Building up your career, one brick at a time

Gavin Sutherland represented Zimbabwe in archery at Rio 2016, but the journey there certainly wasn’t easy. In this episode of the Olympic Channel’s Day Jobs series, Gavin explains how he balances earning a living as a builder day-to-day alongside managing to train and compete in his sport at the highest level – and how it will help him achieve his ambition of getting to Tokyo 2020.

  • Gavin Sutherland is an elite-level archer working full-time as a builder
  • In the Olympic Channel series Day Jobs, he describes how he balances his dual career
  • Watch the episode and check out our free-to-use Career+ resources

Gavin Sutherland says competing at the Olympic Games was truly a dream come true, but he wouldn’t have managed it without balancing his job as a builder with his sport. “I usually wake up anywhere from 5am onwards. I like to set myself up and prepare for the day ahead.

“My job is working on a building site, taking care of a team of builders, and I would be doing anything from preparing bricks to preparing ‘pug’, which is like a concrete mix or brickwork mix, or general tidying-up.”

As well as a way of earning a living, Gavin says that his work actually compliments his training. “On the physical side, it’s helped a lot with fitness. I don’t do too much physical stuff because I find that what I do at work is enough. I focus most of my training on actually shooting the bow.”

Finding the time to balance work and sport can be a big worry for athletes, but Gavin explains that a flexible working schedule is possible. “I remember asking my boss: ‘How do I ask for time off when I need to go to competition?’ He said: ‘Just give me two weeks’ notice and the time you’re going’. That’s how it is. If I book a tournament, I let him know and he writes it down in the leave book.”

His co-workers are equally supportive. “It’s a huge help, having people you can rely on. The guys on the building sites know me. They understand. You need support and you need help.”

Having got a taste of Olympic action, Gavin is eager for more, and this time he’s more aware of the balancing act required to achieve his goals.

“I want to go to Tokyo, 100%. It’s going to be difficult… but I’ve just got to find the time and the correct training.”

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. For more inspirational examples of athletes balancing work and sport, check out the Olympic Channel series Day Jobs.