N., & Foster, W. (2016). A dynamic capabilities view of employability. Education + Training, 58, 61-81.

Goleman, D. (1998). Working with emotional intelligence. London, UK: Bloomsbury.

González, J., & Wagenaar, R. (2008). Universities' contribution to the Bologna Process. An introduction (2nd Edition). Bilbao, Spain: University of Deusto.

HEA (2016). Framework for embedding employability in higher education [Ebook] 1-4. Retrieved from

Jæger, K. (2018). New-style higher education: Disciplinarity, interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity in the EHEA qualifications framework. Higher Education Policy, 1, 1-20.

Jackson, D. (2010). An international profile of industry-relevant competencies and skill gaps in modern graduates. International Journal of Management Education, 8, 29-58.

Johns, G., & Saks, A. M. (2005). Organizational behaviour: Understanding and managing life at work. Toronto, Canada: Pearson Education.

Lincoln, Y. S., Lynham, S. A., & Guba, E. G. (2011). Paradigmatic controversies, contradictions, and emerging confluences, revisited. In N. K. Denzin, & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of qualitative research (pp. 97-128). London, UK: Sage.

Minocha, S., Hristov, D., & Reynolds, M. (2017). From graduate employability to employment: policy and practice in UK higher education. International Journal of Training and Development, 21, 235-248.

Morgan, D. L. (1997). Focus groups as qualitative research (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative evaluation and research methods (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Parvaiz, T., & Ahmed, O. (2016). Sustaining the growth of employee: Motivation and career development in organization. Munich Personal RePEc Archive, 69728, 1-12.

Pool, L. D, & Sewell, P. (2007). The key to employability: Developing a practical model of graduate employability. Education+ Training, 49, 277-289.

Schlesinger, T., Studer, F., & Nagel, S. (2016). The relationship between competencies acquired through Swiss academic sports science courses and the job requirements. European Journal of Sport Science, 16, 115-127.

Serrano, G., Llamazares, F., & Otamendi, F. J. (2015). Measurement and sustainability of the qualifications frameworks in the European Higher Education Area through an employment survey on access to the labour market. Sustainability, 7(10), 13777-13812.

Sport England. (2015). Higher education sport participation and satisfaction survey. National report 2014/15. London, UK: TNS BMRB.

WHO (2020). Physical activity key facts. Available at: Accessed 16 July 2020.

Yorke, M. (2006). Employability in higher education (1st ed., pp. 1-24). Heslington, York: Higher Education Academy.


Copyright (c) 2018 Journal of Human Sport and Exercise

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.