Planning for life after sport is something athletes are always encouraged to do. On Wednesday 11th October, a self-employment workshop was run at Loughborough University campus which saw 25 athletes on World Class programmes come together to learn the invaluable skills needed to set themselves up as self-employed and start a successful business.
The workshop was presented by Chris Smith, Director at Granite Morgan Smith Accountancy Firm and three-time Olympic Gymnast Beth Tweddle. Running the workshop from an EIS perspective was Performance Lifestyle adviser, Helen Alfano who works primarily with England Netball.
Helen praised the event saying, “the workshop is mainly focused on current and transitioning world class programme athletes from across the region. It’s the first in a series aimed at supporting these athletes in developing their self-employment profile, business ideas, framework and structure, as well as taxman basics. Chris Smith who delivers it for us has a seven-step phase process which he works through – this workshop is a condensed version and aims to give athletes an understanding about where they might start, what steps they need to think about, as well as the marketing side as well. Beth Tweddle is also a great speaker and she was in the same position these athletes will all one day be in, having to transition out of sport.
“We know that a lot of athletes go on to set up as self-employed or own their own businesses so with workshops like this we are hitting quite a big target market. Events like this are a massive positive for us as the Performance Lifestyle team as its our opportunity to affect a number of athletes in number of sports. We’re used to working one to one with athletes within the individual sports we work in but we’re not necessarily used to speaking to or reaching athletes in this broader way. It’s not often we get these athletes out of their own environment and put them all together in a room.
“Another unique selling point of this is that there is opportunity for them to network too and see what other people are doing as there may be athletes from different sports looking to do the same thing and this is their opportunity to chat and ask questions.”
Beth spoke about her own experience of transitioning out of sport and pressed emphasis on the need for athletes to plan early on in their careers.
“I think it’s really important for athletes to take advantage of these sorts of events,” said Beth. “Not everyone will know exactly what they want to do after they retire but starting to think about it early gives you plenty of time to think about where your qualities lie and try different things to see what you like and what you don’t.
“I was lucky as throughout my career I was supported by the EIS Performance Lifestyle team and did quite a few courses and was able to assess what was for me. I did a book keeping course and soon realised that wasn’t what I wanted to do and also a sports massage course which was good but I didn’t think I could make a full-time career out of. I think by doing lots of different things it has allowed me to pave my way after sport.
“I have set up by own businesses with Steve Parry an Olympic bronze medal swimmer called Total Gymnastics and it’s about giving children the opportunity to get involved in gymnastics. I’m also a Director of Switch the Play – an organisation centred around transition in sport- and I also do motivational speaking within schools and have recently started at university again studying a Masters.
“I didn’t find it too bad to transition as I had things set up. I’d already been to university so I knew I had something to fall back on and I did quite a lot of networking before and during that transition phase so was always looking one step ahead.
“My advice to current and transitioning athletes would be to make the most of opportunities like these to attend workshops and make use of the wealth of knowledge of the presenters who are involved. Also, speak to people, do placements and offer to volunteer and know that without trying something beforehand you might go to make a career to do something and end up not actually enjoying it, so it’s always better to try something out before you attempt to make a career from it.”
For more information about the Performance Lifestyle services provided by the EIS, please click here.