The Sport Information Resource Centre
The Sport Information Resource Centre

In today’s world of instant information and accessibility to technology, it is tough to balance work, life and family. We live in a world in which your boss can instantly send you an email when you are not at the office, or maybe call you due to some project deadline that is looming. Now add to the equation that you are an elite athlete, with aspirations of representing your country at the Olympics. Juggling work commitments along with a heavy training schedule is the case for most high performance athletes.

For athletes who are not the recipient of big contracts or substantial sponsorship, they have to find a way to make a living. They have to balance a very tight and vigorous schedule in order to be able to train, compete, travel, have a family and social life, and all while holding down a job. Being able to balance all these aspects of life is very crucial because any imbalances might lead to unintended negative consequences, such as a plateau in training, or even burnout.

For an elite athlete to be able to manage all these aspects of life, they have to be very disciplined. And one thing that you learn from being an elite athlete is how to be disciplined. Athletes want to be able to get the best out of their bodies during training and competition. To do so, you cannot be abusing your body. Thus, everything must be planned from the moment an athlete wakes to the moment they go back to sleep. The elite athlete who is also employed needs to have his or her training and competition schedules set well in advance in order to get the best out of their training, and to be able to peak for their competitions. With a set schedule of training and competing, they can set their work schedule accordingly or vice versa. Such athletes must truly become creatures of habit.

A few ways in which athletes can manage to balance work, life and athletics include:

  • Making it a priority to have a balanced life 
  • Enjoying what they do 
  • Having strong self discipline 
  • Having a supportive network of people around them 
  • Having a smart Coach with a good system and advice
  • Using a training log for planning and feedback
  • Incorporating leisure time 

Pursuing an Olympic dream is not an easy task, especially if you lack financial support. Not only do elite athletes have to balance training, competing and life at home, but many have to work to make a living in order to support their Olympic dream and their families. That said, the discipline, dedication and careful planning that it takes to be successful at the highest level of sport predisposes elite athletes to the mindset necessary in establishing the all-important work-life balance.

References from the SIRC Collection:

1. Coaches apply legislative tactic to work/life balance. NCAA News. November 19, 2007;44(24):13. 
2. Evans D. Work-life balance a matter of priorities. NCAA News. October 9, 2006;43(21):4-20.
3. Johnson G. Work-life balance takes center stage. NCAA News. January 16, 2009;:14.
4. Klarica A. Balance In Sport. Modern Athlete & Coach. July 2011;49(3):23-24.
5. Schadt S. Living a Life of BALANCE. ASCA Newsletter. February 2013;2013(2):9-11.
6. Scriber K, Alderman M. The Challenge of Balancing Our Professional and Personal Lives. Athletic Therapy Today. November 2005;10(6):14-17.