We recently published a report outlining the findings of a survey we conducted at the beginning of this year (you can get your free copy of the 2018 Student-Athlete Life After Sport Report here).

The report focuses on outcomes for student-athletes as they make the transition away from competitive athletics and into the professional world.

This kind of research is so important—and while we’re certainly no Pew Research Center—we’re happy to make our findings available for free as a service to athletes and athletics organizations.

This blog post is part of a series I’m writing to break down the findings of the report (be sure to check out the first two posts on the value of the student-athlete experience and choosing the right major).

In this post, I want to take a step back to talk about some common misconceptions in collegiate athletics and student-athlete development.

Survivorship Bias

In statistics, there’s a common type of bias that affects the validity of research by ignoring or “cherry picking” data—called, “selection bias.”

One particular flavor of selection bias is “survivorship bias” which is defined as:

“The logical error of concentrating on the people or things that made it past some selection process and overlooking those that did not, typically because of their lack of visibility.”

Basically, survivorship bias means drawing overly optimistic conclusions by ignoring certain data—often because that data contradicts one’s personal beliefs.

So, what does survivorship bias have to do with our 2018 Student-Athlete Life After Sport Report?

It has to do with how many might wrongly interpret the report by ignoring some of its findings.

Major Findings in the Report

One of the more positive statistics to come out of the report was that nearly 96 percent of student-athletes responded “yes” to the question: “Knowing what you know now, would you go through the student-athlete experience again?”

of respondents would go through college as student-athletes again.

This statistic highlights what many of us have known for a long time—that their time in sport, team camaraderie and notoriety on campus make the experience entirely worthwhile for student-athletes.

But we should not take this to mean that nothing more can be done to improve the student-athlete experience or their outcomes in life after competitive athletics (doing so would be succumbing to survivorship bias).

In fact—as we’ll see—quite the opposite is true.

Let’s look at career outcomes for student-athletes as an example.

According to survey results, only about 34 percent of student-athletes had a job in hand upon graduating.

What’s even more alarming is that less than 10 percent of respondents reported that they found a job with help from career services or their athletics department.


had a job in hand upon graduating.


found their first job post-college through their career services department.


found their first job post-college through their athletics department.

In the past, athletics departments might have seen career services and professional development as responsibilities of other organizations on campus.

But today, many have made improving career outcomes the main focus of their student-athlete development initiatives by implementing programs for mentorship and life skills development (Game Plan’s athletics department partners are great examples of this).

Forward-thinking athletics departments see this not only as a way to support current student-athletes, but also as a way to differentiate their organization in the eyes of prospective recruits and their parents (just take a look at some of our case studies).

They know that top athletes are seeking out athletics organizations that are willing to invest into their development beyond their time in competitive athletics.

Improving Career Outcomes for Student-Athletes

The primary question that the 2018 Student-Athlete Life After Sport Report was designed to answer is, “are student-athletes receiving enough support as they prepare to make the transition away from competitive athletics and into the professional world?”

The survey findings seem to suggest that in many cases, student-athletes are missing out on the mentorship and professional development programs required to make a healthy transition away from their sport.

In fact, more than half of surveyed student-athletes reported that they struggled with their transition away from competitive athletics.

struggled with their transition away from competitive athletics.

The most cited reasons for this difficulty were a “loss of competitive outlet”, a “loss of identity” and a “lack of structure.”

At Game Plan, our mission is to help athletics organizations guide 100% of their athletes through 100% of their developmental journey.

We work with our partners to give them the tools they need to deliver online education, mentorship and career services to deliver world-class athlete development programs.

We’re excited to see that many athletics organizations are beginning to make professional development and career outcomes a priority—but there is certainly still work to be done.