Good Practice: Career opportunities for Retired Paralympic Athletes

Providing Career Opportunities to Retired Paralympic Athletes: Trainers Paralímpicos

Organisation    ONCE Foundation
Country Spain
Short description The main objectives of the programme include:
  • To provide a career opportunity to Paralympic athletes who have retired or will soon retire from elite competitive sport, facilitating their transition to the labour market, thus tackling the low employability of this group despite their education, since after competing as a full-time job, they are older than other job seekers and have less or none working experience.
  • To provide training to former professional Paralympic athletes to improve their communication skills and work as speakers and event facilitators, given their capacity to raise awareness and transmit values to society.
  • To promote entrepreneurship among participants (hereinafter referred to as “Trainers”), fostering their proactive attitude, their individual responsibility and their involvement with the group as a collective project. 
  • To become a driver for the transmission of the values of disability and high-performance sport to society.
Co-productive activities “Paralympic Trainers” is an entrepreneurship project for former professional Paralympic athletes to work as speakers and event facilitators. The project provides the athletes with training, support and counselling. After their training period, the athletes work as entrepreneurs under the brand “Paralympic Trainers”.

The “Trainers” work as entrepreneurs, bidding to services, designing their events, arranging their logistics, and promoting the project. They take, however, advantage of group work, a centralised management, expert support and counselling from the management team, and the reputation of the ONCE Foundation. 
The process is as follows:
  1. The management team receives the requests (directly, or indirectly through the athletes themselves), and includes them in an internal events calendar.
  2. The “Trainers” apply for the services, submitting a proposal.
  3. The allocation is made on the basis of the suitability of the proposal, clients’ preferences, geographical/emotional proximity, required specific knowledge and competences (tailored services), social/institutional interest...
  4. After the allocation, the client and the “Trainers” are put in contact, so that the “Trainers” can obtain the client’s needs, key messages, values, etc.
  5. The “Trainers” design and prepare tailored/customized sessions according to the needs of the clients.
  6. The “Trainers” organize and arrange their logistics (transport, accommodation, etc.)
  7. It is the ONCE Foundation who invoices to the client, and the “Trainers” invoice individually to the ONCE Foundation for their professional services, except for a small amount the ONCE Foundation will allocate to cover the project regular expenses (uniforms, website, merchandising, sign language interpretation…). 

The management team (from the ONCE Foundation and the Spanish Paralympic Committee) are in charge of the co-ordination of the activities, finances, marketing, quality control, communication, as well as training activities. The “Trainers” also contribute to the promotion of “Paralympic Trainers” through social media and media presence.

Finally, the management team and the “Trainers” meet periodically to make decisions related to the business model (fees, etc.)

Underlying theories Innovation and continuous training are the basis for excellence. 
Direct impact    
  • Presentation of the project on the Spanish state-owned public television broadcaster (TVE). 
  • Participation in 51 events since its introduction in May 2015 (with around 4500 attendants) and 20 more events planned for the next 2 months.
  • Numerous interviews and media presence, at national level, but also at regional and local level (areas where participants were born or where they live).
  • 1079 followers on Twitter and 1253 followers on Facebook
  • Participation of two of the “Trainers” to the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, one as sport commentator for the Spanish broadcaster and the other as part of the Spanish communications team covering the Games.
  • Firm commitment by most of the participants: some of them quit their previous jobs to get involved in the Paralympic Trainers programme as full-time job and some do self-promotion activities (events, contacts with clients, social-media activity)
  • Solidarity actions: supporting communication campaigns related to disability or launched by disability organizations, and providing pro-bono services. 
Conclusions and results
  • The firm commitment of the athletes is key to the success of the project.
  • Each “Trainer” has value in himself/herself, but the group generates even more value (support from the management team, support and help to one another, compensating one weaknesses with other’s strengths, learning from colleagues).
  • A centralized management by an impartial team provides objectivity, equal opportunities to all “Trainers”, harmony and balance. 
  • Meeting the needs of the clients with a tailored service and taking into account their feedback is essential. 
  • The importance of a continuous training program, keeping up with new trends and techniques in communication and facilitation. 


  • Growth of the project in spite of the lack of commercial/advertising campaigns.
  • Dependence on external funding to cover those expenses not covered yet by the activity.
  • Keeping communication skills updated. 
and Milestones
The project was officially presented in 2015 and has been exponentially growing ever since. It is an ongoing project and, given its success, it is expected to be in place for a long time, also taking advantage of the potential for including new participants after the end of each Paralympic cycle. 

Development path:
2012: Design of the programme for former athletes within the framework of an agreement signed by the ONCE Foundation (as promoter), the Spanish Paralympic Committee and the Spanish High Council for Sport.

  • Definition of group and individual plans/programmes
  • Selection of athletes basing on their capabilities and potential
  • Training sessions to improve their communication skills

2014: Specialisation and continuous improvement of their skills through training and practical experience


  • Official presentation and promotion of the programme to companies, associations, organizations, public administrations...
  • Spread of the programme, growing and improving according to experience.
  • Continuous training on communication skills
  • Specific training on entrepreneurship


  • Start of the process of selection of a new group of athletes after the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
  • Continuous training
Contact/More information Head of Grants and Employment Programs - Sabina Lobato:  
More information at: (Spanish)