IOC Athletes’ Commission member and Olympian Kirsty Coventry takes us behind the scenes at the 8th IOC Athlete Career Programme (ACP) Forum in Beijing to highlight how the IOC and The Adecco Group are committed to helping athletes make a smooth career transition

Seven-time Olympic swimming medallist Kirsty Coventry is quite familiar with rising to the occasion in Beijing. It was something that the five-time Olympian from Zimbabwe accomplished as an athlete at the Olympic Games Beijing 2008 and once again last week, while attending the IOC Athlete Career Programme Forum.

National Olympic Committee representatives, Athletes’ Commission members, Olympians, coaches and career counselling experts from The Adecco Group convened in the Chinese capital – which will host the Olympic Winter Games in 2022 – at the 8th IOC Athlete Career Programme (ACP) Forum. This bi-annual two-day event was conducted in Asia for the first time.

Coventry, a member of the IOC Athletes’ Commission and the ACP Steering Committee, said that “open discussions” among participants were highly beneficial, moving the bar forward for the programme that was launched in 2005 and designed to assist Olympians with post-athletic career endeavours.

“What I liked was that the participants were really open and honest, and when everybody saw that it would be a truly open discussion, everybody decided to open up about the strengths, weaknesses and challenges of the programme,” said Coventry.

“Everybody learned a lot about each other, about what our role is as the IOC Athletes’ Commission and the challenges and opportunities we have with the ACP.”

Some 80 attendees gathered in Beijing to share best practices and discuss means and ways to equip and support athletes worldwide with their career development. Coventry said the primary objectives of the Forum were for ACP facilitators to ascertain how to “better accomplish delivery of the programme and how we can further our reach.”

The Zimbabwean swimming champion and IOC Member noted: “It was really great to see your big, strong nations that have the finances to hire ACP programme managers to understand more about the smaller NOCs that don’t have the resources and have to run the programme themselves.

“Everybody went home with a better understanding of how they can help each other, share best practices with each other and positive stories,” she said. “That to me was the most positive thing that came out of the Forum.”

Following three days of discussions and exchanges, the Forum participants also agreed new strategies and targets for the ACP in the coming years. These included increasing opportunities for athletes to obtain job placements, with the aim of achieving a minimum of 1,000 athlete placements by 2020, and the development of mentorship programmes for athletes preparing for their career transition. Other goals include the organisation of annual networking events, increased training opportunities and tailored programmes for local markets.

Coventry, who ended her own competitive swimming career last year, has seen first-hand how the ACP can benefit athletes and cited former IOC Athletes’ Commission chair Claudia Bokel and retired Croatian skier Ana Jelusic – who moderated the Forum – as examples of participants who have benefited directly from the programme.

She also noted that two specific initiatives of the ACP – one in which participants shadow a corporate CEO for a month and another that provides internship opportunities at the IOC – have received high marks from athletes who have taken part. Coventry added that she has seen substantial progress over the 12 years since the ACP was established by the IOC Athletes’ Commission in 2005.

“There are stories of athletes becoming successful entrepreneurs, doctors and lawyers, running NGOs and some athletes that studied to become lawyers, were qualified, and decided that they would rather coach. To hear stories of athletes who didn’t just back down and say, ‘This is what society expects of me’, but actually took a risk, probably like they did in their athletic careers. This to me was very inspiring,” she said.

Coventry, the most decorated Olympian from Africa with her seven medals, believes that the future of the programme remains bright.

«The programme has been really successful and having a partner like the Adecco Group has worked really well,” said the Zimbabwean. “Now the conversation is how do we strengthen the existing partnerships and create new partnerships and opportunities in places like Africa, so that the numbers can become more global.

Targeting athletes of all ages around the globe, the ACP has so far reached more than 35,000 athletes from over 185 countries. For more information about how the ACP can help you, visit here

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