Sport Ireland Institute launches Athlete Friendly Employer Network

The Sport Ireland Institute has launched its new Athlete Friendly Employer Network, which aims to engage with organisations from corporate Ireland to develop relationships between elite Irish athletes and employers.

The first network event, which took place in the Sport Ireland Institute at the end of November, attracted key representatives from over thirty companies operating in Ireland.

With many athletes seeking develop their work experience whilst still competing and others seeking to develop post-competitive career plans, the purpose of the event was to give organisations an insight into the advantages of employing elite athletes and how the lifestyle of an athlete and business can coexist.

Speaking at the event, Chief Executive of Sport Ireland, John Treacy, highlighted the importance of the life skills service offered by the Sport Ireland Institute: “Elite athletes are highly motivated and determined individuals. The skills and qualities that have enabled them to achieve in sport also provides them with excellent transferable skills that could provide any organisation with a competitive edge and have a positive effect on a high performance culture.

“While our elite athletes are operating at the highest level in their chosen sport they may require some flexibility in their working arrangements. This may mean that an athlete will request flexible working hours or that an athlete could require additional leave to maximise their training in the build up to competition or to represent Ireland at international competitions. I am delighted to see so many organisations express an interest in being a part of this network, helping to support our high performance athletes on their Olympic and Paralympic journeys.”

Attendees at the event were invited to immerse themselves in the world of high performance sport, with keynotes provided by some of the leaders in Irish high performance sport, including Bernard Dunne, Performance Director from the Irish Amateur Boxing Association, and Kate Kirby, Head of Performance Psychology at the Sport Ireland Institute. An engaging panel discussion combining current and former Olympic and Paralympic athletes as well as athlete friendly employers followed on from an interactive tour of the facilities.

Director of the Sport Ireland Institute, Liam Harbison, added: “The Sport Ireland Institute has been committed to supporting Irish high performance athletes achieve podium success at World and European level since its inception. One of our key priorities is to provide an enhanced suite of athlete life-skills support services to Irish athletes to help them achieve their full potential through education, career and performance life-skills support.

“As part of strategic priorities in the Performance Life-skills area, the launch of the Athlete Friendly Employers Network is a key milestone, which we hope will ultimately lead to providing athletes with flexible possibilities for meaningful work experience including shadowing, internships, part time and full time roles.”

This initiative is being led by Olympian and Head of Performance Life Skills at the Sport Ireland Institute, Eoin Rheinisch: “We have a unique pool of highly talented, determined and motivated individuals seeking further development & employment opportunities. Often athletes are keen to progress their professional careers whilst still competing in their sport at an elite level. Whilst some elite athletes are seeking to develop post sport career plans for when they leave elite sport, others are looking to combine and balance their sporting careers while gaining valuable experience in the workplace.

“This service aims to develop relationships with organisations in offering flexible employment opportunities to a small number of Ireland’s elite athletes.”

During the launch event, Sport Ireland recognised the good practice in the area of elite athlete support by Dell for their support of European Para Athletics Champion discus thrower Niamh McCarthy and by AIB for their support of Mitch Darling, Irish Men’s Hockey player.