Athlete Survey

SportsAid undertakes an athlete survey each year to help highlight and better understand the sacrifices made by the next generation of sports stars - and their families - as they look to pursue their ambitions.

Unique Insight

SportsAid's annual athlete survey, delivered by Nunki Solutions, has been conducted since 2007. The questions cover a range of topics including biggest challenges, motivations and inspirations, targets for the future, the importance of SportsAid support and the cost implications of their sport. The most recent survey results were released in September 2018.

The survey was completed by 745 athletes with a near even gender split (51% male, 49% female). That’s a response rate of 69%. It’s the highest number of athletes that have responded to the survey in five years. 83% of respondents were non-disabled (618 athletes) and 17% disabled (127 athletes). 87% compete in an Olympic and Paralympic discipline.

Key Findings

  • The Bank of Mum and Dad, British sport’s most loyal and longstanding ‘sponsor’, committed over £7m to support their talented children over the last 12 months.
  • The overall average spend for a SportsAid athlete has risen from £4,885 to £7,266 over the last 11 years – that’s a difference of £2,381.
  • Nearly 12% of athletes (90 in total) who responded to the survey would have had to either give up their sport or consider doing so without their SportsAid award.
  • Travel, equipment and accommodation are the main costs facing SportsAid athletes with balancing different areas of their lives being the biggest challenge.
  • SportsAid athletes cover 43 miles a week in training – that’s the same as running from Kensington Palace to Windsor Castle....and back!
  • SportsAid athletes travel 828 miles every month to train and compete - the equivalent distance of driving from John O’Groats to Land’s End.
  • 59% of SportsAid athletes revealed they would not have been able to train and compete as much without the charity’s support.
  • The Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympics is the key long-term aim for 44% of SportsAid athletes.
  • 25% of disabled athletes said the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympics was their single biggest inspiration for taking up their sport competitively.


The overall average spend for a SportsAid athlete has risen to £7,266. That’s a jump of £2,381 (over 32%) when compared to the first survey conducted in 2007/08 – underlining the importance of the charity’s support. It’s also an increase of £849 since last year.

Overall average spend per athlete

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

  • 100% of SportsAid athletes considered the award to be essential or helpful as it enable them to continue training and competing in their sport.
  • 10% (that’s 75 athletes) would have had to consider giving up their sport without SportsAid. 2% (15 athletes) would have been forced to stop.
  • 84% said the SportsAid award has relieved the financial pressure of their sport. 66% of athletes receive no other forms of financial backing.
  • Travel is the single greatest expenditure for 43% of SportsAid athletes – equipment (14%) and accommodation (12%) are the next biggest outlay.
  • 73% feel costs are rising overall with 23% seeing no change. The remaining 4% believe their costs have fallen.
  • 93% of athletes have spent part of their SportsAid award on travel with 82% also paying towards accommodation and equipment costs.

Biggest challenges and training hard

SportsAid athletes show incredible levels of commitment and determination as they strive to reach the top of their sport. They usually train during the evening but many have early morning sessions too. They travel great distances to be able to keep up with their sporting schedule – balancing this with an already hectic lifestyle.

  • On average, a SportsAid athlete covers 43 miles a week in training.
  • 67% of athletes spend up to 20 hours per week training (the average is 17 hours).
  • On average an athlete travels 207 miles every week to get to training and competitions. 36% have to clock up 200 miles and above.
  • Majority of athletes train between 5pm and 9pm (76%). 29% do sessions early in the morning within the window of 5am and 9am.
  • 59% find balancing all the different areas of their lives as one of the biggest challenges. Money is an area of concern for 52%.

Inspirations and Motivators

SportsAid beneficiaries see their family, as well as witnessing the success of other athletes, as the main driving forces behind why they took up their sport. Their key motivation as to why they continue is the opportunity to compete internationally at the highest level – this next generation have ambition and aspirations. Many disabled athletes have been specifically inspired by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

  • 29% of SportsAid athletes revealed their family acted as the single biggest inspiration when taking up their sport competitively. 12% saw it as their coach.
  • 18% of disabled athletes said the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games was their single biggest inspiration compared to 9% non-disabled.
  • 13% say the success they’ve had so far in sport is what continues to motivate them. Competing at the highest level internationally is the reason for 52%.
  • 11% of athletes say the enjoyment they feel from training and competing in their sport motivates them to continue pursuing their goals.
  • Over a third of SportsAid athletes are pushing for the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympics – 44% seeing this as their main long-term target. 34% are aiming for Tokyo in comparison.

Importance of SportsAid award

SportsAid athletes have felt the impact of the charity’s backing. The finance and recognition from SportsAid has given them a motivational boost while supporting them in reaching their targets. For many, it has enabled them to train and compete more often as they look to progress in their sporting careers.

  • 97% said the SportsAid award they received motivated them. 98% revealed it had helped them to achieve their goals. 100% feel SportsAid support is either helpful or essential.
  • 71% feel SportsAid support is helping them progress. 54% revealed they would not have been able to train and compete as much without SportsAid.
  • Receiving a SportsAid award has seen 51% of athletes able to focus more on their sport. 41% have improved their ranking with the charity’s support.
  • 48% feel they have more self-belief having been presented a SportsAid award. 23% used their SportsAid award to help them recover from injury.