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Canoeing Hero Welcomes Career Planning Pathway

09 March 2006

Kiwi Canoeing Hero Welcomes Career Planning Pathway For Young Olympic Athletes

Ian Ferguson sees Adecco Athletes Career Programme offering greater security and peace of mind for sporting elite, not available in his day

After a glittering international sporting career spanning three decades and four Olympic gold medals, Ian Ferguson admits to few regrets. If he has one it is that during his 20-plus years as a top canoeist, he was unable to plan with any certainty for the future.

As a result this country’s most successful Olympian - he has competed at more Olympics (5) and won more gold medals (4) than any other New Zealander, is a great enthusiast for the recently instituted Adecco Athletes Career Programme (ACP), a joint initiative by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the global leader in human resource services, Adecco Group.

Here in New Zealand the ACP has gained the support of the New Zealand Olympic Committee who, with Adecco will look to develop a career transition programme with Olympic sports which are in the best interest of their athletes. This can involve both personal and professional career assessments, traineeship, temporary and fulltime placement opportunities.

Adecco has appointed former New Zealand soccer captain and striker, Earle Thomas, as Project Manager of the ACP. His role is to liaise with sports, their athletes and identify potential employers. As an old All White Thomas is only too aware that high-level international sport requires such a huge personal investment and focus by athletes that “they invariably have little time to think beyond their sporting career. That is where we can help,” he says.

“In many cases the skills and the resolve to reach the top in a business or sporting career run parallel to each other,” he says. “The key qualities to succeed in business are work ethic, motivation, leadership, intelligence, responsibility, the ability to work in a team environment and the capacity to resist stress. You will find that successful young athletes fulfil most of those criteria. My role is to connect young athletes with prospective employers who share a similar focus and the same goals.”

While Ferguson, who still competed at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics aged 40, says the ACP would have been of “ great value” when he retired, he acknowledges he was one of the lucky ones. He had spent some time juggling studies and sport and finally completed his BCA at Victoria University, just after his first Olympics at Montreal in 1976.

“So I at least had something to fall back on. But it would have been great for someone like Macca (his long-time canoeing partner Paul MacDonald. He had trained as a schoolteacher, but didn’t see that as a future and then decided to become a fireman. But in the end he found juggling training for the Olympics and training to be a fireman just too tiring physically.

“With something like the ACP it would have given Macca some security and certainty for life beyond canoeing. And that peace of mind at top level sport is so vital.”

That is a view shared by Ferguson’s son, Steven, fresh from winning 6 titles at the recent National Kayak Championships. He is one of the few kiwis to reach Olympic level in two different sports. At Sydney in 2000 Steven was a member of the swimming team but two years later he followed his father in to the kayak and represented New Zealand in the K2 500 at Athens.

Aged 25, Steven left school at 16 with only one goal “to be a successful athlete and worrying about work wasn’t even on the agenda,” he says. “So for athletes like me the Athletes Career Programme is a definite bonus. And for younger athletes just starting their sporting careers it is definitely a great opportunity to be able to do some long-range work planning at an early stage.

“As I’ve grown older I have started to wonder more and more what I am going to do when I finally retire. But I’ve always found it a lot easier just to concentrate on my training.” However he admits that may soon change and he sees himself as a candidate for the ACP in the near future.

Thomas acknowledges that there will be some athletes who can’t commit to the ACP until they are close to winding up their sport. “But ideally we would seek to work with athletes into, during and as they exit their playing days,” he says. “We want to link them with employers and careers to remove all that peripheral pressure which can often inhibit peak performance during their competitive years.”

Adecco has already placed more than 1000 Olympic athletes in Europe into the workplace, and is looking forward to introducing the programme here in partnership with the NZOC and SPARC. There is no cost to the athletes or their sports as Adecco charges no fees for implementing this programme for Olympic athletes.

About Adecco:

Adecco SA is the global leader in employment services, connecting people to jobs and jobs to people through its network of more than 6,600 offices in 75 countries around the world. In New Zealand, they have 20 offices throughout the country with a recognised expertise in permanent, temporary and contract staffing. Adecco’s 100 New Zealand staff assign up to 3,000 employees to customers each week and place a similar number into permanent work each year.


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