Athlete To Adviser 

more features

When it comes to advising on how to be a successful Olympian, it’s fair to say Joe Glanfield’s opinion is pretty valid.  

For more than a decade Joe was established as one of the World’s leading 470 crews, and with Nick Rogers, attended three Olympic Games, twice winning silver medals at Athens and Beijing.  

And since retiring from Olympic sailing to spend more time with his young family, Joe has been putting his experience to good use in his role as Skandia Team GBR’s Performance Lifestyle Adviser.  

Appointed by the English Institute of Sport (EIS) to work with the British sailing team, Joe’s role has seen him help sailors with goal-setting and balancing and managing the various aspects of their lives, such as time management, education, finance and social, against their main focus of training and competition. The role also covers what doors maybe open to sailors after they retire from the sport.  

As he marks one year in the role, the 31-year-old dad of three admits he is someone he could have taken a lot of advantage of when he was campaigning.  

Joe said: “I definitely would have liked to have had someone in this sort of role to talk to when I was racing. When I was younger I used more experienced coaches and sailors in a similar way and talked to them about how you put together an effective long-term plan but it was all very informal.  

“This Performance Lifestyle role gives that advice a lot more structure and if I don’t know the answer to someone’s questions or how to address an individual’s specific concerns I am able to put them in touch with the right people to help them further.  

“I also campaigned for a very long-time and had a lot of experience putting the right programme together to achieve certain goals so if the sailors can use me as some sort of mentor to help them manage their campaigns that’s great.”  

Joe explained when he first came into the job there were a number of boxes he had to tick, however he faced a largely blank canvas in terms of how he actually wanted to shape the role.  

He identified two main aims:

i)  to help the sailors manage their campaign more effectively including their lifestyles

ii) to help sailors make decisions about their future after sailing and assist them in identifying the transferable skills they acquired during their campaigns that could be put to effective use in their post-sailing careers.   


With regards to campaign management Joe says the sailors fall into two distinct camps; Development Squad sailors, most commonly referred to him by their coaches, who want advice most frequently on education and Performance Squad sailors, who are more likely to approach him directly than through a coach, who want advice on balancing the increasing number of responsibilities they have outside of their sailing.  

“There have been a couple of really big changes in the squads since I first started. Firstly a much higher percentage of sailors are going on to higher education, which is a good thing, but requires a lot of planning and careful management to make sure the sailor is able to maintain sufficiently high standards in both their studies and sailing.  

“Secondly, there are a lot more sailors on the programme now who are married and have families; it used to just be me! With that comes a lot of adult commitments, like mortgages, childcare and partner considerations, that have to be balanced carefully. A lot of sailors also take time out of their Olympic campaigns to do other types of sailing and that also needs consideration.  

“Gone are the days when you start an Olympic campaign and within two years you are competing at a Games. Now a sailor comes into the squad and there are a whole host of seemingly immovable objects in the form of established sailors in front of them they have to gradually surpass before they’re even considered for possible Olympic selection.  

“Because most squad sailors’ careers are much longer now getting the right balance between their sailing and everything else in their lives could be the difference between them minimising their stress and fulfilling their sailing potential and failing to cope and never fully realising their potential.”  

The longevity of a sailors’ career can also impact on at when they start thinking about their lives after sailing and how they can adapt to a completely new lifestyle.  

Part of Joe’s role has included setting up work experience for sailors in industry to give them a taste of the different opportunities that may be out there post-sailing. Recently 49er helm John Pink enjoyed a spell at the offices of Skandia Team GBR silver sponsors Accenture, gaining an insight into their global management consulting operation.  

Joe continues: “Sailors get used to a certain way of life and it becomes your identity for so long it can be really hard to adjust when you stop campaigning. We’re actually really lucky in our sport in that the sailors are given a lot of freedom and responsibility to run their own campaigns, which are effectively like running your own business, and this should give them a really good base of transferable skills for them to take forward in the future.  

“Approaching your campaign strategically and professionally, and learning how to manage your finances, equipment, logistics, diet and everything else, should stand you in good stead for life after sailing but if you don’t know how to best do these things that’s where the Performance Lifestyle role can again benefit a sailor.  

“We don’t provide sailors with all the answers about what to do after they stop, it’s more about raising awareness that one day they won’t be sailing anymore and not to bury their heads in the sand about that. They need to know they’re making considered decisions about their futures and not just stumbling into something hoping it will work out. If everyone in the squad is well-organised, are good communicators and can plan finances long-term that’s a very good start.”  

And for all the lessons Joe, who also coaches Sarah Ayton and Saskia Clark in the women’s 470, has been handing out to sailors over the past year, he also admits he has been on a massive, and rewarding, learning curve himself.  

He adds: “When I came back from Beijing I did some mentoring work with the Youth Sport Trust and also did some life and business type coaching courses which have stood me in good stead. The EIS also has a pod of Performance Lifestyle Advisers working across the different sports which have been really helpful for me to draw advice from.  

“I’ve had to learn quite a lot on the job but it’s been a really good development for me. Ultimately it’s just another form of coaching just without going into sailing-specific stuff. When you see someone’s campaign has benefitted from your advice that’s really rewarding.”