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SIGA

SIGA WoW’s 8th episode on life after sport kicks off successfully

The 8th episode of SIGA’s WoW Show displayed 7 inspiring women and their insights on how to prepare for career transitions and understand their power.

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The first edition of SIGA's ‘Women on Wednesdays’ show in 2022 started with a bang on Wednesday, bringing together active and retired professional athletes, as well as a renowned sports psychologist, around a much-needed topic: career transitions in sport.

WoW is an initiative from SIGA, the world’s largest coalition seeking integrity and good governance in sport, that takes place virtually every first Wednesday of the month to tackle, from a female perspective, some of the most fascinating and challenging topics in sport.

Wednesday’s show was the eighth of its kind, dedicated especially to life after sport, highlighting seven different athletes’ experiences, challenges and advice on how to manage a transition to a life different from the one they had as athletes, or how to start thinking about life after sport.

The first two women speakers were two retired athletes, Sonja Petrovic, a Bronze Olympic medalist in Basketball and now Sports Director of Serbia’s Olympic Committee, and Jodie Cunningham, rugby player for England and currently National women and girls' development manager at the Rugby Football League.

The two leaders shared one important thing in common: they each prepared for their career transitions. Petrovic, who traveled the world training and experiencing different cultures, always stayed connected to the outside world and maintained a variety of relationships with people not directly involved in her sport.

I was pretty aware of what was coming next during my career. I kept connected with my studies and finished my uni during my career abroad,” she explained, before adding that after gaining much knowledge and experience on and off the field, and having so many amazing relationships worldwide, she is now “on the front field of being the change” other athletes need.

“Being seen as a professional and getting your voice heard”

Cunningham, who was lucky to see her sport go from being relatively unknown to more popular during her career, also shared her excitement on providing support to other female rugby athletes who need their voice to be heard and to be seen for who they are and what they do. When asked what her biggest challenge was now she has left her playing days behind, the development manager said “being seen as a professional rather than just an athlete. Really getting your voice heard as a professional leader,” is still missing.

Sport Psychologist and former South African national team swimmer Kirsten Van Heerden brought a fascinating perspective to the debate with her expertise as she shed light on how “exciting a transition can be.”

“What is the other dream?”

Van Heerden shared how important it is to keep an eye on the future, and think of something else other than sports. In a nutshell, she explained that athletes’ biggest fear is often what their new dream or purpose would be, and so, “We have to help athletes understand that what they’re doing is amazing, but also “what is the other dream they could have? Transition can be very exciting, and there could be a wonderful life ahead.”

“Passion, hard work and a big smile”

Katie Simmonds, SIGA Global COO, and #SIGAWomen Managing Director also received three Spanish athletes Natalia Pablos, Anni Espar, and Ona Carbonell – invited by SIGA’s media partner Diario AS, which shared WoW live feed on their website.

Ona Carbonell, the International Swimming Federation’s (FINA) most decorated female athlete and two-time Olympian, shared her secret recipe to balancing her career commitment, life challenges, and even raising a family. She said, “doing everything with passion, a lot of hard work and a big, big smile on your face.”

As Ona lit up the show with her smile, she also emphasized how important it is to have more female athletes who are mothers, like herself, to be role models for other women without being afraid to ask for support as needed. She wrapped up her section leaving us all with one important motto:

“Women, we can do everything we want. We can.”

Two-time Water Polo Olympic medalist, Anni Espar, who at 29 is still a committed athlete, shared how working for the Barcelona International Water Polo Academy has helped her think about her future.

“When I was younger, I was focused only on Water Polo, but now I am also thinking about my future. Currently, I am working for BIWPA. What I do is help athletes from all over the world to study and play Water Polo in Barcelona. ”

Spanish former footballer, Natalia Pablos, wrapped up the episode with her wise words:

your future is as important as your sport career.”

Natalia, who was studying and playing football for most of her career, highlighted how important it is for women to never forget about their futures, and to ask for help when they need it. “There is more pressure on women to prepare for a career,” she said. “But all women have to prepare for the future.”

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