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How sports and performance psychology can enhance athlete career transition.

Not much is ever guaranteed in sport, but the one certainty every high-performing athlete can be sure of, is that at some point, their sporting career will come to an end. As they approach that pivotal moment in their career, some athletes may feel unsure of what the future will look like, and for each of them, the journey from athletic arena to business-centred landscape will look very different.

A successful athlete career transition will see retiring athletes accept the decision, or sometimes unexpected circumstance that leads to their departure from sport, whilst assisting them in adjusting to a new and less demanding lifestyle and future career opportunities. A comprehensive athlete career transition program is made up of many variable elements, and perhaps one of the most central elements to that support program, is the access to sports and performance psychology. At ACT, we work closely with each of the athletes we onboard for our transitional program and we ensure that each of them are given the opportunity to utilise support from our Performance Psychologist, Ben Paszkowec.

In this blog post, we discuss the benefits of psychology and how this element of our transition program can enhance not only business performance, but more importantly the entire transitional experience for the athletes who choose to work alongside us. The end goal for all of us at ACT, and indeed, our athletes, is to confidently prepare them for new career roles, many of which are sourced through our partnerships and relationships with various organisations and employers. The process starts through a series of psychology-led processes, which allows us to gain an insight into each athlete and enables us holistically support the whole identity of a retired sporting professional, and not solely their athletic persona.

Typically, that process looks a little like this: Step 1 - The athlete will be invited to build and develop their own personal profile - this is an opportunity for the athlete to document essential information about themselves. For example, they may wish to speak about their personal background, their sporting history and current position and their thoughts and preferences for potential career choices. It also provides a platform for them to highlight their social media channels and list their academic achievements and sporting accolades. Step 2 - The second step of our athlete transition program involves a psychometric assessment, an in-depth self-perception questionnaire, focused on the model of personality. This element delves deep into the athlete mind, centred on establishing the athlete's personal views, morals and values and furthermore, how they perceive each of these to support them on a personal and professional level. A psychometric assessment is an invaluable tool when it comes to understanding which roles the athlete candidate is likely to perform well at. Step 3 - the third step of the initial transitioning period involves a video interview between the athlete and ACT. Questions asked may include a varied range of subjects, some of those relating to the athlete's ability to adapt to change, how they have overcome adversity in the past and information on their personal motivators. This gives the athlete a great opportunity to show their personality and tell stories which articulate and bring their experience to life.

The 3-step process really is the start of the transitional support and plays a crucial role in the building of trust and relationship development between ACT and the athlete, and really enables us to understand the athlete on a deeper level.

"Personally, I think the psychology-led support we offer to our athletes gives them the opportunity to fully express themselves in the way they want to. It also gives us a great insight into who they are and their individual strengths and qualities, which means ACT can better personalise the business support offered to our athletes and helps with the matching process of potential roles with our business partners." Ben also highlights the issue of focusing support on solely business performance. Retired athletes are already renowned for being high-performance achievers and come equipped with a vast range of emotional and practical abilities that will often see them strive within a corporate environment.

Instead, Ben promotes the importance of a well-rounded and holistic psychological approach which factors in the more personal issues athletes may face. The transition from elite sport into business comes with a whole host of potential challenges, and these are not exclusive to the work environment. Ultimately, the person is the performer, whether you are an athlete or a business person, therefore, we have to place importance on supporting the more broader life challenges that athletes may face during the transition as these have the potential to impact both their well-being and their performance and progression within a business role.

Performance Psychologist, Ben believes that psychological support must be personalised and tailored to each athlete for a career transition from sport to be truly successful.

He believes that facing retirement issues with this approach, the athletes will be most likely to thrive both within their business performance and personal lives.

"It really is important for the support to be individualised for each athlete. We know there are lots of common themes that athletes may encounter along their transitional journey, however each athlete will experience those in their own unique way so at ACT, we focus on providing support that isn't generalised right through from the personal profiling, to the business roles and opportunities we offer to the athletes we work with." At ACT, ultimately, we want our athletes to transition from sport confidently, feeling prepared for the future and content with the lifestyle they choose to embark on thereafter. It is for this reason; heavy emphasis is placed on our offering of in-depth psychological support to our onboarded athletes.


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