Collective effort needed to ensure athletes have right life skills

Athletes are driven by performance and the pursuit to meet his or her goals throughout their sporting careers.

This often results in them sidelining or disregarding other valuable skills.

Diogo Guia, chief operating officer and director of Sports Public Policy, International Centre for Sport Security (ICSS) INSIGHT, said when athletes leave competitive sports, most had not developed social and organisational skills.

He added such skills were the core foundations of the formal education process.

“When they (athletes) get out (of sports), they are faced with reality … It’s our collective obligation or duty to provide them with those essential life skills if we want to safeguard and really appeal to sportsmen and sportswomen to come to sports.”

Guia shared his views during a session called ‘Skills for Integrity and Through Sports’ yesterday, in conjunction with Sport Integrity Week 2021 organised by Sport Integrity Global Alliance (SIGA).

He was joined by Sabrina Vettorato, a researcher with the Istituto Internazionale Italiano Studi Sport Societa; Eloisa Cianci from the Catholic University of Milan and Daniele Bettinetti, senior project coordinator, also from the Catholic University of Milan.

Twentytwo13 is the media partner for the global event.

Guia added athletes must be included in the labour market, and in order for them to be ready for the real world, they should develop three basic skills – behavioural, social and organisational.

The responsibility to inject such skills and characteristics into the athletes should also be shouldered by sports associations and coaches.

“Sports governing bodies have to take a proactive approach in protecting their athletes. They cannot see the athletes as merely those who bring home medals,” Guia said.

“If the athlete is in a friendly and nurturing environment, where there’s respect, the capacity to build values together, the results (in developing the right skills) are more efficient.”

Vettorato said programmes introduced to address such skills must be monitored to see if they were effective.

“We need a systematic approach when developing these programmes. Of course, we have to understand what the sports associations know and need so that we can offer, or develop (the programmes) with them, and then check to see if these programmes are actually working for them,” she added.

Bettinetti added it was important to analyse, validate and value the soft, and technical skills that can be used across careers.

“We need to know exactly what we can do and to include the skills into the (daily) activities,” he said.

“This will promote the actions for lifelong learning into the sport. The challenge is to understand together the right way to get into this type of research, and the mapping of the right skills into the sport, and to match them to the standards.”

He added such an undertaking should be offered to those who take up sports professionally but admitted that it was a massive effort that needed to be done.

The five-day Sport Integrity Week 2021 ended yesterday.