Olympic athletes spend little time developing the world of work

Joan Muller Welland She was discharged from the German Olympic hockey team in May, despite being the team captain and leading the national team to a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics.

He says not going to Tokyo was a shock. But unlike many of his fellow athletes, he says his identity is not tied to his sport. She and her wife recently had a baby, an experience that “I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.” She is a co-founder of Unthink, a leadership development consulting firm, and already has a history as an entrepreneur. He tells me decisively: “I know I’m more than just a hockey player.”

In interviews with Olympic medalists in the next few days, “What next?” This is the question you are not likely to hear. It’s certainly a question many athletes, obsessively focused on their dream to shine on the podium, avoid asking. In that, they are no different from some successful entrepreneurs, who lagged behind in their blind pursuit of glory at the expense of a healthier balance and a better future in the long run.

It takes a lot to quell the dream of another chance to win the gold medal. Hope is kept alive by the extraordinary stories of returning athletes like Britain’s Kelly Holmes, who has overcome disappointment, injury, depression and self-harm. She recounted in a recent BBC documentary, that she said to herself: “Sometimes there is only one chance to do something: don’t give up.”

However, even after winning gold in the 800,500 meters at the 2004 Athens Olympics, she admits she was depressed by the loss of identity and structure after leaving the sport in 2005.

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A 2001 survey of American athletes and Olympians indicated that two-thirds feared their future after retirement and 43 percent Having trouble entering the workforce. Another survey, from the UK’s Professional Footballers’ Association, found that half of former athletes did not feel in control of their lives two years after ending their careers, according to research by the BBC State of Sport in 2018.

May Cruz Blanco, Director of Sports Solutions at recruitment agency Adecco, who works with International Olympic Committee in the professional development of athletes.

Gold Rush remembers how Britain successfully applied a relentless approach to entrepreneurship in its search for Olympic medalsafter the failures of the 1990s. It worked, but I can’t help but think of the downside: Better star funding means that many athletes now spend all of their time training and less on developing skills and external identity. of sports. Some may even retire less prepared for the world of work than their part-time Olympian predecessors.

Your destiny depends to some extent on your sport. Modern pentathlon is a sport that “matured late,” says Joel Pozzo, who was able to “pool two races at the same time” while competing in four Olympic Games for France between 1980 and 1992. He is now head World Association of Olympians, a system for communication and support for anyone who participated in the Olympic Games, He started as a physical education teacher, then earned degrees in biology, law, and economics in preparation for roles in philanthropy and sports management.

Cath Bishop, Olympic rowing athlete turned diplomat and driving coach, notes that elite rowers generally don’t give up their teenage years for training, unlike swimmers and gymnasts, for example. Class and coaching also help provide the educational foundation for later success.

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but nevertheless, The transition to the workplace will be difficult for any elite athlete. Bishop says it can be surprising to realize that not everyone in the office tries to “be at their best” every day. Muller-Weiland, who was part of EY’s program to bring mathematics into the business world, recalls the impact of not receiving constant feedback.

retired athletes, Even if they arrive late to the workplace and have low technical skills, It has a lot to offer employers in terms of motivation, Flexibility and analytical mind, apart from the reflected glory of his medals.

However, the broader lesson is that a relentless dedication to winning at any cost is not as productive as it seems. At work, it helps you “Get the job done, but it’s not a recipe for being creative or collaborative”Bishop’s dice.

This may not even be useful for sports It also suggests the stories often told about living to succeed. Cath Bishop recounts in her book that she had her best performance in the early 2000s when she was already starting a new career and was “more than just an athlete.”

sFocus on his fun and mastery of paddling, his reasons, and the people he’s paddling with, rather than the pure goal of winning. Almost as a byproduct, he won a world title and an Olympic medal.


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