Leander Club runs an Athlete Development Programme to help prepare athletes for their transition to full careers after full-time rowing.
A one-to-one mentoring link to Members
Group sessions on subjects such as writing CVs, interview techniques, and how to position your social media profile
One-to-one career advice sessions
The programme is run by the athletes for the athletes, so they start to take ownership of their plans for their life after rowing while they are still at Leander.
Members & athletes supporting each other
The athletes have access to Members who can provide specialist HR input and links to work experience and job opportunities.
Leander Members with established careers from any field are encouraged to volunteer their services to assist athletes in various ways such as:
acting as mentors
helping the athletes research their field of work
introducing them to a network
helping them find work experience
Members wishing to explore how they can help athletes in this programme are asked to make contact with Ali Brown at email@example.com
Former captain Nick Middleton shares his experience
DID YOU CONSIDER YOUR CAREER WHILE YOU WERE STILL COMPETING?
For the first four years of my rowing life, the only thing I focused on was rowing. My dream was to make the GB team, and nothing else mattered. I had a part-time job at a clothes store in town, which paid the bills. The job was dull and uninspiring. Being a Leander Member meant that I could live cheaply and row.
One evening while I was watching TV I got a phone call from a friend who was working as a waiter at the Club. He said “Nick, a photographer has let an event down, would you be interested in doing it? How much do you charge?” He knew I liked photography. I immediately said ‘yes’, plucked a figure out of the sky, rushed to get my camera gear and bolted to the Club.
I realised from that point that I could make money doing something I really enjoyed. It was also a career that I could do alongside rowing and potentially a job that I could do when I retired. A year after my retirement I am now at a stage where I am starting to get some traction and photography is fast becoming my career. Recently I have enjoyed photographing Luxury Estates in Scotland for corporate marketing and have been booked for taking the photographs at several weddings, including one in Switzerland.
HOW HAVE YOU FOUND THE TRANSITION FROM ROWING TO ‘NORMAL LIFE’?
I initially found the transition from rowing to ‘normal life’ straightforward because I had been working self-employed for the last three years, alongside my rowing and it was a case of upping the workload.
What I have found most challenging is the change from a regimented seven day a week training programme where you know what’s to come day in day out, to a life where there is no one telling you what to do, you are in complete control of your life. It can be a scary place.
DO YOU DO ANYTHING OUTSIDE PHOTOGRAPHY?
I have recently joined as an on-call firefighter for Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service. The role had interested me for a while, but I could never find a way to get it to work around rowing. The most prominent aspect of the elite sports lifestyle that I missed was the camaraderie and teamwork that rowing gave me. Joining the fire service has given me that aspect of life back again. It is great to be in a close-knit team learning new skills that could save somebody’s life one day.
ANY ADVICE TO ATHLETES STILL TRAINING?
My advice to the athletes is to focus hard on your training. It is very easy to go through the motions each day and tick the boxes, especially when it gets hard. We are fortunate that at Leander, we have everything on a plate, and it is easy to slip into this mindset. Be proactive in your approach to training. Pick the sessions you are going to attack and pick the sessions you are going to be conservative with. Make sure you recover properly between sessions with lots of sleep and decent food. Use spare time to explore hobbies and interests that you might have and start thinking about what you might be interested in after you stop rowing
Olympic Gold medallist Alex Gregory shares what’s important
Alex Gregory retired from rowing after the Rio Olympics and published his first book ‘Dadventures’ in 2018. Alex explains how the book came about.
What is it that we remember most about our childhood? “I remember disappearing off across the fields all day, kids don’t do that now”. It’s a sentence I hear all the time, of course, it’s not strictly true, some do, but certainly not as many as when we were kids or when our parents were young. Dadventures is a guide for parents, grandparents or carers of young children, born from the realisation that it’s now not so common to know about out-door pursuits that were once widely enjoyed. It’s a book for people who have slipped into the routine of busy, working lives, who have fallen into the trap of finding screens the answer to the hectic home life.
I’m not advocating the total removal of screens! Our children need to be able to navigate this connected world, it’s a skill and an understanding that is becoming ever more important, but I think they also need to continue to be in touch with the natural world as that is something we’re losing.
The motivation to write Dadventures came from a number of different areas. I have written about the things I loved to do as a child and things we love to do as a family now. As the parents of three young children, time is not always our friend. It’s impossible to devote all our time to all of them, so it’s the quality of time that I believe really counts. Having sadly missed two of my three children’s births during my rowing career, time together has become something truly important to us.
Finally, while floating somewhere in the Arctic ocean in the middle of a storm, many days away from anywhere in any direction, certain death if we were to capsize our tiny ocean rowing boat I was curled up, wet through in the three-foot by three-foot cabin. I wrote a final message to my family on my phone just in case we didn’t make it. I realised then that my kids didn’t care if I was being a brave Arctic explorer doing something that no one had ever done before, they didn’t care about records or personal discovery, all they cared about was time at home with me, having a bike ride, camping in the garden or cooking marshmallows over the fire. The most precious thing we have is time, and with young children that beautiful time is finite.
Thankfully I made it back home safely with my fellow crewmates. We had a risky but wonderful expedition across the Arctic ocean with some stories to tell and records to note, but any time I have now, I know I must spend on smaller adventures that will create happy lasting memories with my children – Dadventures!
I’ve divided the book into 8 chapters, each based on a different amount of time. From after school activities to overnight expeditions, hopefully, there’s something for everyone there. The point about the book is not that every activity has to be done perfectly, or even to completion, but it’s about giving people the helping hand they may need to get outside with a purpose. That initial purpose can change, be adapted, altered or forgotten, but by that point, they have spent time together in hopefully memorable ways!
Dadventures is published by HarperCollins and is available in bookshops and online