COC rolls out total athlete wellness program

The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC), in partnership with professional services network Deloitte, have created a new program called Game Plan with a view towards helping athletes transition from their athletic careers into professional ones.

Christopher Overholt, CEO of the COC asserts that the program is long overdue, and has the ability to give elite athletes a better chance of not only securing jobs, but also maintaining their mental and physical well-being after leaving the playing field. “Game Plan is a game-changing program for our high performance athletes,” Overholt explained. “It gives athletes the power to take control, build their own path to the podium on the field of play and plan their exit strategy off it.”

Unlike in the professional world, retirement for elite athletes comes well before their sixty-fifth birthdays — with many athletes passing their athletic prime in their mid-to-late thirties. For few high profile athletes, like David Beckham and Arnold Palmer, retirement from sport doesn’t signal a need to find a ‘real job’. Many celebrity athletes make enough in their pre- and post- athletic careers to sustain themselves indefinitely. Michael Jordan managed to make $90 million in 2013 — $27 million more than he did in his last two years of play with the Chicago Bulls combined.

Not only does Game Plan aim to help ease the transition from athlete to white-collar worker, but the wellness program also asserts that providing training in financial management, skill development, and branding is crucial. It allows professional athletes to learn how not to squander away their life’s earnings. To do this, the COC has partnered with the Financial Literacy Council so that athletes can learn to budget and maintain financial stability.

Aside from financial and career planning, the service also hopes to promote athletes’ psychological and mental well being, as transitioning into retirement can leave an athlete feeling lost and without a sense of identity. “Canada is certainly breaking ground with this program, ensuring athletes are developed holistically while equipping them for life beyond sport,” said two-time Olympic luger Jeff Christie, who retired from competition in 2011, and has since earned a bachelor of commerce from Royal Roads University.

“I have achieved my goals in luge, and I feel now is the right time to prepare myself for the next step of my life.” Said Christie who also sits on the COC’s Athletes Commission and plays an active role in helping athletes ease into athletic retirement and gain the necessary education to jump into the workforce.

Game Plan, a step-by-step program, focuses on five different facets to make sure athletes are as equipped as possible to pursue other dreams and passions outside sport. Education, skill development, health networking, and career management elements are taught throughout an athlete’s athletic career and thereafter, so that when they hang up their jersey, they don’t lose their livelihood. “[Game Plan] will help our athletes compete longer,” said 2012 gold medalist and U of T student, Rosie MacLennan, adds that the program, “will motivate more Canadians to pursue their Olympic dreams knowing that this program will ultimately help to ensure both high performance athletic outcomes, and high performance careers after sport.”

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