The balance challenge by: Faith Valencia
Amber Merritt showing her class against Brazil. Photo: Supplied
As a Paralympic athlete, finding a healthy life balance is imperative for a successful career both on and off the field.
Paralympic Basketballer, Amber Merritt said the majority of athletes must find time to work because of insufficient funding, which is difficult because of a lack of time after the training commitments required to compete at the elite level.
“As an Australian representative, especially in the lead up to qualification tournaments for the Olympics, there is very little time for yourself,” Ms Merritt said.
“There ain’t no rest for the wicked.”
Aside from her sporting aspirations, Ms Merritt has to balance working as a waitress at a café and running her online clothing boutique.
“It can be quite difficult to find time for work, however I think it’s so important – when you do look for a job as a para-athlete – that the people you are looking at working for understand where they sit on the scale of priorities,” she said.
“I am very lucky in my situation, my boss and my manager know that sport for me is my number one priority.”
Athletes that focus all of their attention on sport are more likely to burnout, therefore it is crucial to find time for non-sporting endeavours.
“There will come a time if you’re just sport orientated when you will burnout,” Ms Merritt said.
“For me, to be able to be an athlete as well as have a job where I can just go and be myself, go be Amber and serve customers and have a good chat every now and then, is fine.”
Ms Merritt spoke about the reality of everything suddenly halting with nothing to fall back on.
“At some point, there is life after sport and when you’re going through the processes of being an athlete you kind of forget that happens; then when everything stops all of a sudden – for instance, not qualifying for the Paralympics – a lot of girls go ‘Oh shit’,” she said.
“A lot of girls were wondering, what do we now? Some girls quit jobs and some put study on hold.”
It is extremely difficult for para-athletes to make a career out of sport.
Even at the top level, athletes still have to balance work and pull together funds for their sporting pursuits.