Combining a job with high-level sport: an achievable double objective
For Ayodele Ikuesan, like many other high-level athletes, taking part in the Olympic Games is “the fulfilment of a dream”. But what happens after the Games, or once your sports career is over?
While the question may worry even the greatest champions, for the 29 year-old French sprinter, who competed in the London 2012 and Beijing 2008 Games, the answer is very simple: “What happens when I stop? No, I’m not scared about that. […] I’ll be happy to work.”
Is it perhaps because this Olympian is no stranger to employment that she takes a different view of the end of her sports career? A market researcher in the health sector and 4x100m silver medallist in the European Championships last August, Ayodele has managed to strike the right balance between her professional life and her sporting ambitions.
How has she done this? With determination, discipline and the Athlete Career Programme (ACP). Launched by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2005 in cooperation with Adecco, the ACP helps high-level athletes during their career changeover period.
“I’ve always had this double project approach: a double learning project and a double sporting project”, explains Ayodele, who holds a science degree and a Master’s in commercial management. “When you do a sport which is not as professional as others, you are more or less obliged to work.”
An obligation, yes, but one which can build self-confidence, reduce anxiety about the end of your sports career or sometimes even be a pleasure.
“It’s true that I’ve found a balance because it’s a job I like and an area I’m very interested in.”
With Ayodele practising a sport where performance is measured by the stopwatch, her employer has recognised that her qualities as an athlete can be useful in the context of the company, and may even be essential for its continued existence.
In return, for the athlete: “It’s great to have a very open-minded employer and colleagues who also understand that I have this double objective.”
So that makes for a win-win form of professional integration.
And, as Ayodele says: “I would tell any athlete who wants to get involved, or who is interested in the ACP, to go for it, because, quite honestly, they’ve got nothing to lose!”