Dame Kelly Holmes and five other British Olympians were among the 11 world-class British sports people who yesterday personally challenged young elite athletes to start planning for life after sport as soon as possible.
Speaking at the Create Your Legacy careers event held by League Football Education (LFE) and the Dame Kelly Holmes (DKHLT) Legacy Trust at Reading’s Madejski Stadium, Dame Kelly told the more than 400 football apprentices and other young sports stars attending:
“Fundamentally, we want you to be the best you can be, but, on the side, you have to think ‘What if?’ Don’t ever, ever give up on your dream – it took me 20 years to realise mine. And give it the best you can, so you don’t have to live with regrets later.”
Advising them on what to do when they leave full-time sport, Dame Kelly added,
“You have to look inside yourself and decide what you want to do, what it is that you want.”
“I originally went in to the Army and was a Physical Training Instructor – that was my first dream job and I’m glad I went for it. I then went back to running and my goal was always to win an Olympic gold medal so I’ve been lucky because I fulfilled both my dreams.”
“I’m now working on a full-time basis so the I’ve had to re-adjust my sights and the next thing for me is to become a successful business woman so I’ve already set my own goals around that. It’s important that anyone coming away from sport does the same. If you’ve been an elite sportsperson you have an advantage.”
“Employers love the determination of sports people. Make the most of the skills you already have — like communicating with teammates, respecting others and good timekeeping.”
“All those are things you’ll need in the rest of your life. Pick your strengths and decide what to use them for.”
Her views were endorsed by Swimmer Ross Davenport who is taking part in this summer’s Olympic Games in the 200m freestyle relay.
The 27-year-old told a packed audience that while he can’t wait to swim on home soil at London 2012, in what will be his third games – the reality is that he will have move into employment just weeks after the competition ends.
“I’m really lucky to be swimming at the games in July but I’m not like a premier league footballer who can take plenty of time out to think what’s going to be next,” said Davenport.
“I’m going to be faced with the real dilemma that I need to be in a job come September. Financially I can’t afford not to be but I’ve already set some wheels in motion – there’s still the chance I could swim next year but I’ve also got a plan b in mind just in case I don’t do that.”
“The one certainty that faces every athlete in all sports is that you can’t go on forever, so whether you’ve been released by a club, retired through injury or come to the end of your career the most important thing is to plan for your future life.”