Developing a non-sporting identity will improve your professional opportunities while giving your mind a well-earned rest from the challenges of training and competing.
You could pursue higher education or a dual career to cultivate new interests and skills outside your sport, which will support your career transition and potentially broaden your social network.
As an athlete, you possess a skillset which is transferable to many different industries and workplaces and is widely desired by employers. You know better than anyone the importance of goal setting, time management, teamwork, dedication and problem solving, and how these skills support our lives personally and professionally.
Education and sport, in particular, go hand in hand. For example, your ability to deal with and perform in high-pressure situations will support you during exam periods, while study itself could open doors to new professional opportunities and actually aid your sporting performance by giving your mind a break from training and competing.
Creating a plan B
Table tennis player Heming Hu represented Australia at Rio 2016 while at the same time studying for a bachelor’s degree in secondary science teaching, a career he now balances alongside his sporting ambitions.
As an athlete, you’re focused on living the dream. But the reality is you’re only one injury away from retirement, and having a plan B is really important.
I really believe that having a job while competing can help your sporting performance. Personally, it gave me a perspective and understanding of life outside sport.
“As an athlete, you’re focused on living the dream. But the reality is you’re only one injury away from retirement, and having a plan B is really important,” says Heming.
Many athletes like Heming choose to pursue higher education and/or a dual career to support their transition. Cultivating interests and skills outside sport is not only beneficial in preparing you for what comes next, but it can also give your mind a well-earned rest from the challenges of elite athletic competition.
Australian rower James Tomkins worked a full-time job while winning three gold medals and a bronze across six editions of the Olympic Games. He believes having something else to focus on helped him to better achieve as an athlete and supported his mental health.
“I really believe that having a job while competing can help your sporting performance. Personally, it gave me a perspective and understanding of life outside sport. If your only focus in life is sport, and your entire self-worth is based on whether you win or lose, then you’re not going to have much perspective, and I think this is where a lot of issues can arise,” explains James.