Building a team around you

“Teamwork divides the task and multiples the success.”

In an individual sport, an athlete is seen crossing the finish line and standing on the podium by themselves however, although the photo is of them holding the trophy, they were not alone in their achievement. Equally so, they are not alone in the “hard times” either – they have a support structure around them be it physically through coaches, physiotherapists or training partners to mentally with a psychologist or friends and family.

As with pretty much all athletes, the support and sponsorship starts with family. Parents fetch and carry to and from training and races, are on the sidelines screeching encouragement and are a shoulder to cry on when things aren’t going right – every athlete has bad times be it mentally through not achieving the results you are expecting or physically through illness or injury. There however comes a point where being or becoming a “professional athlete” requires more than just family support.

We chatted to two very competitive individual athletes who shared the structure of their “camp” that assists them in preparing for, during and after an event. Having just matriculated at the end of 2019, Amber Schlebusch(Triathlete) is relatively new to the “full time athlete” title, however having won the Youth Olympic Games gold medal in 2018 her career path was skyrocketed. Over and above the obvious encouraging support, mom played the role of taxi as well as therapist for when she needed a shoulder to cry on and dad uses his journalism to liven up race reports and communication with sponsors. The broader family stay connected during race day on a WhatsApp group – giving her a mental boost seeing their support. Amber enlisted the assistance of a coach to prepare her to be in peak condition across her sports three disciplines, with a rigorous training schedule came a need for additional recovery assistance where she frequents a physiotherapist as well as a biokineticist who are all in communication to ensure they are working together to prepare Amber to be in the best condition possible come race day. On race day, Amber likes to be left to prepare on her own, racking her bike and preparing her transition area to pinning her numbers. Amber says it’s a personal preference and also is then her sole responsibility, everyone around her in her camp have done their best to get her prepared and everything on race day is her responsibility. Winning an event like the Youth Olympic Games doesn’t go unnoticed, Amber is off(once international travel is allowed) to Arizona State University on scholarship where she looks forward to gaining access to even further support in the squad training setup, additional top of the line facilities to assist with training and recovery as well as professional personnel such as a sponsorship manager and her coach who up until now has only been in communication over Skype and training apps.

Being pushed onto his first wave at the tender age of three, we can summarise Jordan Michael Smith ‘s surfing resume to the following: World Championship Tour contender since 2008, two times ISA World Surfing Games Champion and now 2021 Olympian – this whilst leaving out a thesis long list of other credible achievements. When Jordy is home he can still be found in dads shaping bay(Graham or G-Force is a world renown surfboard shaper) learning about design and refining his equipment. Mom, is still definitely the first to update her Facebook status after an event but also managers the accounting – we not going to get into the nitty gritty but when you have been ranked among the Top 5 surfers in the world for over a decade, there are lucrative sponsorship deals and obligations that it’s best you have somebody paying attention to what is coming in and going out especially when you living out of a suitcase in hotels most of the year. Over and above mom and dad, Jordy has developed a rather sizeable team in order to allow him to focus 100% on the job at hand:

• A travel agent on call 24/7

• His manager and best friend Damien who maintains sponsorship relationships and ensures expectations are being met ensuring longevity in the partnerships. We are going to elaborate more on the role and responsibilities of a manager in a later article.

• His coach keeping him in peak physical condition both on the water and off with cross training.

• An additional sponsorship manager to handle “outside of the industry” deals in South Africa.

• A host of photographers and videographers around the world to ensure there is always fresh content for social media and sponsors.

• Although handling Instagram personally, he does have a social media manager for the other platforms including his website.

• His wife Lyndall, other than taking care of his “home life”(Hawaii, California, South Africa or wherever he is competing) also managers emails and filtering enquiries to the relevant team members.

• There are also additional role players depending where in the world Jordy is competing who all contribute to allowing him to perform at his best, as he likes to put it “all the crumbs make the loaf of bread.”

The team Jordy has developed over the years is based on trust and he values their opinions – this is super important when building your team, the “best coach” or “best brand” may not necessarily be right for you to be comfortable and easily go about your process. It is a personal preference and you need to be confident that everyone around you has your best interest in mind and are all streamlined with driving your performance.

We hope this will help you on your sporting career journey and given you food for thought in planning to build your own team and support structure. We are going to continue chatting to professionals to share their knowledge to assist you in your career. Topics we will still be covering include: Life after competitive sport, roles of an Athlete and Brand Manager and psychology in sport – overcoming injury and how to win and lose like a champion.

Should you have any queries, please don’t hesitate to drop us a message and we will always try our best to assist or you may have a topic that we can explain that will assist/inform other athletes as well.