The challenge of perfecting a rewarding work-life balance is often cited by inter-county players as one of the biggest juggling acts they face. Colm Callanan is a man that speaks from experience when it comes to stepping away from the circus and onto a more fulfilling career path.
And the Galway goalkeeper believes that his moves off the field have laid down a possible professional route that other top-level players may be interested in taking through the Elite Fitness & Performance Academy, which now has a Galway branch offering November courses to become a personal trainer or gym instructor.
Five years ago, Colm found himself pursuing an unsustainable work-play schedule.
He would rise early in the morning for his job as a traffic management safety officer for a civil engineering company, head straight to his work site in Athlone prior to a day of travelling on the road, before finally departing for training in Athenry in the evening.
“I was pretty much on call 24/7,” explains Colm. “I was burning the candle at both ends and it told in my performances and it told in my training. I lost my place in the Galway Championship team that year in 2011.
“It was a tough environment to be working in. It was very demanding and it got to the stage where you wouldn’t even know what day it is and you’d have to go training.
“It just wasn’t conducive to playing inter-county hurling and I knew at that age I only had a few more years to have a right go at it. So I packed in that job, which a few people said at the time was a brave move but a stupid move.”
Colm’s move has turned out to be a wise one, however. He called time on his civil engineering role, eventually opting to study at the Dublin branch of the Elite Fitness & Performance Academy in Blackrock.
After earning his qualifications, he went on to set up Callanan’s FitClub in his native Kinvara, a business that is now thriving. And the move has also complimented his hurling career as Colm returned to the Galway panel late in the 2012 season before reclaiming his starting place.
“I played all of 2014, 2015 and this year - so a lot of that was to do with taking that jump, that leap of faith,” says Colm of his career change. “For the last three years, my time is my own. I can manage my time better.
“Today for example is a training day for the club. I had two classes this morning and I’m home now for the day. I’ll work here for the day, tweaking plans for people, and that’s a lot more conducive to performing on the pitch.
“It’s a total turnaround from what I was doing - being up at seven in the morning, heading straight out on the site and then up and down the road all day,” adds Colm.
So successful has been his professional progression that the Fitness & Performance Academy approached him about setting up a Galway branch, which he has been running in Oranmore.
And Colm is keen to advise other inter-county players to look into the Academy’s courses.
“We have an intake in a few weeks [starting November 1st] for the Elite Academy,” explains Colm.
“We’d be looking for people like myself the way I was three years ago – you’re either looking for a career change or you’re passionate about it and want to get qualifications.
“There are a lot of people out there, they’re stuck in a job or whatever and they would love a change.”
The Elite Fitness & Performance Academy offers fully-accredited Level 3 gym-instructor certification and Level 4 qualifications for those interested in opening their own fitness facilities.
“People kind of go mad looking into courses… It’s really the education that’s delivered on the course that makes a big difference,” says Colm.
“All our tutors are people who are in the business themselves… That’s a big selling point – we’re set up in a gym, not a conference room.”
From his perspective, Colm also made his career leap as he felt it would allow him to give back to his club.
“That was the main driver in doing the course,” he explains. “But just being an inter-county player sometimes people think that automatically means you’re going to be a great coach and often that’s not the case.
“Players might know a lot, but they might not have the confidence to take a group or show people what to do.
“Our programmes and qualifications give them confidence and help tap into the potential and knowledge that they have.
“They can bring that back to their clubs and the knock-on effect would be astronomical in terms of each club and its members. Your reach is huge.”
Central to Colm’s planning for the Galway branch of the Elite Fitness & Performance Academy was the GPA’s Player Development Programme.
The 34-year-old explains: “I went my own route and got everything set up myself [with his gym], but it could have been a lot less stressful had I engaged with the GPA’s services.
“This time, with the Elite Academy, I have done that so I’ve leaned on them for their assistance.
“They’re helping me with a business development coach and plus the social media side of things, building brand awareness and putting out some info about the courses.
“I would say to guys to definitely hook up with the GPA. Chances are there will be something that could help you – in business, life management or whatever it is. I’m sorry I didn’t do it sooner.
“That opportunity is there for many players, but they don’t realise it.”