Research Shows Two-Thirds of Para Athletes Have Made Financial Sacrifices to Achieve Sporting Goals

24 August 2021; Ireland flagbearers Jordan Lee, right, and Britney Arendse carry the Irish tri-colour during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, Japan. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile *** NO REPRODUCTION FEE ***

Irish Para Athletes represent their country with pride all around the globe. They are elite, high- performers that dedicate themselves to producing their best performances when it matters most. Para Athletes sacrifice much in their pursuit of their goals as findings from the recent survey produced by Hays Ireland illustrate.


  • Half (48%) of Para Athletes have prioritised elite sport over career opportunities
  • A further one third (31%) have missed out on a job opportunity due to sporting commitments
  • Over one quarter (28%) are entirely self-funded
  • 31% of those surveyed hold an Honours Bachelors degree, while just under one quarter (24%) are educated to Masters degree level. 14% reported having a Doctorate
  • 76% of respondents said that communication and the ability to set goals are their most transferable skills
  • 69% highlighted professional mentoring as the service that would be most beneficial in aiding their transfer to the workplace
  • Hays Ireland to support Paralympians transition from arena to office
  • Hays comment: “Paralympians make huge sacrifices to excel in their chosen fields and need support as they transition from their sporting career into the workplace. Hays Ireland is proud to support our Irish Paralympians on this journey and help them harness their unique attributes of drive, discipline, and focus in the next chapter of their lives.”


Two-thirds of Irish Para Athletes have made financial sacrifices to achieve their sporting goals, according to new research released by recruitment industry leader Hays Ireland in conjunction with Paralympics Ireland.

Hays Ireland – the Official Recruitment Provider to Paralympics Ireland – will now establish a professional career mentoring service for Para Athletes and provide dedicated CV clinics and support with interview preparation to directly benefit athletes.


Sacrifices made for sporting success


Time (86%) was the biggest sacrifice made by Paralympians to achieve their sporting goals. This was followed by personal relationships and their social life (72%). Two-thirds (66%) have made financial sacrifices, while almost half (48%) have not pursued professional opportunities to prioritise their chosen sport. 31% said that they have missed out on a job opportunity because of their sporting commitments. 45% have felt additional stress and pressure from competing. Almost one-third (31%) said that their sporting career has taken priority over pursuing professional opportunities.

Those spending 15-20 hours a week dedicated to their sport are in the majority (35%). There was an even split (28%) between those spending 10-15 and 20+ hours. Just 10% spend 1-5 hours a week on their chosen sport.

Over half receive some funding from Sport Ireland (55%). However, over one quarter (28%) are entirely self-funded. 10% receive private funding or have commercial sponsorships.


Paralympians are highly educated and have plenty of skills to offer potential employers


Those surveyed feel that participation in their sport has imbued them with many transferable skills that will be attractive to potential employers. 76% said that communication and goal setting were the most transferable skills. This was followed by 69% who felt that their ability to take feedback onboard was the most valuable skill, while 66% thought that their employers would value their independence the highest. 62% indicated that their teamworking skills would help in the professional world, and just over half (52%) thought their leadership abilities were their biggest asset.

76% said that participation in sport helped them to grow their professional networks compared to 17% who did not believe this was the case. 69% said that professional mentoring services would ease the transition from high-performance sport to the professional world, and 35% say that education bursaries would help make the transition from sport to the professional world easier.


Finding a balance can be tough


With just under half (48%) of Paralympians in full-time employment and 21% working part-time while also juggling life as an athlete, finding the right balance can be tough.

31% said they find it difficult to balance life as an athlete with a full-time job. 14% reported being over-looked for promotions because of their sporting career, and 10% said they have failed to secure full-time employment that supports their sporting career.

45% of respondents said that time management – balancing their sport and professional commitments – was the biggest challenge when trying to navigate life as a high-performance athlete and that of a working professional or student. 32% noted that financial and logistic factors were key challenges.


Workplaces are broadly supportive of Paralympians


55% believe that their employers value their sporting achievements. 41% report being allowed additional time off to focus on sport, while over one-third (36%) can work flexible hours. However, over one quarter (27%) do not receive any formal support but note that their colleagues are very supportive of their sporting endeavours. 14% said that their employers look to promote and champion their achievements, while 9% said their employers or colleagues are indifferent to them.

65% said that they plan on staying in their current role long-term, as it enables them to concentrate on their sporting career. 20% plan to re-evaluate their career upon retirement from high-performance sport, while 10% do not plan on staying in their current role long-term because it doesn’t enable them to concentrate on their sport.

Maureen Lynch, Operations Director at Hays Ireland said, “This research highlights the challenges faced by our Paralympic athletes as they seek to both compete in the arena of high-performance sport and the professional world. Their dedication, resilience and commitment to excellence are genuinely inspiring and are something that any professional environment can benefit from.

Paralympians make huge sacrifices to excel in their chosen fields and need support as they transition from their sporting career into the workplace. Hays Ireland is proud to support our Irish Paralympians on this journey and help them harness their unique attributes of drive, discipline, and focus in the next chapter of their lives.”


Paralympian and Paralympics Ireland President Eimear Breathnach said, “The research clearly shows that Para Athletes sacrifice much in their pursuit of their lifelong dream. Success in sport, especially high-performance sport, is not possible without sacrifice by athletes and those close to them. Para Athletes have extremely desirable skills for potential employers, and they are very well educated and qualified. We look forward to working with our partners in Hays to provide the athletes with the skills that can unlock their potential in the workplace in a similar fashion to the way the athletes deliver in the arena of competition.”


For more information contact:

David Fleming

Account Supervisor

360, A Finn Partners Company

T: 086 342 0289

E: david.fleming@finnpartners.com


Eoin Delaney

Account Executive

360, A Finn Partners Company

T: 087 358 4485

E: eoin.delaney@finnpartners.com


Paddy O’Dea


360, A Finn Partners Company

T: 086 357 3365

E: paddy.odea@finnpartners.com


About Hays

Hays plc (the “Group”) is the world’s leading specialist in workforce solutions and recruitment, such as RPO and MSP. The Group is the expert at recruiting qualified, professional and skilled people worldwide, being the market leader in the UK, Germany and Australia and one of the market leaders in Continental Europe, Latin America and Asia. The Group operates across the private and public sectors, dealing in permanent positions, contract roles and temporary assignments. As at 30 June 2022, the Group employed c.13,000 staff operating from 253 offices in 32 countries. For the year ended 30 June 2022:


– the Group reported net fees of £1,189.4 million and operating profit of £210.1 million;

– the Group placed around 83,750 candidates into permanent jobs and around 250,000 people into temporary roles;

– 16% of Group net fees were generated in Australia & New Zealand, 26% in Germany, 22% in United Kingdom & Ireland and 36% in Rest of World (RoW);

– the temporary placement business represented 55% of net fees and the permanent placement business represented 45% of net fees;

– Technology is the Group’s largest division, with 26% of net fees, while Accountancy & Finance (14%) and Construction & Property (11%), are the next largest

– Hays operates in the following countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UAE, the UK and the USA

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Paralympics Ireland

Irish Sport HQ
Sport Ireland Campus
Dubin 15
D15 D462

Registered Charity Number (CRA)


CHY Number


Company Registration Number


Paralympics Ireland Title Sponsor

Paralympics Ireland International Partners

Governing Bodies

Skip to content