All athletes are driven to achieve their sporting dream, but a sports career is short and can, on occasion, sadly come to an early end with no financial guarantees. That’s why it’s so important to make plans for what comes next.

While it can be challenging to balance study with pursuing high-level sport, it has many advantages – from offering perspective on your future to showing you how to transfer and utilise the skills you’ve acquired as an athlete.

But how do you strike the right balance between your studying, social life and sport?

Did you know…

… there are an increasing number of training options adapted to the needs of athletes?

  • As an athlete, it is important that you choose a teaching establishment that understands the specific needs and challenges elite athletes face when combining studying and sports training. A number of universities and colleges offer solutions tailored to elite athletes. To find the right establishment for you, begin by contacting the administration or the academic adviser, and they can tell you about the programmes available to you. Find out if the establishment offers what you need in terms of teaching, but also in terms of facilities for your sport, transport and accommodation. Your National Olympic Committee (NOC) can also help you find out which athletes from your country are at which establishments.

… creating a good relationship with your establishment (headmaster or rector) and those around you (friends and teachers) is a key element?

  • It is crucial to establish good contact with the people around you right from the start. So you are advised to discuss your needs as early as possible and suggest some ideas of your own. However, always be open to the alternative suggestions the establishment has. For your part, always be reliable and professional. Stay connected with the key people in your entourage. Share your passion, and take a responsible and serious approach to your career.

… other athletes, whether or not they are still active within sport, are a good source of information?

  • If you feel a bit lost; if you don’t know how to continue with your studies; or if you don’t know which is the best choice to continue competing, think about contacting other athletes who have been in the same situation. They are often happy to talk about their own experience, and this will give you useful information to help you take the best possible decisions for your future.

… there is a very simple trick for managing your time and not putting off to tomorrow what you can easily do today?

  • Often, tasks that seem urgent are not really that important, while certain crucial activities, such as defining your life goals, don’t seem so urgent. Try to study as much as possible when you are at home or training (easy reading, etc.) and focus on your performance during competitions. Try to define plans and stick to them. To help you draw up a list of tasks and manage priorities, download the priority grid.

… there are several tricks for managing your studies while travelling?

  • It’s challenging to combine travelling for training and competitions with studying, but there are many ways to organise your life to avoid getting bogged down in too much work. Find out about your establishment’s commitments and prepare your schedule as far ahead as possible. Get organised before leaving (inform your teachers, ask your friends to take notes, and anticipate deadlines for submitting work), and don’t hesitate to ask your friends or school staff for help.

… there are online or remote training options if you travel a lot?

  • Many establishments offer ways to spread studies over time. However, if you travel a lot, there are online and remote training programmes which lead to recognised qualifications. Ask your NOC or search online for remote learning centres in your country. The IOC also offers short online courses on the Athlete Learning Gateway.

… the IOC offers online training?

  • The Athlete Learning Gateway is an innovative service which offers short courses, interviews with Olympic champions, discussion forums and articles on a wide range of sports-related topics. All this is accessible at any time, free of charge. Plus around a dozen courses on important topics such as nutrition, psychology, coaching, sport, technology and injury prevention are now also available. You can join the online education community right away by registering on the platform free of charge. This is a great way of improving your performance and building your future career.

… that if there is no training in your own country, you can go abroad to study?

  • At certain stages of your sports career, you may need to change your place of residence to study and practise your sport. All this is very exciting, but you need to consider a number of points. Your decision will depend in part on the estimated cost-benefit ratio. How much will this decision cost in terms of family relations, home support, finance and personal choice? And what will you gain in terms of sports and personal development, career opportunities and quality of life? Do you need a visa or special authorisation to study abroad? These are the questions you’ll need answer before reaching a decision.

… setting short, medium and long-term objectives for your sports, personal and professional life helps you find a balance in your life?

  • When you know where you’re going, you can define what needs to be done and in which order. Without clearly defined objectives for both sport and your studies, you will find it hard to make productive use of your time. Remember that for an objective to be a good one, it has to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based.

When you are an athlete, you will be confronted with a range of experiences, some of them difficult, many extraordinary. You will have to manage your own project with the help of those around you, and you will develop new skills along the way. It is then up to you to bring your experiences to your professional life.

To help you do this, more than 30 NOCs have put in place their own career transition programme to offer Olympic athletes tailored services. By working locally with Adecco, the NOCs help their athletes win off the field of play as well. If this programme does not exist in your country, an NOC can work with the international programme team to offer professional training for athletes. You can find the details of the participating NOCs here. Contact your NOC or the IOC at athletes@olympic.org to find out more about how to take part.

The earlier you prepare for your career transition, the easier it will be. So what do you want to do? Do you want to become a coach? A physiotherapist? A journalist? A doctor? A lawyer? A nutritionist? Many jobs in sport allow you to combine your sports experience with what you learn at school or university. It can be rewarding to stay within the field of sport. Being an athlete is an asset for your future life, as discipline, rigour and resilience are essential qualities that you can build on in your studies or when looking for jobs.

Sport Up Your Life: Our “Sport Up Your Life” quiz will help you assess your personal choices, interests and qualities, and suggest career possibilities, with some real-life examples….

Time Management: Time management is a key skill: test yourself!

Manage your career: It’s not always easy to manage your career. Try this app to get better.

Balance between sport and study: Here is a document which will help you strike the right balance between sport and study (it contains quizzes and worksheets).

Athlete career transition: You can find details here about what the IOC does to support athletes with their career transition.

Athlete Learning Gateway: If you want to find out more about this topic, check out the “Athletes’ Career Transition Process” online course via the IOC’s Athlete Learning Gateway.