Recently, I was lucky enough to be involved in a networking event hosted by Switch the Play. The hot topic up for discussion was how to make the transition from high performance sport into the work place more streamlined and less fraught with difficulty and hard times.
Switch the Play is a social enterprise set up to work with sports people throughout their journey and to ensure that they fulfil their potential within and beyond their sport. Yesterday we heard from a selection of ex-professional sports people about their stories of transition into the workplace – some encouragingly inspiring, and some, like all too many of them, beset with challenges and feelings of isolation and fear.
I have become an Associate of Switch the Play, with the intention of getting involved in the athlete journey at an early stage and ensuring young athletes, and their families are preparing for the inevitable – any career as a sportsperson, however awe-inspiringly successful, will come to an end. And the harsh reality of high performance sport, is that it is only a tiny minority that will reach the accolade of ‘awe-inspiringly successful’. Many graft for years and don’t quite realise the dream, or others have the journey cut short by injury, but still have to find the career after sport.
In my workshops I cover school \ life balance and talk about the probability of ‘making it’ in sport. The odds of making a career solely out of sport are slim, whereas finding a career through a decent education is a bit more straightforward, and having the experiences of sport AND education gives you an even better chance in the workplace.
I encourage parents to support their child to pursue both journeys, and try to find a balanced routine that manages both school commitments and sport. There will inevitably be times when the balance slips and either sport or education dominate a young person’s life. For example, during important exams or key competitions. But by planning carefully, and keeping teachers and coaches informed young people can be supported through these times to find the balance again.
And at the Switch the Play event, the general consensus of opinion on how to make transition out of sport easier? Planning. As long as young athletes acknowledge and accept the fact that a career in sport is limited, they can plan long term, think ahead and have a clear plan B. And by working with the parents of young athletes and ensuring they are on board with this planning process, I can ensure that the young athletes that I work with, and their families have a positive experience of the journey, into, through and out the other side of sport.