Game Plan for the Long Run
Preparing for life after sport is not often at the forefront of athletes’ minds. The pressing demands of training and competition consume the majority of their energy and focus, which leaves little room for professional development outside of sport. However, there is a concerted effort at the CSI Calgary to offer athletes a variety of workshops and seminars through Game Plan with the aim of fostering skill development in areas that will help them thrive once they retire from sport.
Part of Amy Van Buskirk’s job as Athlete Services Coordinator at the CSI Calgary is to educate athletes about the programs available to them and encourage them to sign up. “Although the athletes don’t always have these programs on their radar and sometimes need a little push to sign up they are always so glad they do and are super thankful” she says. Courses offered include Financial Planning, Networking, Public Speaking, LinkedIn, Media Training and Branding & Marketing.
One recently retired athlete needs no push at all – Rudy Swiegers, Pairs Figure Skater and 2014 Olympian, signs up for every course he can. “Right now with any opportunity that comes up I just say ‘Why not?’ It’s good to grow as an athlete and as a person” he says. One of the key benefits that Swiegers has noted is that he can apply the skills he’s learning right away. “The public speaking course gave me skills that I can use in a job interview, where I can come up with ideas quickly and communicate them” he says, which is something he hopes to do in the near future.
For luge athlete Arianne Jones, who is working towards the 2018 Olympics, the courses aren’t only for life after sport. “It’s helpful for the future but it’s also really helpful now” she says. “With these workshops and events I can make connections now that lead to sponsorships during my athletic career as well as potential jobs when I am done.” She also has no concern that preparing for the future will detract from her luge career. “I think it’s a good thing to think about the future and it doesn’t take away from the competitive drive. Working towards the future and being competitive now can exist in synchronicity.”
What the athletes learn can be contagious. According to Van Buskirk, there is a peer-to-peer influence that helps the program grow and reach more athletes. “The athletes see other athletes go to the workshops and share what they’ve learned and that sparks others to get involved. It is absolutely worth their while” she says. Ultimately the goal is to help the athletes develop skills they can use in new careers after sport.
Jones acknowledges that the transition from sport to life will be challenging no matter how many workshops she takes or how well prepared she is. “No athlete quits and says, ‘I came out and things were great!’ That’s nobody’s story!” she laughs. Indeed, that transition can be difficult for many, if not most, athletes. But according to Jones, there is still a lot of value in working on professional development for the future when you’re still an athlete. “It makes you feel like you are doing the right thing now so that when you get there you have some skills and training behind you” she says.
Canadian Sport Institute Calgary: @csicalgary
Written by Kristina Groves: @kngrover
Photo by Dave Holland: @csicalgaryphoto