The Balancing Act: Managing athletic dreams and a future career in sport



As a part of an enthusiastic sporting family, pursuing a career along a sport related avenue always seemed a strong possibility. Almost 10 years on from taking up athletics I am proud to say that I have represented Great Britain, and hope to continue to do so in the future. However, being an athlete can not last forever and considering your career prospects and planning for a potential career away from competitive sport is vital in any athlete’s life-course.

As a decathlete, training intensity has continued to increase with time. Starting once a week at the age of 9, I now train 6 days a week for up to 5 hours a session. Juggling this regime with my academic studies has always been demanding. Initially at school studying for GCSE’s and then A Levels and now with my degree studying Sport, Health and Exercise specialising in human performance at Brunel University. Managing my academic and athletic commitments requiring considerable dedication and commitment, I have found a number of characteristics to my attitude that has enabled me to succeed:  

Managing compromise: For me this has stood out as the single most important trait required to stay on top of my lifestyle. In reality, being able to devote large amounts of time to both academic work and training in the space of one day is not possible. Therefore I examine my lecture timetable in advance and compare it to my training schedule, searching for any free time to complete a solid block of study. Over time, these study blocks in my free time accumulate to a significant level, allowing me to maintain a work rate beneficial to my degree.

Ambition: Drives me forward, my passion to pursue a career in Athletics, and the vision of being part of the next Commonwealth Games in Australia in 2018. There’s a lot of time between now and then and a lot of hard graft to be done, but it’s a path I am willing to commit myself to because of my passion for the sport.

Teamwork: The nature of the training sessions require a lot of focus due to the diversity of decathlons. Some days I will practice a couple of the technical events like pole vault and javelin, followed by a speed endurance running session and weight lifting. Staying mentally switched on and at my physical best is difficult and the support from my training partners who have also competed at international standard, including the world stage is a vital component of training. Learning the events of the Decathlon is a longitudinal process, requiring an understanding as to the nature of the events and developing the technical ability to master them all to the best of your ability. This again can only successfully be done with the support of my team mates.

Transferable skills:  I believe the commitment, drive and determination needed to succeed in athletics are all attributes that will also support my academic/career prospects once my decathlete  career is behind me and add value to me in rising above the competition in the work place. Completing placement as part of a degree module at GlobalSportsJobs is one such example of trying to broaden my career horizons. The placement has given insight into the breath of the international sports industry and the opportunities that are available and how careers in the industry can be wide and diverse.

By seeking opportunities to support my transition into a successful commercial career, I believe that I and other athletes have the ability to follow any number of career paths beyond being a competitive sportsperson. In doing so, by the end of hopefully a fruitful sporting career, there may be any number of doors of opportunity to open up.

By Thomas Howlett

Thomas Howlett has recently been part of the GlobalSportsJobs team undertaking a work placement and is currently studying for a BSc in Sports, Health & Exercise Science at Brunel University, London.

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