After placing fourth with the French Olympic synchronized swimming team at the Sydney Games in 2000, Lyon-born Myriam Glez was forced to choose between training for the next Summer Games in Athens or going to business school.
“I definitely wanted to do both, but it wasn’t an option at the time,” says Glez, who ended up retiring from the sport she loved to pursue her MBA. “I really had no idea that I would compete again.”
But eight years later, she was back in the pool competing for the Australian team at the Beijing Summer Olympics. The team placed seventh, but Glez felt victorious about her finish.
“The first time I had retired, I really didn’t choose to retire,” says Glez, who turns 40 this year. “So this was a very positive experience, an opportunity basically to go back to the sport on my own terms … enjoy every minute of it and be able to compete one more time at the highest level and by choice.”
Now, after a stint as USA Synchro’s executive director, Glez leads the Marina del Rey-based nonprofit Athletes Soul, which helps high-level athletes prepare for retirement and transition away from the world of sports on their own terms with the help of coaches who’ve been there.
Run by former elite athletes, the organization has helped Olympians, pro football players and elite college athletes plan their second acts and adjust to the rhythms of an ordinary life. This includes adopting a holistic “game plan” for the physical, social and emotional changes that come with leaving a sport and shifting career paths.
“This is what they’ve done their whole life starting very young. They haven’t had a chance to explore anything else. … It’s pretty life-shattering,” says Glez. “They don’t know how to eat. They usually will go cold turkey and not exercise whatsoever. And they don’t know how to organize their days, now that they don’t have a coach telling them what to do.”
“Most athletes will finish on an injury or being deselected [from a team or competition] and often they let that define them,” she continues. “We help them celebrate their career and understand everything they’ve achieved.”
Glez and her co-founders incorporated Athletes Soul as a nonprofit to inspire trust among clients that “this is a genuine endeavor and not one to make a profit from their image or progress,” she explains. Nonprofit status also allows them to offer financial aid, and they are currently planning a fall fundraising gala in the marina.
Glez’s own second act includes enjoying local life with her husband and 10-year-old daughter.
“I ride my bike everywhere,” she says. “There’s a great diversity of culture and people and experiences.”
— Christina Campodonico