Life during and after sport

For most elite athletes, life is not all gold medals, lucrative endorsements and shaking hands with celebrities. It is also grueling training schedules and dealing with disappointments. While there are occasional highs and even more adrenaline buzzes, athletes often make significant personal sacrifices in their quest for glory.

These can include substantial financial burdens, relocating from family to train at full-time academies, forgoing personal or romantic relationships and missing out on educational or career opportunities. And regardless of whether they achieve Olympic or Paralympic Games success, all athletic careers eventually end due to age, injury, or sheer exhaustion. This inevitability raises an important question: What lies ahead in the remainder of their lives? 

“I occasionally complain about the demands of juggling a full-time job with my training schedule, which barely leaves time for family and friends,” shares Ian Seidenfeld. “Whenever I do, my dad has a way of bringing me back to earth with reminders like, 'At least you don’t have to cover your travel expenses.’”

Ian represented the United States at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, clinching a men’s table tennis gold medal. He followed in the remarkable footsteps of his father. Mitchell Seidenfeld won gold in the same event at the Barcelona 1992 Paralympic Games and currently coaches the USA Table Tennis Team.

Reflecting on his experiences, Ian notes, "The demands are high, but I’m fortunate to have a supportive and challenging job that allows me to continue chasing my athletic dreams. My father faced constant financial pressure, had to finance his own travels and took unpaid time off to compete for his country. I am fortunate in comparison."

Ian works for Allianz Life in Minnesota on an exchange-traded fund (ETF) team. He is part of the Team Allianz initiative, which aims to support athletes in maximizing their lives both during and after their sporting careers. He is also considered a strong medal prospect for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.

The photograph of Ian Philip Seidenfeld playing Table Tennis

Allianz has been a partner of the Paralympic Movement since 2006. Allianz started “TeamAllianz”, a program focused on Olympic and Paralympic athletes, which gained significant momentum in 2021 when Allianz became the worldwide insurance partner for the Olympic and Paralympic Movements.

"As part of this partnership, we are committed to care for athletes and their unmet needs," explains Eike Bürgel, Global Head of Olympic & Paralympic Program at Allianz. The International Olympic Committee highlighted the financial struggles faced by many athletes during and after their competitive years, a concern that Allianz aimed to help address.

The life of an elite athlete is far from the typical 9-to-5 job; it's all-encompassing. Athletes often tailor every aspect of their lives to optimize performance, from diet to their social activities, travel, and training schedules. When their athletic career ends, it can feel as though their entire existence has halted. No longer identified primarily as athletes, many struggle, leading to vulnerability to depression and other challenges as they attempt to forge a new path.

“Our commitment turns into reality by providing career support for athletes and Para athletes," explains Nadja Gruber, Lead for the Olympic & Paralympic Partnership “People Pillar”. The Athlete Hiring Initiative was launched in 2021, and an Allianz Athlete Career Conference was held in 2022. That conference was the first where a top partner of the Olympic and Paralympic Movements organized a career event for athletes and Para athletes worldwide.

 Afterwards, a Talent Pool was created where active and retired athletes and Para athletes can register interest in pursuing a career at Allianz on careers.allianz.com, outside the competitive sports arena. While Olympic or Paralympic Games experience is not a prerequisite, participants must have competed at the national level in their sport.

Allianz's recruiters then assist athletes in finding employment that aligns with their skills and mindset. Members of the Talent Pool also gain access to courses for learning and career development. This was how Ian Seidenfeld found his way to Allianz. After completing a double major in finance and entrepreneurial management at the University of Minnesota, the 22-year-old initially approached Allianz looking for sponsorship.

"I stumbled upon this program, which turned out to be a perfect fit," Ian recalls laughing. His journey through the Athlete Hiring Initiative has enabled him to balance his sporting ambitions with a budding career in finance. Ian participated the Athlete Career Conference and became part of the Talent pool. Following this, he found a position at Allianz Life US. Later, he became part of the Team Allianz athletes.

Ian speaks highly of the Allianz program. “It is not just about the program’s supportive conditions and the study opportunities provided to advance careers, but also the incredible support I receive from my coworkers. They are always interested and understanding and go above and beyond what you can expect in their support.”

Today, Allianz employs 37 people through the program in diverse functions like marketing, sales, HR, legal, claims, consulting and more. These athletes are welcomed and supported by their respective departments, spread across the globe, including in Australia, France and the United Kingdom.  This distribution highlights the extensive reach of the program and its success in integrating athletes into significant roles within the company.

