Managing High Performing Lifestyles 

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When it comes to Skandia Team GBR, it’s all hands on deck when building a successful medal-winning sailor. 

 

The sailors themselves invest a colossal amount of hard work, dedication and commitment and can rely on the support of a full array of support staff to assist their every need, ranging from physiotherapists, strength and conditioning coaches to nutritionists and technical and weather experts.

However, one other important element which falls under the radar and which some people don’t realise is a key area of support is the area known as ‘performance lifestyle’.

Athletes have many, sometimes conflicting, commitments when part of an elite programme and it is crucial to know how to juggle these busy lifestyle commitments and essentially manage the distractions off the water or away from the training environment so they can perform at their very best when it matters.

The man who makes this juggling job a whole lot easier and who is there to make sure the lifestyle the sailors lead really does support their performance, is the team’s Performance Lifestyle Advisor, Edd Vahid. 

Edd’s role within Skandia Team GBR…

“The Performance Lifestyle role has two broad aims, “said Edd. “Firstly, to support the development of core personal skills that positively impact performance.  The skills can be broadly categorised under the term ‘campaign management’ and are related, but not limited to communication, organisation and budgeting. 

“The second aim involves the transition out of sport.  Unfortunately, this is an inevitable element of sport and being prepared for this exit is critical. Thankfully, many of the skills that impact performance such as performing under pressure, leadership and communication are transferable into employment and education settings.  Making these explicit, and also developing further skills, qualifications and accessing relevant experiences should make the transition out of sport more successful.”

Edd, an English Institute of Sport (EIS) practitioner, works at every level of the RYA’s World Class Programme from sailors involved in the youth Squads, to the Olympic Development Squad right up to the top of the pyramid with the performance squads and Olympic and Paralympic medal-winners.

Performance lifestyle at the Olympic Games

“During the Olympics and Paralympics this summer I was involved in two programmes. I helped coordinate the Nearest & Dearest programme.  This programme was developed to support the friends and families of selected team members (sailors and staff).  The programme aimed to ensure that friends and family members were aware of the unique challenges that an Olympic or Paralympic Games presents, support the interactions they have with their sailors during the build-up and at Games time, and ensure they enjoyed their Games experience!”

Edd continued: “I was also involved in the delivery of our Ambitions Programme.  This was designed to provide our future Olympians with an insight into the Olympic environment.  During this programme we shared key information from the selected teams’ preparation sessions, and challenged the sailors (primarily from the Development Squad programme) to consider the dynamics and external pressures involved at Olympic level so that hopefully they’ll be better equipped to deal with them when it comes to their own first Olympic Games experience.”

Dealing with the transitions

With London 2012 now well and truly behind us and with Rio 2016 becoming the focus for many sailors involved in the programme, Edd’s main responsibilities now are to focus on the different transitions and challenges which a number of sailors are facing as the new Olympic cycle begins.

“Sailors experience a range of transitions during their performance career and the support provided by the programme is designed to ensure they can negotiate these points with confidence, successfully and quickly.

Edd continued: “The transition from the Youth programme to the Skandia Team GBR Development Squad programme presents several challenges.  At this stage sailors are often also experiencing a parallel transition into higher education.  Moving away from home at this stage requires the sailors to be able to demonstrate fundamental life skills such as cooking and budgeting.  Individuals are also moving away from an established support network in their home, sailing and school or college life. 

“Developing relationships and inheriting a new support network therefore requires careful consideration.  It is important to acknowledge the individual nature of this transition and the need to be realistic during this period. Ultimately, at this stage of their development sailors experience a further shift towards independence.

“The transition from Olympic sailing into 'life after sport' is also individual.  Some individuals have identified at an early stage what they plan 'to do next' and have developed an action plan that supports their future aspirations.  Sailors develop a range of transferable skills that many employers would consider desirable.  Providing the sailors with support in promoting these skills in employment settings is important.  Despite being inevitable, 'retirement' is often not on an individual's terms and therefore investing time in what comes next provides athlete's with the peace of mind that supports performance aspirations in the present.”

Some may think that there is a huge difference between an athlete’s lifestyle challenges when competing at Youth level right through to the top of the sport at Olympic level.  There are certainly lifestyle challenges related to each stage of the pathway, but ultimately, it is down to an individual to develop their personal style in negotiating these challenges.  

Edd explains: “It is individual and this is an important facet of performance lifestyle support.  We encourage athletes to develop their individual style in managing time, money, education etc. Managing their land-based activities will undoubtedly impact performance either directly or indirectly. 

“We try to be proactive in supporting sailors who have aspirations to sail full time.  Similar to each transition - identifying or predicting the challenges allows an individual to develop an appropriate action plan.  Using sailors in the programme who’ve been through those challenges and getting them to present their own case studies also helps this process.”

Edd concluded: “Developing a lifestyle that is conducive to high performance sport whilst also aligned to an individual's values is the aspiration for each sailor in the programme – and that’s what I’m here to support.

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