The U.S. Olympic Training Center brought race walker Carl Schueler to Colorado Springs in the early 1980s. Flexible employers kept him here.
“I wanted to work. Frankly, I needed to work,” said Schueler, now the city’s comprehensive planning manager. “I started back in 1983 and haven’t left. A job did not get me here, but what kept me here was the career opportunities.”
City officials want to repeat such successes by partnering with the U.S. Olympic Committee to find flexible city jobs for Olympians and Team USA athletes.
The athletes could earn money, learn skills and make professional contacts while providing the city with disciplined, goal-oriented and coachable employees, said Dani Manning, a USOC athlete career coach.
The committee has worked for years to find flexible jobs for athletes, but the partnership with the city will dramatically accelerate those efforts, Manning said.
And by getting appropriate jobs, Olympians can prepare for their future careers, which can be a difficult and daunting task.
“If you say, ‘What do you want to do post-sport,’ that’s a really intimidating question,” Manning said. “They’ll say, ‘The Olympics.’”
About 200 athletes live at the Training Center, and many more in the city are in varying stages of retirement, said Leslie Klein, who directs the USOC Athlete Career and Education program.
Bobby Lee, a national judo champion and retired Team USA athlete, recently was hired to maintain the grounds at the city’s Valley Hi Golf Course and has excelled in his duties, Klein said.
“I love it so far,” Lee said Tuesday morning at the golf course. “It’s beautiful here. The view is awesome.”
And because he was hired through the Athlete Career and Education program, his city supervisors understand his unusual scheduling needs.
“It’s a big weight off your shoulders,” Lee said. “They kind of lessen the blow to the boss for you and explain that, ‘He’s not going to be here all the time.’”
Professional athletes’ educational attainment ranges from high school diplomas to degrees from Harvard or Princeton, Manning said, so jobs for them vary from health care, sales and retail to communications and marketing.
“Flexible means, ‘I might be in Europe for three weeks. Will I still have a job?’ Remote and project-based jobs are always dream jobs,” she said.
Schueler said he was fortunate to find jobs that allowed him to work half days while he was training. Those opportunities helped the Olympian immediately as an athlete and later as a professional.
“I didn’t have much job experience, but because they were flexible with what they did, I could get experience, professional experience, and have time to train and travel the world,” he said.
While city officials work with the USOC to alert athletes to their opportunities, the same jobs also will be open to anyone else who wants to apply, said Mike Sullivan, city human resources director.
The city’s unemployment rate fell to 3.1 percent in May, one of the lowest rates in 30 years.
But 9,200 jobs were available in the Pikes Peak region Tuesday, said Becca Tonn, spokeswoman for the Pikes Peak Workforce Center. So the city-USOC partnership likely won’t have much effect on other job-seekers.
“It’s a great opportunity for everybody,” Tonn said. “There’s room for job seekers, Olympians and non-Olympians, to find employment in the current climate.”