14 October 2016

Is there ever a right time to end a career in sport?

jessica ennis hil

Image from @Twitter

I’ve been thinking about the answer to this question since heptathlete Jessica Ennis-Hill announced her retirement from athletics yesterday, just a few months after winning a silver medal at the Rio Olympics.

Jessica has had an astonishing career, from winning her first world title in Berlin 2009 to the recent Olympics. She became successful in a sport she was initially told she wasn’t the right height for, and has returned to top form again and again following pregnancy and injury.

It seems to me that nothing was going to stop Jessica from reaching her goals and the naysayers only fuelled the fire in her belly!

But, of course, she wasn’t alone in getting there. She had an expert team behind her and, for more than 17 years, she trained with the same coach, Toni Minichiello. I wonder how big a part this support and stability played in her success?

There is no question she made athletics cool. During her years at the top, Jessica set an incredible example, becoming an inspiration and mentor to the younger team members of Team GB. As the face of the London Olympics, she took the pressures of competing in front of a home crowd in her stride, inspiring thousands of young people to take on a sport they love.

So, deciding on what is the right moment to call it a day on such a successful career in sports must have been unimaginably tough.

That being said, as an athlete, you are the only one who knows when you’ve reached your capacity. In some cases, a change might be the best possible thing: you can use your energy to keep motivating and inspiring others, rather than to keep reaching deep for another personal best.

Who knows what’s over the next hill? I don’t think this is the last we’ll see of Jessica in the world of sports. Or, maybe, she’ll follow the many athletes before her who have gone on to have very successful careers in business.

I’m a firm believer that, in business, you need to compete in a very similar way to athletes in their approach to success. Where an athlete needs both physical and mental strength, a great business person technically only needs mental strength. In my experience, you can only have this if you’re physically fit.

For this reason, sport plays a big part in our business. At UKFast, sport is an important part of our culture. We have a netball team, football teams, squash and a running clubs; just to name a few. We even have team members holding group weight training circuits and spinning classes. In my opinion, sport challenges us and helps us to deal with failure. It reminds us that goals can be reached, as long as we remain focussed.

So, although I think Jessica Ennis-Hill should be hugely proud of having had such a fantastic athletic career, I also look forward to what she’ll achieve next!

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