Fulfil your dreams of a professional sporting career.

So the Olympics are here and everyone is feeling the fit factor. I always had respect for athletics but over the past four months my respect levels have went sky high. As many may know I took up running in April of this year to run the Dublin mini-marathon 10k (6miles) in June for: ‘Childvision’ the National Education Centre for Blind Children in Ireland. I raised €1,727 in sponsorship for them.

I admit I found running tough at the beginning. But now I really enjoy it and even though the mini-marathon is over I have kept up the running. What I have learnt is that running can be a great confidence booster in these tough economic times.

With all the talk of the Olympics it has got me thinking what does a person need to do if they want to become an athlete. What I have learnt is don’t assume you’re too old or out of shape to make your dream of becoming an athlete come true. Here are steps towards your dream:

  1. Consider your physical condition – determine what shape you are currently in. This will help you to select the best sport for you, as well as the training program you will need to follow. 
  2. Pick a sport – there are a range of sports to choose from examples are as follows: canoe/kayak, equestrian, fencing, sailing, running, swimming, football, boxing etc.
  3. Local club – once you decide which sport to pursue, you need to start developing your skills. Join a local athletic club or visit a recreation centre so you can practice and take classes. For example, when I took up running in April I joined St Finbarr’s running club in Cork City. The club is very friendly to me.
  4. National Governing Body – as well as joining a local running club I also joined the national governing body of athletics. Athletics Ireland is the national governing body for athletics in Ireland. Their primary objective is to promote and develop the sport at every level from recreational running and schools competitions through to supporting Ireland’s elite athletes in international competition.
  5. Start competing – there is always a variety of competitions and tournaments going on.  First start at local level.  The more competitions you enter the more confident and determined you will become. Also once you start winning at local level you will start to build a national rating by competing at certain competitions. Your local club will be able to tell you when and where you should be competing.
  6. Get a coach – this step should be taken at the same time as you start competing. In each local club there will be coaches. For example, in St. Finbarr’s running club Marion Lyons is my coach. Marion is very good and she has definitely assisted me in developing my skills. Marion is helping me progress and remain focused. Running requires a lot of patience and excellent running technique doesn’t develop overnight. It can take years and so it is important to be realistic. A key piece of advice that Marion has given me is that you only get out of running what you put in – so it’s not enough to attend training you have to watch your diet and be committed. The benefit of having a coach is they can help develop your skills, so you can progress to the next level of your sport.
  7. Visualise your success – a training technique used by top athletes is visualisation. Creating a mental image or intention of what you want to happen or feel. The more detail you can add to your visualisations the better.
  8. Financing – If at some point you may be ready to start training full-time, which means you will have to find a way to support yourself financially.  Elite level athletes can be supported through scholarships. You may be able to obtain corporate sponsorships through past employers. You could try contacting a sports marketing agency and get them to contact companies for you. 
  9. National Championships – such championships are a stepping stone for you to your Olympic dream. Many individual sports open their National Championships to any competitor who has achieved some minimum qualification at the local or regional level so you may have a better chance of competing than you think. 
  10. Qualify for the Olympics – each sport has a different process for qualifying for the national Olympic Team. Athletes in individual sports (such as track and field or tennis) compete for a spot on the Olympic Team through qualifying tournaments or their national rankings.
  11. Coaching job – if you take up a sport and really like it but you don’t want to become a professional athlete then you could always search for a job in that sport via coaching, personal training etc.

So if you are out of work and feeling the blues of the recession then why not take up a sport, get fit and start competing or coaching. Who knows there might be an Olympic athlete in you? But you won’t know until you get off the couch and get out there and start training. Enjoy the experience.

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