The entourage as a vital support system to athletes

From family and friends to agents, medical personnel and coaches, the people that make up an athlete’s entourage play a fundamental role in an athlete’s career. Last night, Olympic champions, coaches, athletes and members of the IOC’s Entourage and Athletes’ Commissions gathered in Sochi’s Coastal Olympic Village to meet and discuss the complexities and challenges faced by those who act as a support system to the athletes.

Following the success of the “Coaches and Entourage Night” held during the London 2012 Olympic Games, this event was held for the first time during the Olympic Winter Games. It aims to act as a platform to address current issues that have an influence on an athlete’s career, such as education and media exposure. It also provides a speaking opportunity to those behind the scenes who are crucial to an athlete’s evolution and long-term success.

Athletes and coaches on stage at Sochi event

In a relatively informal setting, speakers included Claudia Bokel, Olympic medallist in fencing and IOC Athletes’ Commission Chair; pole vault legend and IOC Entourage Commission Chair Sergey Bubka; Olympic medallists Stéphane Lambiel (figure skating) and  Edgar Grospiron (freestyle skiing/moguls); Swiss ice hockey goalie Florence Schelling, who is participating in the Sochi Olympic Games, and her coach Colin Mueller.

Balancing sport and education

For 25 year-old Florence Schelling, it was always important not to neglect education during her sporting career: “School was always a priority because I knew I could not make my living by playing ice hockey.” Florence got the opportunity to combine her ice hockey career with university studies in the USA. She now works on a full-time work contract and trains in the evenings. Family and friends are very supportive and understand that Florence does not have a lot of free time to spend with them.

The ice hockey coach for the Swiss team, Colin Mueller, spoke about the many responsibilities of a coach and the importance of having a multi-disciplinary entourage team, including experts in certain fields like psychology. Olympic champion Edgar Grospiron confirmed that his coach was much more for him than just a technical expert, and that he taught him important life skills. He said: “My coach was not only a sports coach, but a life coach. This was his mission, though he was not paid for this.” And Stéphane Lambiel, 2006 Olympic silver medallist in figure skating, appreciated that his coach “could really adapt to every situation” and felt when his athlete needed support in certain conditions or when he wanted instead to be left alone.

New educational platform for athletes

The “Coaches and Entourage Night” was also an opportunity to highlight the recent work done by the IOC Athletes’ and Entourage Commissions, including online education initiatives for athletes. Recognising that many athletes put their education on hold as they focus on their sporting career, the IOC, in collaboration with a number of its commissions, has developed an online platform delivering free, engaging, educational content to a worldwide athlete audience known as the IOC Athlete MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). This education platform will go live with its first three courses in March 2014.

Bringing together Olympic champions, world-renowned coaches, leading academics and inspiration leaders, the IOC Athlete MOOC features academic lectures delivered by prominent institutions from around the world, video insights, online live events, discussion forums and various learning resources.

IOC tools to help with career transition

IOC Athletes’ Commission Chair Claudia Bokel said: “If we have the athletes here on the sporting stage at the Olympic Games, we should also support them in their career transition. This is why we developed several tools to help them out, such as the Athlete Career Programme (ACP) and the MOOC.” Sergey Bubka, Chair of the IOC Entourage Commission said: “Sporting careers are quite short, and this is exactly why it is so important to combine sport with education. We need to pass on this message, especially to young athletes.”

Find more information and to sign up for the IOC Athlete MOOC, go to or the Athletes’ Space on

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