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Athletes transition

How do athletes transition from sport and what can you learn from them?

February 23, 2024

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Host of The Drive Phase, James Moore, had the chance to speak to athletes from across the sports arena last year. He was joined by English Rugby Union player Ollie Phillips, who discussed his journey to entrepreneurship with Optimist Performance.

Suffering setbacks is a core part of Laura Gallagher’s journey, her story is one of resilience, where she found her passion for trampolining again through athlete mentorship. Former Scottish Premier League player Conrad Balatoni, honed his skill set in the financial sector, swapping the jersey for a suit as a wealth manager for SJP Wealth Management.

How do athletes transition into the world of work? Read on to find out…


Riding the high of success with Ollie Philips

Ollie Philips, a former England 7s Rugby pro, dived headfirst into competition, and sibling rivalry was his first taste. Despite coming up short in playful games against his brother, very quickly his academic and physical prowess had him in the limelight.

Optimist Performance

A 14-year professional career saw him Captain the England team at three World Series Cups, with his sights set firmly on Rio. In 2014, an injury took him out of the game whilst still riding the high of competing at such a high level. This would become his journey to developing Optimist Performance, a corporate team-building consultancy.

“Everyone told me that I was done… I was desperate for the validation that being a successful rugby player brought…The founders of The Clipper Round the World Race got in touch with me and asked if I’d be an ambassador. So, I left, not really believing that this was the end of my career, to sail around the world.”


Meeting a senior partner at PwC whilst on the last leg, he saw in him a powerful need to be part of a team. He eventually went to work for PwC, but there he discovered something about his own journey. That energy for teamwork and collaboration can work just as well on the field as it can in the corporate world. And Optimist Performance was born.


Finding your direction with Conrad Balatoni

Fresh out of school, Conrad excelled at the club level for young boys, breezing past his competition. Joining the Scottish Premier League, he fulfilled his dream of being a professional footballer, like few do. At just 27, as lucrative contracts dried up, he was left considering his future.

“I always knew that I’d make it as a footballer. I probably didn’t work as hard at school, which I definitely regret because deep down, I felt I was too good not to make it as a footballer. But when my career ended, I was left thinking about my next move, whether I should go back to school for example.”


Conrad had always been pretty good with numbers. It didn’t take a genius to realise that a 50% pay cut from the teams he was being offered contracts, wasn’t going to pay the mortgage. He realised that he’d had a knack for looking after money and making investments. But what path would he take to get there?

With his family (especially his mum, who worked in the mortgage sector), he knew he didn’t want to go back to university. At his heart, he was a person who needed to get something done. Learn on the job. That’s when he was introduced to the SJP Wealth Management Academy, a place where many former athletes had found their home.


Athlete Transition


Becoming a mentor with Laura Gallagher

Laura Gallagher had a pretty sporty start to life. Starting at the local leisure centre, she trained in gymnastics and swimming before eventually spying the trampoline. Eventually, she’d go on to become junior champion, becoming a national squad member for more than 15 years.

“I didn’t start out with the goal of going to the Olympics. I moved clubs to begin competing because Trampolining only became an Olympic sport in 2000. When I started travelling for competitions, it wasn’t for the Olympics. That dream developed over time.”


Not one to rest on her laurels, she studied psychology and worked in an alternative education provision for young people. As the pressures of training mounted, she needed something that what fit into that bid to compete internationally. That’s where she found athlete mentorship at both the Kelly Holmes Trust and Switch the Play.

The path wasn’t particularly straightforward. She struggled with her mental health, finding her way back to trampolining after a brief hiatus. Finding it difficult to transition from being a junior to an adult competitor, taking some time out to figure out what her passion for the sport was again became her strength.

The Drive Phase is the premier podcast in sports, fitness and the activities sector. We cover everything from athletes and sports people to entrepreneurs and founders across the world. Our mission? To bring you the voices of change in a multi-faceted sector.

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