April 2019, Articles

Tokyo 2020 and beyond

Tokyo 2020 and beyond

It may seem surprising that one way athletes like trampolinist Dylan Schmidt are preparing for Tokyo 2020 is by preparing for life after the Games.

This is the result of a project, designed, by the HPSNZ Athlete Life and Performance Psychology teams, to help ensure athletes transition smoothly through each stage of their career.

Chris Arthur, double Olympian and Head of Athlete Life, says research now confirms that not planning ahead for life after sport impacts an athlete. “Planning for transition not only improves wellbeing throughout an athlete’s journey, it ultimately allows athletes to perform at their best.”

Each athlete on the long list for Tokyo is working with their Athlete Life Advisor or Performance Psychologist to identify post games plans and transition readiness. When an issue is flagged, interventions and coping strategies are put in place. Some athletes face challenges with their identity – not knowing who they are outside of sport. Others find they need additional support with financial or career planning, amongst other things.

Dylan Schmidt feels confident of his ability to navigate life after Tokyo. He meets regularly with his Athlete Life Advisor Carolyn Donaldson. Together they plan out his schedule, dovetailing his sport and study commitments (he is studying part-time towards a BCom in Information Systems and Commercial Law). They also work together to explore Dylan’s self-knowledge and future career plans.

“Part of my role with Dylan is helping him develop a well-rounded identity that considers his life outside and after sport,” says Carolyn.

A recent major knee injury meant Dylan had to take several months off training. Getting to have more time away from the gymnasium provided him with some unexpected benefits.

“As well as getting to complete some extra Uni papers, it made me realise that I can have timeout, even when I’m training,” he said.

“I don’t have to be in the gym 24 and 7. Its ok to do things like go out with my friends.” If his return to form at the recent World Cup in Azerbaijan is anything to go by – he placed 5th – Dylan’s more holistic approach to life and training seems to be paying dividends.

In addition to aiding wellbeing and performance, research has also demonstrated that transition planning can enhance the length of an athlete’s career. “We find transition planning can even help to retain some athletes for another Olympic and Paralympic cycle,” says Chris.

Dylan is one such athlete who already has Paris 2024 in his sights.

“After Tokyo I’ll take a small break and then get back into training,” he says. “I’m aiming to go to three Olympics.”

In the meantime, Dylan and his support team are leaving no stone unturned as he prepares for Tokyo, and beyond.