THE SPORT SYSTEM NEEDS ATHLETE GRADUATES - NOT RETIREES Alan Zimmermann, Director, Policy and Planning Sport Canada
• What are the non-athletic interests of my sport’s high performance athletes? • What skill sets are frequently identified as gaps in my sport? Is it coaching? Governance? Business?
to quality coaches and officials, people with finance, marketing and leadership skills are also needed at the local, provincial and national levels. We know that high performance athletes gain a wealth of sport experience during their athletic careers. High performance athletes seem to be an untapped resource. What National Sport Organizations and high performance athletes need are good transition What is really happening is not a programs that redirect this sport retirement. It is a transition. It is a experience back into the sport in many transition that brings with it new different ways. opportunities to continue on with the sport. This is why I prefer the term Sport leaders and athletes are missing ‘graduation’. ‘Graduation’ implies that an enormous opportunity to work there is something next, something together. One of the expectations we more to come. Another reason I prefer see in the Accountability Targeted ‘graduation’ is the association of both Sport Measures for funded National knowledge and potential. So what if Sport Organizations is that a robust instead of retiring our high performance athlete transition program would athletes we graduated them? How might include targeted information and athletes and sport leaders approach resources for athletes emphasizing planning for a ‘graduation’ instead of a sport-specific options. To build an effective transition strategy, sport ‘retirement’? leaders should be considering the Right now the sport system needs needs and opportunities within the people with a wide variety of talent and whole of their sport, including asking skills to deliver quality sport. In addition themselves a few key questions such as: oo often, I have heard athletes refer to the eventual end of their high performance athletic career as a ‘retirement’. True there may be some things in common between retirement in the work-life sense of the word and the end of an athlete’s pursuit of high performance goals. But I find ‘retirement’ to be an imperfect analogy. There is too much finality implied.
S I RC.CA
• Where would a graduating high performance athlete’s experience, knowledge and non-athletic interests be valuable and fill these gaps in my sport? • How can my sport match sport system volunteer and professional opportunities to the experience, knowledge and non-athletic interests of my sport’s graduating high performance athletes? • What can my sport do to help athletes transition to a post-athletic career, and emphasize my sportspecific opportunities? When considering answers to that last question, sport leaders could take advantage of programs that are already available to high performance athletes. For example, through Sport Canada’s Athlete Assistance Program (AAP), the Government of Canada provides tuition support to help athletes who meet high performance training and competitive requirements, obtain a post-secondary level education. Deferred tuition is also