Paula Rodriguez started practising karate at the age of 10 as a hobby. Now, with the sport poised to make its Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020, the world and European championship medallist has her sights set on joining the party. Alongside being a top karateka, Paula balances her ambition of becoming an Olympic athlete with working as a firefighter in the Spanish military. In this episode of the Olympic Channel’s Day Jobs series, Paula explains how her dual careers are supporting each other on her Olympic journey.

  • Paula Rodriguez is one of Spain’s top karatekas but balances her training with working as a firefighter in the Spanish military
  • Despite the demanding schedule, she feels her dual careers compliment each other perfectly
  • Watch her story in the video and then explore Athlete365’s free-to-use Career+ resources

“Karate will make its Olympic debut in Tokyo 2020. It’s my goal to be there.”

Paula Rodriguez knows exactly what her aim is, but to achieve that goal the Spanish karateka has to navigate a challenging timetable, working as a firefighter in the military alongside her training.

“We work 24 hours straight on one day, and we have the following four days off. This facilitates my sport and training commitments,” explains Paula. “You can’t make a living out of karate at the moment. It’s hard because I have to split my time between work and training, but when you love what you do then it’s not that bad.”

While Paula accepts that she might have to work harder than some of her competitors, she is convinced that her two careers aid and support each other.

“I think that sport helps my job and vice versa. They balance each other perfectly. My colleagues help me a lot so I never miss a training session or competition.

“Karate is a martial art founded on discipline. It made me the person I am today, both personally and professionally. Discipline helps you with everything. It helps with work, training and fighting without losing your focus.”

Spending 24 hours at a time with your colleagues means that they feel like a second family, and Paula says that their support has been vital in helping her balance her work and training. “Teamwork is essential. If an emergency comes up, your life depends on your colleagues,” she explains.

“She makes huge sacrifices combining this job with her karate training at the highest level,” adds fellow firefighter Jose Muñoz. “She is always available when we need her. She is up for anything and prepared for any eventuality.”

Far from being fazed by not being able to dedicate herself completely to her sport, Paula takes her commitments in her stride. “I always have positive things on my mind. You always have to focus on what you do well. There are good days where everything runs smoothly, and it’s easier to think more positively. But there are always times when it’s difficult to focus on your objectives.”

Are you an elite athlete interested in pursuing employment while continuing to compete at the highest level? Go to Career+ to access free-to-use, online resources on education, employment, life skills and more advice on balancing competition and career. Check out the other episodes of the Olympic Channel series Day Jobs for more inspirational examples of athletes balancing work and sport.

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