COMPANIES MUST RECOGNISE THE TALENT AND WORK OF ATHLETES AND INCORPORATE THEM INTO THE WORKPLACE

​Maikel Núñez, coach assistant of the senior male team of Club Handbol Sant Cugat (1st National League – Spain) and head coach of the B senior team, and Iñaki Zurbano, father and board member of CH Sant Cugat, discuss in an interview with SantCugatCreix their impressions of the online course offered by the SCORES project (Development of Skills and Competencies in Employment through Sport).

This online training course aimed at athletes and coaches has already started in Catalonia, through SantCugatCreix and the Club Natació Banyoles, with the participation of the five clubs that are part of the association: the Patí Hoquei Club Sant Cugat, the Club Volleyball Sant Cugat, the Club de Rugby Sant Cugat, the Junior FC and the Club Handbol Sant Cugat.

For those people who don’t know how the SCORES online course works, why is it useful?

Maikel Núñez: As a coach, I see the day-to-day life of the players. I find it a powerful tool to address the concerns they have regarding work, sport and professional life. They are worried about the work environment and their studies, and work begins to take over the sports practice. I think it is a powerful tool to guide and help them to make their career dual, so that their physical activity and their working life can be compatible.

Iñaki Zurbano: It is useful because it provides coaches and players with the tools they need to manage their sporting career and their studies, which will lead them to their working life. It helps them to make this transition between their sporting situation and their labour life, providing them with the keys that will allow them to manage this transition.

What exactly is this online course about, in practical terms?

Maikel Núñez: It is an online course with theoretical content in English. From the second module onwards, the content goes beyond that, because there are a series of dynamics, group and block work and practical exercises. Furthermore, they are not only applicable to the course but also to real life. Sporting-wise, it applies to group dynamics as a way of personal growth and development. It is an enjoyable and fascinating course.

Iñaki Zurbano: The structure of the course is incredibly complete. At the beginning of the studies, it can be intense because you have to be attentive and read in English. However, once you get past this first phase, it gives you a lot of incredible tools with a huge potential to awaken the knowledge of the abilities that the coach and the players have. It helps you to discover your strengths and where you can contribute to that experience and knowledge in one area or another. What you know how to do in the sport and what you can apply to your studies, and vice versa, what you know how to do in your studies that you can apply to sport. This exercise of experimentation and research is an exercise called 360, in which you assess yourself, but you also ask other people to assess you. Then you compare the results. It’s a powerful exercise in internalisation. It’s really good!

What have you found most surprising about the course?

Maikel Núñez: I have been amazed by the number of tools that you get through the course to improve, not only the dual-career but, above all, so that I, as a coach, can have the tools to encourage these concerns also to my players. I already considered myself an important element in the players’ lives, but the course made me realise that I am a reference for them not only in the sports field but in their personal lives. I have seen myself reflected in the players many times: I have had a hard time combining my sporting and working life. And they have this concern. And the course surprises me very positively in this sense, that the players themselves are the ones who recognise that the coach is an important element, not only on the field but also in their day-to-day life and their future choices.

Iñaki Zurbano: There is a moment in the training course when you listen to interviews with athletes. They make a lot of reference to what we knew would be the pillars of athletes. For instance, the coach. The coach is a key figure, a reference to the players. But then, when they asked the players who had been the person who had helped them most in their dual career, many of them mentioned their mother or their father, and this is one of the things that struck me because, in the approach to the course, there is still no mention of families. And this is one of the feedbacks that I have given to the team that manages this course. I, who am neither a sportsman nor a coach, but a father and manager of the Sant Cugat Handball Club, find these tools very useful for families. In the upcoming editions, it would be necessary to make it available to the families.

Several studies show that only 3% of athletes end up working as such. Does the course address this?

Maikel Núñez: Yes, the course points out that only 3% of sports players end up making a living from the sport. It also emphasises that companies should value the abilities of athletes and incorporate them into the labour world. It is also essential that companies become involved and hire profiles such as the athlete to make this 3% higher. It is difficult for this figure to increase if all the components that shape a player’s life do not go hand in hand. It is complicated and there is a lot of competition.

A player’s career in sport is short and, in other countries, there is more of a working sports culture, but in Spain I am very used to seeing a lot of players dropping out at an age when they can still be elite athletes and have a working career, leaving their sporting career to one side. And this is a problem for sports clubs because increasingly a player’s sporting life is shorter and we need it to be longer and longer and more compatible with working life. Moreover, once the sports career is over, and within the working career, this athlete can continue to be active in the club, as a coach, physical trainer, physiotherapist or manager.

