I have started to interview past athletes to discover their insights on Life Beyond Elite Sport. In particular, they are being asked how they made the transitions beyond elite sport. Today, we are lucky enough to have Alex Wallace.
Life Beyond Elite Sport Interview – Alex Wallace
Founder of the Mintridge Foundation. Click here to read more about the Mintridge Foundation.
Share with us a bit about your self (i.e. your background, where you grew up and where you are now).
Alex Wallace is the Founder and Managing Director of the Mintridge Foundation. Established in 2015, Mintridge has worked with over 50,000 young people. She grew up in rural Northamptonshire to a family of avid sports fans. At the age of six, Alex picked up a hockey stick, fell in love with the game and immediately made her goal to play for England. I missed out on getting into the England team at the final stage and then had a huge crash of confidence and felt my identity was under threat. I really struggled with what I perceived as failure. All I needed was someone to tell me that I deserved to be there.
Alex was awarded the 2018 Sunday Times Sportswomen of the Year in the Grassroots Category, the Women of the Future Sport Award in 2017 alongside Dr Sarah Leiter and she is an Associate Fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society. You can read more here.
What age did you finish playing hockey?
I still play many sports today but I came away from the talent pathway in hockey at the age of 16.
Did you choose to retire or not?
Mentally, I wasn’t prepared for a career in elite sport and therefore the decision was made for me at the time.
What was your best sporting performance?
Vice Captaining the East of England alongside some of my greatest friends was incredible – I was at my happiest and I loved the privilege of a Leadership role.
What are you most proud of doing in your life up until now?
My proudest achievement is receiving the Sunday Times Sportswomen of the Year Award in the grass roots category for the work we have achieved at the Mintridge Foundation. To share the stage with Dina Asher Smith (the fastest British woman in history) European & World Champion, was definitely a “PINCH ME” moment.
Dina Asher-Smith currently holds British records in the 100m (10.83 secs), 200m (21.88 secs) and 4x100m (41.77 secs); British Junior records in the 100m (11.14 secs) and 200m (22.61 secs) and the European Junior Indoor record in the 200m (23.15 secs). She is also the world’s fastest teenager ever over 60m and 200m.
Who are the mentors that have inspired you and what important lessons have you learnt from them?
Mr Kinder – My history teacher at Gresham’s School took so much care for every individual in his class and he ensured that he captured everyone’s imagination with unique and fun lessons rather than sticking to the “norm”. I liked history before, but Mr Kinder made me love it. He made you want to work hard for him and proved that you get out what you put in. I try to take this philosophy into creating bespoke mentoring programmes with Mintridge.
Jeni Hodgkiss – Jeni was my line manager in my first “real job” and her meticulous and proactive nature to her work was infectious and these “Jeni-isms” are definitely instilled in me to this day. I am grateful for the care that she took for me and I hope that I have taken these qualities to people that I manage.
Has there ever been times you have questioned yourself and your purpose? If so, what got you through?
Shortly after not being selected for the England U16 Hockey Squad, I questioned by identity and purpose, I was Alex the hockey player and my biggest love (hockey) had become my worst enemy. I was playing now because I had to and not because I wanted to. I gradually reduced the amount I was playing and I really struggled with my identity. The Mintridge Foundation has helped me heal, we have created a support network that was needed when I was growing up.
Is there a significant quote or saying by which you live your life by? If so, what is it?
“Find something that is more important than you and devote your life to it.” Pinky Lilani, Founder of the Women of the Future Programme. I had a very negative experience with the end of my hockey career but I hope from this one experience, I can positively impact the lives of so many more.
What was the most important lesson you learnt from being an athlete?
Absolute dogged tenacity can help you achieve anything – sporting or otherwise.
What do you wish you did more of when you were competing?
I know what I wish I did less of, and that is worrying and fearing failure. I wish I enjoyed the journey so much more and embraced my talent more rather than feeling like an imposter at trials.
What are your top 3 tips for making the transition to life beyond elite sport?
- Preparing for transition while you are still competing by looking at a number of different avenues.
- Ensuring that your identity to yourself and to others isn’t “Alex the hockey player” – there is more to you than just your sport.
- Creating a support network with other athletes & those around you.
Over to You…
I hope this has given you some insight from a past athlete who competed in elite sport and has made the transition process. Thanks Alex for sharing your insights and congratulations on where you are in your life today! You can connect with Alex here.
If you have any questions, please let me know or leave a comment below.