ATHLETES LEARNING TO BE WINNERS IN BUSINESS WORLD
They may not all leave with medals but competitors are developing skills to set them up for life after sport
I’VE been watching some of my fellow Bond University students in the pool at the Commonwealth Games this week. Four of them – Alex Graham, Elijah Winnington, Madeline Groves and Laura Taylor – won medals.
They may not realise it yet, but this quartet and many others competing on the Gold Coast have also been collecting many of the attributes needed to win in the business world.
We’ve known for some time that many of the skills sportspeople amass can be parlayed into successful corporate careers. Until recently though, many athletes have been held back in their transition to postcompetitive life because they lacked a formal framework of education to exploit those hard-earned lessons.
Swimmers have been particularly susceptible to this knowledge gap because, generally, it’s a young person’s sport. I know people who left school early and focused entirely on swimming. Fifteen years later, they hadn’t finished high school or TAFE or gone to university.
That’s changing. Elite athletes are increasingly aware of the need to prepare for life after competition. They’re also discovering that, far from compromising each other, study and sport are complementary.
At the 2016 Rio Olympics, student athletes made up 55 per cent of the Australian team yet brought home 62 per cent of the medals.
It’s a misconception that in order to become an elite athlete you must dedicate 100 per cent of your time and effort to sport. The proof is in the research: sport improves clarity of mind and mood, and not just at the elite level.
When you stand on the blocks there is so much pressure on you – from yourself; from an entire country.
During my swimming career I found that if I had a bad day in the pool I could seek solace in study. If an exam didn’t go so well, it felt good to get back in the water.
When I was competing, my two loves were science and sport. It meant that when I finished competing I had another passion I could divert my energy into.
Feeling that I still had something to offer in life, in a world beyond swimming up and down a pool, made a huge difference to me.
There are so many attributes that sports teach, from kids through to adults – and I don’t think it matters what level you reach.
You learn resilience and time management. You have to overcome obstacles and setbacks.
Motivation is another attribute prized especially in the entrepreneurial community.
Sport is not just about fronting up and getting accolades. To get to that point you have to be able to set a goal and go after it with everything you’ve got.
Working in a team is another skill athletes learn -even if they’re competing in an individual sport. I had to work with my coach, exercise scientists, biomechanists, and massage tand exercise therapists.
My favourite part of swimming was relays. Building each other up, learning how to work through conflict -- all those things are integral to sport and the workforce.
Not everyone will take home a medal at these Games. But whether they know it or not, many of the athletes competing will leave the Gold Coast with a skill set that makes them supremely employable.
Melanie Wright is a former Australian swimmer and Olympic gold medallist who holds a Bachelor of Biomedical Science and a Masters of Business Administration. She is studying Medicine at Bond University to become a doctor.