These types of opportunities are less prevalent now compared to previous years. Less than half (45 per cent) of athletes have professional or commercial opportunities in their sport and only 17 per cent actually make a living as an athlete in a professional league or competitive circuit. This may be caused, at least in part, by the overrepresentation of student athletes in the current sample, compared with the samples of 1992 and 1997. Most athletes (73 per cent), however, would welcome the opportunity to make a living by these means.
The existence of professional or commercial opportunities is higher among athletes participating in winter sports than it is among those participating in summer sports, but they are no more likely to make a living from the opportunities (which is something that is more common among athletes who have relocated in order to pursue their sport).
In addition, athletes have mixed views over the impact that these opportunities would have on their athletic career. The majority believe that commercial aspects such as sponsor requirements and public appearances would have a positive impact, however, there is a perception that the obligations associated with professional team sports would be cumbersome and disruptive. It should be noted, though, that positive perceptions regarding these opportunities have been increasing since 1992.
Athletes participating in winter sports and those in individual sports are more likely to perceive a positive impact resulting from commercial appearances, while the youngest, developing athletes are more inclined than others to perceive a positive impact from professional team obligations.
The lack of professional or commercial opportunities would also largely explain why a majority of athletes (84 per cent) do not have an agent. Those who have access to commercial opportunities in their sport are more likely than others to have an agent. It is also interesting to note that athletes who have an agent report a higher average sport-related income ($15,575) than those athletes who do not have an agent ($4,247). Caution should be exercised when considering this result, however, as the total number of respondents in the survey who have an agent is relatively small (n=76).
Athletes were asked their opinions of the Athlete Assistance Program (AAP). The vast majority of athletes (80 per cent) report that the AAP made it possible to achieve higher levels of athletic performance.
Almost two in three athletes (61 per cent) agree that AAP payments should vary according to athletic performance and over half (57 per cent) also agree that AAP payments should be aligned with the average Canadian income. More than half of athletes (54 per cent) disagree with the idea that AAP vary according to individual personal income (although one in three agree with this proposal).
Two in three athletes feel that the level of AAP support is not sufficient to provide for their basic needs (67 per cent)18. Furthermore, athletes are divided in terms of whether they believe that they received AAP funding too late in their careers, with equal proportions agreeing and disagreeing with this statement (38 per cent). In 1992, by comparison, many (59 per cent) agreed with the statement “I received AAP funding at the stage of my career when I most needed it”, indicating a decline in the level of satisfaction with the timing of AAP funding since 1992.
Although most athletes say that AAP support made it possible to achieve higher levels of athletic performance, this is even more predominant among part-time students (compared with full-time students or athletes who are not in school). Developing athletes are least likely to report the positive impacts on athletic performance compared to other athlete types, even though, the majority still agree that the AAP made a difference to their athletic performance.
In terms of varying AAP support according to athletic performance, younger athletes (under 25) are more in agreement than older athletes (27 and older), as are athletes with no post-secondary education, compared with the university-educated. Interestingly, athletes holding international and developing cards are more in agreement than national athletes.
Older athletes are less likely to believe that AAP support should vary according to personal income level, compared with younger athletes, as is also the case with employed athletes. Similarly, athletes with an international card are less apt to believe that support should vary with income, compared with less senior athletes.
Older athletes, those with a university education and the currently employed, as well as Francophone athletes, are more likely than their respective counterparts to say that the AAP support is not sufficient in providing for their basic needs. This is also more often the case among, individual sport athletes and those who relocated for their athletic training.
Older athletes (27 and over) are more likely than the younger athletes (24 and younger) to say that they received AAP funding too late into their careers, as is also the case with Francophone athletes, the university-educated and those currently employed.
In addition to opinion on the financial support received from Sport Canada, athletes were asked what they believe should be the top priorities for the Athletes Assistance Program (AAP). Nearly half (45 per cent) think that the first priority for the AAP should be to provide higher stipends for athletes.19 Considerably fewer believe that the program should focus primarily on more carded athletes (18 per cent said this should be the first priority) or provide higher support for carded athletes who must relocate for training (11 per cent). Relatively few athletes think that the first priority of the AAP should be to base the amount of financial support on the needs of the athletes, to implement a bonus system based on athletic performance or cover more special needs.
Athletes participating in team sports are less inclined than others to think that providing higher stipends should be one of the top three priorities for the AAP, while those participating in individual sports are less likely to think that providing higher support for athletes who have to relocate for training should be one of the top three priorities.
Francophones are more likely to think that the program should focus mainly on more carded athletes, but they are less inclined to think that a performance-based bonus system should be one of the top three priorities for the AAP.
A performance-based bonus system is seen as a higher priority among international carded athletes than it is among athletes with national cards (who are more inclined to think that it should not be one of the top three priorities). Athletes participating in winter sports are less likely to think that basing the amount of support on the financial needs of the athlete should be one of the top three priorities for the AAP.