On Thursday, the Canadian Olympic Committee launched Game Plan – a comprehensive program designed to look after athletes beyond the arena of competition.
Through extensive consultation the importance of mental health, financial insight and post-athletic careers have been highlighted as areas of concern for those who represent Canada on the global stage. To address their needs, five elements were identified to help athletes as they train and compete to bring immense civic pride to Team Canada fans all over the world.
Using Game Plan, Olympic athletes – and potential Olympians through the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Sport Institute Network – can access resources dealing with career management, mental health, education, skill development and a mentor network.
The importance of total wellness has been highlighted by not just organizations that cater to athletes, but some of Canada’s top performers themselves.
Four time women’s Olympic ice hockey gold medallist Hayley Wickenheiser wrote in an op-ed that a program like Game Plan “couldn’t come soon enough,” drawing on her own heartbreak from the loss of a close friend.
Rosie MacLennan, who brought home Canada’s lone Olympic gold medal from the Games of London 2012 candidly admitted “I went through a pretty hard time and struggled a lot with my own mental health,” in supporting Game Plan.
Other athletes embracing a post-competition phase of their lives, transitioning away from sport to private endeavours will benefit from the resources. “When you decide to retire,” said recently retired Olympic football bronze medallist Karina LeBlanc, “you’re like ‘what am I going to go after, what is next?'”
Fencer Joseph Polossifakis hopes Game Plan will answer the “What am I going to do?” question Canadian Olympians face during and especially toward the end of their careers.
“It’s perfect for young athletes to get into this program right now,” Polossifakis said. “It will actually help them be motivated to plan their future and find balance.”
Also on board to help the Olympic community is the influential human resources firm Morneau Shepell as a mental health partner through 2020.
Additionally, athlete agency Manifesto, a representative for many of Canada’s top Olympians, and the Ivey School of Business at Western University will host workshops in their respective fields of brand and career expertise.
Thursday’s announcement lays bare the fact that physical strength and world beating achievement is often confronted by regular vulnerabilities top athletes, as with all people, face in pursuing lofty goals. In Game Plan, Olympians and future stars have a set of resources at their disposal to help combat more than their opponents.