Part of eadtu white

Good Practices in Distance Education for student athletes in Slovenia

The educational levels of primary and secondary school in Slovenia are defined in the Law on Sport (Zakon o športu, 2017). At the elementary school level, children who are also athletes have the opportunity to obtain the so-called "athlete status," which allows them to make certain adjustments to school requirements - such as the number of classes they attend, how they are evaluated or when they receive their grades. The details of this status, and the opportunities and options students with athlete status have, are further defined by specific guidelines from individual schools. These can be further adapted to help children participate in school and sports without one interfering with the other (Štrumbelj, 2018).

The Law on Sport (Zakon o športu, 2017) also refers to the Law on Gymnasium and the Law on Vocational Education and allows for adjustments to schooling for athletes at the high school level. These can be defined either by policies of individual schools or by a personalized educational plan prepared for the best performing athletes by professional staff of the school. These include, for example, psychologists, educators, and often the athletic coordinator, whose job it is to ensure the coordination of sports and school requirements. The person responsible for this coordination is determined by the principal of each school and can come from very different backgrounds, just as each high school can have its own policies that determine the rights and adjustments of school instruction for children who are also active athletes.

Often, these policies include rules about how often athletes must be present in class - usually they are allowed to miss many more school activities than their peers. They can also usually receive their grades at other times or orally instead of in writing, for example. Personalized education plans can also be adjusted during the year if it is found to be necessary. The purpose of this personalized education plan is to allow athletes to coordinate school and sports as much as possible so that the two do not interfere with each other.

This is especially important when students participate in sports that require a lot of attendance, which keeps them away from school-for example, alpine skiers who are absent for much of the winter, or when practices require a lot of travel, as in sailing or similar sports (Štrumbelj, 2018).

High school students can also attend so-called "sports classes" that are specifically designed for athletes. They allow students more time during the day to participate in sports drills, sometimes starting later in the day so athletes can do their morning drills, and so on. The schools that have sports classes also require the participation of the athletes' coaches. For example, the coaches must attend meetings with the school principal or school sports coordinator to ensure that school and coaching go hand in hand (Kajtna, Koren, and Robnik, 2020). So far, we have found that this is a particularly well-coordinated system of school-based support for children and youth who are active in sports. The Law on Sport (Zakon o športu, 2017) also emphasizes the importance of graduation requirements to ensure that athletes do not receive lower grades that would diminish their opportunities for later enrollment in college.

After high school, the Law on sport no longer applies when it comes to athletes' education. This means that the coordination of higher education and active participation in competitive sports is mainly determined by the policies of individual universities. At Slovenia's largest university, the University of Ljubljana, the rights and opportunities of students and athletes are defined in the Statute of the University of Ljubljana (Statut UL, 2017) and the Policy for Students with Special Status (Pravilnik o študentih s posebnim statusom Univerze v Ljubljani, 2018). At the second largest university in Slovenia, the University of Maribor, student athletes are treated based on the Student Status Definition Act (Zakon za urejanje položaja študentov, 2017). This law from 2017 mentions student athletes in Article 7, which only states that they can receive adjustments in their study process, but does not define them further. 

The importance of coordinating studies and sports activities is also promoted by the Olympic Committee of Slovenia (OKS, 2020), which has established a program called "athlete-friendly education certificate," which high schools and universities can receive if they prove that they promote dual careers for athletes. This means that educational institutions that hold this certificate have demonstrated that they are doing everything in their power to help their student athletes coordinate the demands of sports and the demands of their studies. This essentially means that these institutions support the dual careers of their athletes (Kolar and Robnik, 2018). In 2020, when this certificate was issued for the first time, it was awarded to 14 institutions, which means that the importance of coordinating school and sport in Slovenia is at a high level. The Student Status Regulation Act (Zakon za urejanje položaja študentov, 2017), adopted in November 2017, defines the status of sports students. Article 7 of this law states that students with a special status are students who are top athletes, a special status can also be granted to students who are top artists and other students who participate in regional or international competitions. This article also defines students with special needs, i.e., blind and visually impaired students, deaf and hard of hearing students, students with mobility problems, and various other special needs students. Students with special needs and students with special status receive more favorable treatment in the selection process when applying to universities, they receive adjustments in class attendance, they may receive adjustments in the way they are graded. They also receive additional professional assistance in their studies so that they can progress in their studies and complete their studies in a longer period of time than is provided or allowed for other students. 

A student may receive student athlete status if they are classified by the National Olympic Committee as an Olympic, World, International, Perspective, National, or Junior athlete, or receive an equivalent confirmation from abroad if they are a foreign student. They can also obtain the status if they compete at the national or international level and achieve top results in sports or disciplines not recognized by the National Olympic Committee. They can also receive this status as a student coach if they are a national team coach or coach an individual athlete categorized by the National Olympic Committee. They can also obtain the status if they are directly involved in the preparation of top athletes at a high level and can prove it with a confirmation from the athlete or the federation or sometimes a club. They can also obtain the status of student athlete or student coach if are Paralympic athletes or if they coach a Paralympic athletes - in this case the confirmation must be issued by the Paralympic Committee of Slovenia.

These students can receive adjustments when it comes to the extent to which they have to participate in the study process, they can also receive individual examination dates, they can receive different types of assessments if they cannot participate in the same type of assessment that other students go through..Of course, this also depends on the faculty, and sometimes it is exactly these faculty policies that determine how student athletes should study or what their study process should look like. Among the general adaptations, we should mention especially the communicative availability of materials and the study process. This way, students athletes can attend classes even when they are away for practice or competition. Of course, teachers have to be flexible enough to allow streaming of their courses, but it's interesting that many students who are athletes or coaches say that the pandemic period of onlineonly study was very good for them in terms of academic participation and success.

The most detailed guidelines within the University of Ljubljana can be found at the Faculty of Sport. This Faculty is in a special situation because every year many student athletes and student coaches participate - every year about 150 student athletes and between 10 and 20 student coaches are enrolled. From this perspective, the adjustments are necessary for them to successfully complete their studies. Student athletes and student coaches can receive three different types of status and lowered attendance status. Depending on the status, athletes must participate in classes to a lesser extent – this goes for practices, lectures and seminars. They may also advance to a higher year with fewer credit points than their peers. 

Students may also receive an attendance bonus if they do not have a classification or participate in sports that are not part of the National Olympic Committee sports family. These athletes generally receive a 25% attendance bonus because it is important to help as many student athletes as possible, even if they do not compete at the highest level. Student athletes and student coaches on the Faculty of sport also have their own teacher mentor to help them coordinate sports and studies, and A status student athletes even get an individual mentor. This is usually the teacher who teaches the sport they are participating in. 

Logo European Commission 'co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This website reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein. This website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.