Career development is a process of managing learning, work and leisure to progress through life. It includes gaining and using the skills and knowledge needed to plan and make informed decisions about education, training, and work. Everyday decisions and priorities affect career development.
Athletes are encouraged to explore their education and career options, with several great events happening around the country during National Careers Week from May 16 – 22.
The Olympic Winter Institute of Australia (OWIA) caught up with 2022 Olympic Skeleton silver medallist Jackie Narracott to discuss the benefits of having a healthy sport/life balance when you are an elite athlete.
Narracott is a great example of successfully managing both areas, with her incredible 2021-2022 season which included the first ever World Cup victory and Olympic medal in Skeleton for Australia, combined with her progress in a career in Interior Design.
Once I finish sliding I would love to be an Interior Designer, possibly with my own business one day.
When I left school I did a Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science as I saw myself as an athlete and therefore that was the career path I thought I had to take.
When Covid hit, it gave me the opportunity to revaluate and properly begin working on my career path post sliding because I'd like to be prepared for when the time comes.
Initially, I looked at all the 'typical' options for a sports loving athlete- Dietitian (cheers Ali for all the advice), Sports Massage etc but eventually took a chance on a Diploma of Interior Design. When I told my sprint coach his response was 'about time!'. It has been the best decision as it's enabled me to discover another part of myself that had definitely been buried over the years.
Right now I'm trying to find a job anywhere in the industry to gain experience and get a handle on exactly what the day to day life of an Interior Designer is like. I'm also helping friends redesign their places which I'm absolutely loving!
How important is it for elite athletes to balance their careers and sport? How do you maintain work/study while on tour competing?
I think it’s incredibly important to have balance between developing a post sport career and sport. For me, it took the pressure off a bit as I knew I had something else to go to should something happen or things not go to plan. It also gave me something else to focus on during the day. Covid has made studying on tour a lot easier!
A World Cup week over the last 2 seasons has been day on/day off instead of several days in a row which meant I had a lot more time on my hands to schedule study in.
In a normal year I think it would've been harder but instead of entire days dedicated to study it would've been an hour or so each day, while making sure I was getting enough recovery in. I found it was a great way to switch off from sliding.
What are some of the skills you have developed through your career and or/education that are transferable to your sport?
The key ones are probably adaptability and problem solving. Both are incredibly important for both Interior Design and Skeleton and they've both helped each other.
Do you find having a dual career improves your performance on ice?
Having a dual career with a purpose (I've had jobs while sliding that definitely haven't helped) has massively helped my performance on ice.
For one thing, it's taken the pressure off a bit as I know if things don't go to plan on the ice (injury etc) then I've got a backup ready to go. It also gave me something else to focus on. While on tour that was awesome as it meant I could let the days sliding sink into my brain before analysing it. While at home, it gave me something to fill the time before training with and a much needed break from the monotony of training on my own.
How important are your support networks to help you balance your career and/or education?
I am very fortunate that my support network wholeheartedly backed me finding the balance and pursuing a completely different career path.
While I didn't take the Dietetics route in the end, OWIA Sports Dietitian Ali Miles was fantastic in giving me an insight into life as a Dietician, as was OWIA AW&E Manager Alana Rybicki in helping to figure out if I could do any study remotely from my UK base. Dom (my husband) was incredibly supportive in finding a career path I was passionate about, no matter what that was. I'm unsure if he's still keen on my decision now that I want to change things around the house constantly!
My coaches and sports psych were also incredibly supportive, probably because they were relieved, I finally had something else to focus on besides training.
You can follow Jackie’s journey on Instagram and Facebook.