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06 Mar 2023

Athlete survey offers insight into next generation’s passions and challenges

Talented young athletes consider the cost and accessibility of sport to be the issue they care most passionately about according to SportsAid’s annual survey. The findings, delivered by Everfi, highlighted the impact of bouncing back from the COVID-19 pandemic and how the next generation have found it much more difficult to pay for their sport since restrictions were lifted.


The survey, completed in June 2022, also reveals the challenges athletes face trying to balance their lifestyle in order to pursue their sporting ambitions. There was a total of 415 respondents - each of whom received support from SportsAid in 2021/22. 39% of these athletes are targeting the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games to represent Great Britain.

There was a near even gender split (46% male, 54% female) overall. 75% of respondents were non-disabled (311 athletes) with 25% having a disability (104 athletes). 20% of respondents came from ethnically diverse communities. The athletes are spread across more than 60 different sports with 88% competing in an Olympic or Paralympic discipline.


67% of athletes feel their competition schedule has become much busier over the last year. This is to be expected due to the lifting of restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the average travel mileage has also increased from 50 miles in the 2020/21 survey to 169 miles in 2021/22.

Most athletes’ training patterns are also returning to pre-pandemic levels. They typically train between the hours of 5pm and 9pm – planning this into their schedule after their education commitments and/or work. They are now returning to a similar number of weekly training hours too.   

Here’s a breakdown of the % of athletes who train (x) hours weekly….


Under 10 - 9%
15-19 - 32%
Over 25 - 12%


Under 10 - 39%
15-19 - 20%
Over 25 - 3%


Under 10 - 7%
15-19 - 32%
Over 25 - 12%

Athletes’ travel mileage has significantly increased but it is still not as long as it was before the pandemic. They are travelling considerable distances though - with most covering the equivalent of Bristol to Manchester every week for training and competitions. 

2021/22 - 169 miles
2020/21 - 50 miles
2018/19 - 373 miles


• 8 in 10 athletes, regardless of their employment status, prefer training between 5pm and 9pm
• Non-disabled athletes more likely to train over 25 hours compared to disabled athletes (15% v 5%)
• Disabled athletes more likely to train under 10 hours compared to non-disabled athletes (20% v 6%)
• 32% of athletes say the location they train has changed after the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions 
• 27% of athletes travel over 250 miles, on average, every week for training and competitions 


Almost all (99%) athletes that received a SportsAid award think it is ‘crucial’ or ‘important’. They found all aspects of the award to be useful, including workshop delivery and personal development opportunities, but financial support is most likely to be ‘extremely useful’ to athletes (88%). 

This is further demonstrated by 66% of athletes using the financial aspect of the award to buy a piece of equipment specific to their sport. Following the same trend as the 2020/21 survey, athletes also invested money in buying home gym equipment to support training in their own environment. 

Busier schedules and the lifting of restrictions from the pandemic has had a real impact on finances. 63% of athletes say that it is now much more or more difficult to pay for their sport. During the 2020/21 survey, 58% of athletes noted that costs had fallen, no doubt due to the restrictions in place.

Here’s a breakdown of the average yearly spend…. 

2021/22 - £6,627
2020/21 - £4,638
2018/19 - £7,089 
2017/18 - £7,266 
2016/17 - £6,417 
2015/16 - £6,193 
2014/15 - £5,912 
2013/14 - £6,193 
2012/13 - £6,022 
2011/12 - £6,438 
2010/11 - £5,576 
2009/10 - £4,898 
2008/09 - £5,022 
2007/08 - £4,885

The areas of financial spend are similar to those selected pre-pandemic. Just under half of athletes stated travel costs were their greatest expense in the 2021/22 survey. 21% of athletes found money, due to the cost of their sport, to be one of the biggest challenges they faced overall.   

Here’s a comparison on areas of spend for 2018/19 v 2021/22…. 

Travel (99% v 93%)
Accommodation (83% v 74%)
Kit/equipment (82% v 84%)
Training (79% v 82%)
Nutrition (53% v 49%)
Competition (77% both years)


• Older athletes (aged 22 to 24 years) are more likely (74%) to find the SportsAid award ‘crucial’ 
• Equipment that athletes bought with their award helped them to feel more confident in their sport
• Competition costs, as an area of spend, has risen back up to 77% after dropping to 44% in 2020/21 
• Accommodation, as an area of spend, has risen back up to 74% after dropping to 52% in 2020/21
• 40% of athletes are using BelievePerform platform via SportsAid in comparison to 30% in 2020/21  


25% of athletes ranked ‘finding balance in the different areas of my life’ as the biggest challenge they faced. The cost of their sport, as mentioned in the section above, was second on the list as 21% of athletes considered it to be the most difficult aspect they had to contend with.   

The top-ranking challenges for athletes don’t always align with areas they’d like to receive more support and advice for. Athletes focused primarily on areas which would directly benefit their performance when asked what they would like to see in an online toolkit developed by SportsAid.

Here’s a list of the support and advice athletes would want from an online toolkit…. 

Sports psychology - 50%
Dual careers - 45%
Performance lifestyle - 42%
Nutrition - 41%
Media training - 37%
Mental health and wellbeing - 36%
Access to mentoring with senior athletes - 36%
Advice on balancing your lifestyle - 35%

Athletes are more likely to want their family or partners to support them with the challenging aspects they face in their day-to-day life rather than to access it through an online toolkit.

Here’s a list of the support and advice athletes felt their family or partner may find helpful…. 

Advice on balancing your lifestyle - 40%
Sports psychology - 37%
Mental health and wellbeing - 36%
Advice on what it takes to be a talented athlete - 35% 
Advice on managing the family's finances for sport - 33%
Nutritional advice - 30%


Almost all athletes (92%) revealed they are passionate about promoting their sport and 71% consider themselves to be role models. The latter was felt more by younger athletes rather than older ones. They also shared the wide range of topics they feel connected to or concerned about.  

Here’s a list of the issues they feel most connected to or concerned about….

Cost and accessibility of sport - 60%
Mental wellbeing - 46%
Diversity and inclusion in sport - 39%
Nutrition and physical health - 36%
Tackling racism and discrimination - 27%
Gender equality - 24%
Safeguarding of athletes - 20%
Access to education - 16%
Doping in sport - 14%
Sustainability and environmental issues - 13% 
Pandemic recovery - 11%

SportsAid needs your help to ensure talented young athletes can continue receiving the backing they rely on. You can make a regular donation to the charity and have a significant impact on the country’s sporting future!