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13 May 2024 / Beach Volleyball; Individual Athlete Program

Powering greatness beyond sport

Hayley Sands, Bailee Kendall and Ben Hinks

At the South Australian Sports Institute (SASI), we help athletes develop into the best version of themselves, both in their sporting pursuits and in their everyday lives.

This holistic approach means setting up athletes for success post-sport and ensuring they are able to balance their current competition/training regime with their work and study commitments.

For National Careers Week (13 – 19 May 2024), we caught up with three SASI scholars to find out how they successfully juggle sport and their career goals, providing inspiration for other athletes who are looking to follow in their footsteps.

What these three athletes have in common is utilising the support network around them and effective communication with coaches, enabling them to achieve excellence in their sport, studies and career.

Bailee Kendall

Sport: Beach Volleyball

Studying: Physiotherapy at Flinders University

Current job title: KX Pilates Instructor

Career aspiration: Sports Physiotherapist

How do you manage your training schedule with studying/working towards your career goals?

Planning out my week and giving myself more time than I think I need! Initially when I transitioned into full time training, I found myself constantly rushing from one task to another, leaving no room for free time. This constant rush added additional stress to my life and made it difficult to perform at my best. By consciously giving myself a bit of extra time for each activity, I discovered greater success in my performance.

What tools or strategies do you use to prioritise both training/competition and career development effectively?

I prioritise my training/competition and career development based off my week. In peak competition, or training blocks leading into tournaments, I prioritise my training. I really focus on getting good sleep, fuelling my body, recovery post training, and getting extra touches if needed.

During an off season or post competition, I still continue my athletic responsibilities, but I also use this time to focus on my uni or take on a couple of extra hours at work. If I have an upcoming exam, communicating with coaches is key. I will prioritise my academic performance pre-exam and post-exam I will continue focusing on my athletic pursuits.

I also use time blocking for my study, so I have enough time to complete my lectures and assignments around training.

How important is the support of your family and/or partner in managing your dual focus in sport and career development?

I don’t know what I would do without them! They always support and encourage me both athletically and academically. Having someone who listens attentively is incredibly value. I sympathise with my mum and my partner Callum, because they endure my endless chatter about my day the most. 

How do you ensure your career development activities are sustainable in the long run, considering the demands of training and competition?

Choosing career development activities that I am passionate about is more sustainable in the long run because I know during hard training blocks or competitions this can keep me accountable. Even when faced with challenges in my career development activities, I always persevere because I enjoy what I am learning. I want to take to take on the challenge. I have also experienced the strain of engaging in activities which aren’t of my interest, and this only made it more challenging.

How has actively pursuing a career outside of sport benefitted your overall wellbeing and athletic performance?

It provides me with a sense of balance and fulfilment, allowing me to diversify my interest and engage in something different outside of my sport. This balance has not only minimised the risk of burnout but also improved my mental and emotional resilience, allowing me to approach my athletic challenges with a refreshed perspective.

Ben Hinks

Sport: Sailing

Studying: Mechanical Engineering at Flinders University

Career aspiration: Maritime Engineer - designing boats and waterways

How do you manage your training schedule with studying/working towards your career goals?

Balancing my training schedule with my study can be difficult at times but is worth it in the long run. Planning ahead has been very effective in ensuring that I don't overload myself down the track. Being extremely time efficient has been a skill I have developed through this balance, and really helps in freeing up time to ensure this balance is sustainable.

What tools or strategies do you use to prioritise both training/competition and career development effectively?

Time management is a key skill I have developed through balancing my training, competition, and study commitments. Having a clear understanding of what is needed in each of these commitments is essential to be successful in both my sport, and my post sport career goal. Knowing my competition and training schedule in advance means that I can adjust my university commitments accordingly to not overload myself. I also am part of the Elite Athlete Program at my university, and having the option to discuss alternative arrangements to better suit my schedule has been really effective in maintaining this balance.

How does your coach support your career aspirations outside of sport?

My coach supports my career aspirations by being flexible and understanding to ensure I can maintain a balance between my training, competition and study commitments. Things such as adjusting training sessions and discussion about this balance have been key in ensuring this balance is maintained. We discuss regularly about my training, competition and university schedule to ensure this is sustainable.

How important is the support of your family and/or partner in managing your dual focus in sport and career development?

My family has been extremely supportive in my balance between my sport and study. They ease a lot of the pressure by providing a place to live whilst training and studying. This eases a lot of pressure financially and gives more time for me to be either training, competing or studying.

How do you ensure your career development activities are sustainable in the long run, considering the demands of training and competition?

I have been adjusting the rate at which I have been progressing through my university degree depending on the number of competitions and training commitments I have during that semester. Planning ahead is really important to ensure you aren't overloading yourself whilst also not extending your degree out too long, which wouldn't be sustainable in the long run.

Whilst I've been training and competing domestically, I've been studying full time. When the amount of international competitions start to increase heading into the next Olympic cycle, I plan to progress into part time as the focus shifts towards my sport. By completing half of my university degree full time, I feel more comfortable going part time in the future.

How has actively pursuing a career outside of sport benefitted your overall wellbeing and athletic performance?

I believe it is really important to pursue a career outside of sport in conjunction with my sporting career. Having this balance has allowed me to develop some very important life skills such as time management, leadership and teamwork, just to name a few. These transfer over into my sporting career and have benefited my performance in training, and competitions. I also find it helpful to have something to shift my mind between training and competitions.

Hayley Sands

Sport: Para-Table Tennis

Current job title: Interior Designer at Woods Bagot

What advice would you give your younger self about exploring interests outside of your sport?

Don’t be afraid to try new things. It is always good to challenge yourself and put yourself out there. You never know, you might enjoy it. 

Knowing what you know now, what steps would you recommend young athletes take to prepare for a future career?

Understanding what you want to do or how you want to live in the future is always a good first step. Finding something you’re interested in is half the battle, love what you do and do what you love.

How can studying or acquiring new skills benefit an athlete's overall development, both in and away from your sport?

Studying or acquiring new skills can help you develop time management, communication, expanding your network and create new opportunities.

How can young athletes identify their passions and interests outside of their sport?

Ask yourself:

  • What are your interests?
  • What are your greatest skills?
  • What would you like to do other than sports?
  • How can you make a difference to someone’s day? Big or Small.
Is it ever too early for young athletes to start thinking about their careers after sport?

It’s never too early! If you are lucky enough for sport to provide you with a career that is sustainable for your life, go you! - but unfortunately for some, sport doesn’t last forever and doesn’t always remain sustainable for your future life. Although future thinking can be scary, it can also be exciting. You never know the opportunities that will come your way.

How can young athletes learn from setbacks or challenges they face in their athletic careers and apply those lessons to their future careers?

Setbacks and challenges you’ve faced in your athletic career will teach you resilience, accountability and motivation - all attributes that can be applied in your future career. Life will throw many curveballs your way whether it be in sport or in general life, it’s all about how you respond and react.