Iñaki Zurbano: It mentions different figures. One of them is the figure that only 3% of athletes end up working as such. The other one is about the number of elite players who drop out of the sport after the Olympic Games. I think they talked about 100,000 athletes, which seems to me to be an exaggerated figure. So much preparation for an Olympics, which happens once every four years, and there is this huge loss of capacity and talent among athletes.

What the course encourages is that you don’t have to give up either of the two options, you have to follow an elite sporting career if you can, and studies that will allow you to continue afterwards. In our clubs, we do not have this potential of elite players because we are also modest clubs, but even so, it is still perfectly valid because it is easy to abandon your studies to focus on sport, which is very comfortable, it is very physical, and you don’t need to think.

But what players don’t see is that the same effort you’re putting into learning technique or something else is the same motivation you can have to develop yourself in your studies and to take up a career. And when you manage to carry both together, the subsequent step into professional life is much easier. And this is one of the things that is constantly repeated in the course: it’s not about choosing one thing or the other, it’s about combining the two.

The course is aimed at sportspeople and coaches. As a manager, what made you want to do it?

Iñaki Zurbano: I like the subject matter. I have two sons playing for the Sant Cugat Handball Club and I think it is important to promote their development. Because of my job and the role I play in my company, I am familiar with this type of dynamics that we can call soft skills, and I knew it would be interesting. I wanted to see how it was approached from a sporting perspective because I know how it is approached from a business perspective, how we look for talent, and I wanted to see how this search for skills was approached in the world of sport.

You are a coach.

Maikel Núñez: I believe that a coach always has to be training in any subject. We’re not professionals, I’d like to be one to have four coaches, a physiotherapist, a physical trainer, three observers, psychologists, managers, etc. But luckily or unfortunately, in Spain, we have to do everything: coaches, psychologists, drivers, equipment managers, etc. With the courses that I have done in coaching (I have Level 3 in handball) I think that in the sporting field they are very well focused, but we always need something more, in the field of marketing, business, training, psychology, accompaniment… Gathering information from different positions should be very important.

How long did you take to complete this course?

Maikel Núñez: When I started it, it was difficult because it was hard to get the hang of it. The programme is taught in English, the texts are very dense and, apart from that, the vocabulary is quite specific. At first, it seems very heavy, but then you get hooked on it. When you get to units 2 and 3, everything is practical, with reflective exercises and looking for work tools that allow us to grow and work in groups, with individual skills. Everything works through videos and links to YouTube. It is a useful and enjoyable course to take. The fact that it is structured by units allows you to do it little by little.

Iñaki Zurbano: In each module, they recommend a certain number of hours and, if you count them up, it’s about 20 hours to do it calmly, but you can spend between 12 and 15 hours. The best way is to take it in blocks. It is not a difficult course. Like all courses that have to do with personal skills, it requires a lot of reflection and, therefore, you have to be willing to expose and assess yourself: if I speak well enough, if I can communicate with others, if I am good at making friends, if I am good at planning, if I manage crises well, if I can prioritise. If you are willing to learn, it is a quick course to take.

A course that has a certificate (qualification).

Maikel Núñez: This is the missing piece of the cake. We have not been able to complete the final part of the course because of the pandemic situation in which we find ourselves, but we believe it is the most important. I am convinced that there is a lot of talent in the field of sport that could be applicable in the world of work and that, perhaps due to a lack of creating networks of companies, contacts and flow of information and people, it allows us to finish the process. I am a trainer and I like to train constantly, it is an area in which I have never been trained and the fact of being able to obtain a certification that can open doors to the world of work is always positive.

Iñaki Zurbano: The SCORES team is working on how to certify this qualification, but yes, the aim is for both coaches and players to be able to access this certificate at the end of the course, but above all, the aim is that it provides a step towards entering certain forums, which is the part of the course taken in the last module, but which, unfortunately, due to the pandemic, is impossible to achieve. It is important to complete it by finding the network of companies interested in receiving these profiles. Companies know that once athletes are in the workplace, the skills they have developed are useful for them. And this final step in networking is the one that needs to be worked on with a forward-looking approach. It is the perfect complement.

 

TEXT AND IMAGE: Àlex López Puig and Oriol Escudé

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