Among the athletes are Gündem Emine Intepe from Turkey, a Para fencer and swimmer, now specializing as an HR data analytics and processes specialist, and Djamal Hamache from France, a Paralympic wheelchair basketball player who works as a product manager for personal insurance. Their transition into these roles showcases the adaptability and skills of the athletes and Allianz's commitment to providing meaningful career paths post-sports.

The photograph of an employee looking out through the office window

In addition to integrating athletes into traditional corporate roles, Allianz has tapped into the experiences and profiles of athletes like Lobke Berkhout, a retired Dutch Olympic sailor, and Sherif Osman, an Egyptian Paralympic powerlifter, by appointing them as Brand Ambassadors. These collaborations harness the high-profile and leadership skills of athletes. Sherif is also employed at Allianz Egypt.

As Brand Ambassadors, Lobke and Sherif primarily represent Allianz in the sports world, including being booked to deliver motivational speeches and participating in meet-and-greet events. They can also engage in sessions with Allianz employees that include workout sessions contributing to the physical and mental health of employees and enhancing the overall wellness of the workforce.  

Another aspect is the Buddy Program, where an athlete teams up with a group of Allianz employees. Over the course of the program the athlete takes over the role of a mentor by sharing his or her experience.

Allianz's Buddy Program is a critical component of the athlete support initiatives. In this program, athletes are paired with a group of company employees and gradually assume the role of mentors, sharing their rich experiences and the soft skills gained through years of competitive sports. 

Nadja explains that the Buddy Program is a “win-win” for all involved. “Employees can be inspired by the athlete’s experiences on topics such as time management, mental health, motivation and focus. Athletes can train their speaking skills, connect to the business world, and be paid for their engagement as a ‘buddy’.” 

“I believe athletes have many skills to share. During your career, you need to be passionate, incredibly focused, positive and mentally tough to overcome disappointments,” highlights Andra Mihkelson, executive assistant to the Allianz Technology CFO. She is a volunteer in the Buddy Program. As Allianz believes in athletes' skills and mindset, we olympisize our talent communication by featuring TeamAllianz athlete ambassadors on the internal HR platform, job ads on the global job market, global career website and many other touchpoints with current and future employees.

Andra brings a wealth of experience from her time as the captain of the Estonian national pentathlon team. She clinched a gold medal at the Estonian national championships and demonstrated remarkable leadership before retiring at the young age of 21 due to injuries.  

Her journey displays the adaptability and resilience of athletes in overcoming challenges. After injuries halted her sporting career, her teamwork, communication, time management, and self-discipline skills proved invaluable as she navigated her recovery and transitioned into new opportunities. She completed a Master of Science at the Technical University of Munich and prepared for a new career outside of athletics.

Although Andra did not enter Allianz through the Athlete Hiring Initiative, the Allianz partnership with the Olympic and Paralympic Movements was a factor that helped her decide to join Allianz when confronted with several career options.

“Anything that can help prepare athletes for meaningful career pathway is to be applauded,” Andra states. “But it is important to note that it not only aids in their transition but can enrich the workplaces and communities that they join.”

Her insight emphasizes the dual benefit of career programs for athletes: they provide crucial support for individuals transitioning out of sports and simultaneously enrich the broader work environment with diverse, highly skilled contributors.

Currently, 165 athletes and Para athletes worldwide are involved in the Team Allianz program.

The Allianz Group is one of the world's leading insurers and asset managers with around 125 million* private and corporate customers in nearly 70 countries. Allianz customers benefit from a broad range of personal and corporate insurance services, ranging from property, life and health insurance to assistance services to credit insurance and global business insurance. Allianz is one of the world’s largest investors, managing around 746 billion euros** on behalf of its insurance customers. Furthermore, our asset managers PIMCO and Allianz Global Investors manage about 1.8 trillion euros** of third-party assets. Thanks to our systematic integration of ecological and social criteria in our business processes and investment decisions, we are among the leaders in the insurance industry in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. In 2023, over 157,000 employees achieved total business volume of 161.7 billion euros and an operating profit of 14.7 billion euros for the group.
* Including non-consolidated entities with Allianz customers.
** As of March 31, 2024.
As with all content published on this site, these statements are subject to our cautionary note regarding forward-looking statements:
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Life during and after sport

The life of an elite athlete is far from the typical 9-to-5 job. Many work full-time while juggling training, and when an athletic career ends, it can be a struggle to forge a new path. This is why Allianz started “TeamAllianz”, a program focused on supporting Olympic and Paralympic athletes in their careers after sport. Ian Seidenfeld, an American Para table tennis athlete and TeamAllianz member shares his personal experience in this article.

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