As with the start of any new Olympic and Paralympic cycle, the next few months will see an influx of new athletes joining World Class Programmes of various summer sports.
With the environment that they are joining likely to be different to anything that they have experienced before, we’ve asked some of our current and former members for their advice on getting used to the new challenges and opportunities which come with becoming a World Class Programme athlete.
Here, our Athlete Engagement Manager Kristian Thomas rounds up their advice, and gives his thoughts on adapting to a new environment.
“As Paralympic gold medallist Sophie Thornhill writes here, the volume of people that surround athletes on a World Class Programme can sometimes be a little daunting. On a practical level, there are a lot of new names to learn, but there is also a big jump from working solely alongside a coach or a parent as a teenager, to working with countless specialists in their field, all of whom will have an input on at least one aspect of your performance.
“I can only echo Sophie’s advice to embrace this, though. These staff members will be people you can come to rely on, to trust, and will support you on your journey as an athlete.
“We are fortunate to have some of the very best practitioners in the world working within British sport – and they are working for your benefit as an athlete.
“Another key aspect of athlete life that I think it’s important to touch on is being able to retain the balance between your sporting career and outside interests.
“Olympic hockey gold medallist Georgie Twigg has given us an insight into the early years of her career, when she was training and competing for Great Britain and completing her law degree, before she moved into a career in the field.
“Georgie’s advice to explore the options available to you, and to make use of the support network which exists, is really valuable if you are looking to pursue your studies or a separate career during your time on the World Class Programme. As Georgie and others have proved, this is absolutely possible with the right levels of organisation, prioritisation and time management.
“Even if you don’t have something such as a degree or another job to provide a distraction, I would absolutely advocate retaining outside interests. Cyclist Lora Fachie summed this up very well in a blog she wrote for the BAC before she won her second Paralympic title in Tokyo this summer.
“Her assessment of achieving the ideal balance: ‘you will only get the best out of yourself if you have plenty of head space and enjoy what you do’, is an excellent way of summing this up.
“As a new athlete to a World Class Programme, the initial months of a completely new regime in a new environment may be overwhelming, likewise the amount of new information you are given. However this is completely normal, and there is plenty of support around to help you through the opening months – and the rest – of your sporting career.
“At the BAC, we offer independent, confidential and expert advice to any athlete on any issue. If there is anything you are unsure of as an athlete, please do utilise our support by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Above all, though, I would advise any new athlete to not lose sight of the reason you took up your sport in the first place: enjoyment and passion. Your training schedule and other commitments may well be about to become more intense, but you have earned this opportunity to challenge yourself in an elite environment, so work hard and savour every moment of the career ahead of you.”