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Career Change after the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games for a Gifted Elite Athlete

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Career Change after the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games for a Gifted Elite Athlete

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The Winter Olympics has arrived with a spectacular opening ceremony to kick off the games. I love to see gifted elite sportsmen & women at their potential but have you ever wondered what happens post-Olympics for them when they return to their respective countries.

Many have dedicated 10 years plus to prepare for the games, often not thinking beyond the prospect of bagging a medal. This is a common dilemma for most gifted elite sportsmen and women. The question ‘Now what?’ will be at the forefront of a gifted elites mind.

The self-identity of a gifted sports person is created very early around the sport they have grown to be driven and passionate about. When they make a decision to leave the sport and pursue something else, they often feel they are leaving part of themselves behind and struggle with transitioning into work and everyday life.

This loss of self- identity is not unique to gifted sports people. When people are made redundant from roles they have had for 30 years or mothers who have raised and cared for their children for any period of time, there is a grieving process that takes place where they can feel a real sense of loss. They have built their self- identities around being a sports star, being a breadwinner or being a carer and suddenly they feel the rug has been pulled from under their feet. I think as a society it is easy for us to label people as one dimensional, for example, your just a sports star, just a sales person, just a mum, just a bread winner, just a manager or just an actor. The reality is that we are not one-dimensional. We all have different skills, gifts, talents and strengths that can be transferred amongst many roles. We can create many identities over our lifetime.

To change society’s view of our roles is to first change the way we view ourselves. If, for example, you are a volunteer, community leader, mother or father, acknowledge that these too are identities that need to be valued by you as a person and by society. We must pay attention to the way we speak to ourselves and about ourselves amongst friends and family. Those out loud affirmations convince us of what our roles are in our own minds and in the minds of others.

A successful gifted sports persons self-identity is often created with the added pressure of being in the media spotlight, satisfying high sponsor expectations and satisfying other parties who have a vested interest in the gifted sports persons identity. This causes anxiety amongst elite individuals as they carry self-doubts about their identity outside of the sport. The good news is that while the sports self- identity forms a part of who they are, they have much more self-identities to discover in their life’s journey.

Elite sports people can feel insecure about leaving their sport because their aged peers may already be in established careers so their natural competitiveness makes them doubt their ability to career transition successfully. Their previous support network has always been geared towards them winning within their sport but never to transitioning successfully out of the sport. While each case is unique, sports people can transition successfully provided they have a personalised career change program that will support them through the emotional and social changes they are about to face. Empowering them with information about the current world of work and how their specific skills can be facilitated outside of their specific sport to another environment allows the athlete to see beyond the limited options they believe they have.

What we learn from any career change, whether it is from a sport, a corporate career or from the school gate is that change is always going to happen, it’s the only certainty we have in life. Arming yourself with the latest career transition skills will serve you well throughout the many career transitions you will need to endure over your lifetime.

Editors Note: This post has been updated for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games. Original post was in 2014 with reference to Sochi Winter Olympics.

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