She’s the manager behind the medalists, five of the international competing athletes whom we are proud to call our own. Representing sporting superstars Sarah Goss, Kayla Whitelock, Simon van Velthooven, Sarah Cowley, Emily Collins, George Whitelock and Aaron Gate, Kelly Evans, creator of The Athlete Project Agency, is playing to win.
Kelly accompanied four of her athletes as they competed at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. Her team brought home a collection of silver and bronze medals and top ten placings. Experiencing the games in person, with hundreds of thousands of other spectators, was a “completely unimaginable” experience.
“It was the first Games I’d been to, and compared with watching it on TV it just does not match the excitement and the nerves. I sat with the family of each athlete when they competed. You’ve got nerves for them, because there’s been all this training and building up to these moments, and it comes down to sixty seconds, or an hour’s game,” says Kelly.
The people of Scotland were a standout and ensured that the Games were about more than just the competition itself. “Glasgow put on a magnificent show, everyone comments on that as you arrive. They are just so friendly and lovely and the whole country really got in behind the event. Sitting in the different stadiums and venues there would be Scottish families with their kids there and you could really feel the home crowd, but when their people weren’t racing they would cheer on your country next to you. There was just such a great atmosphere.”
It comes down to the people – it’s rewarding
For Kelly, sport has been a lifelong passion, and the work she does she considers the job of a lifetime. Nurtured from a young age, “I’d grown up in a sporting family, it’s always been around me,” she explains. Armed with a sport and exercise degree from Massey University and more than a decade’s experience in the sport management industry, creating The Athlete Project Agency in 2012 was a natural career choice.
“I’ve always wanted to work in this capacity. I enjoy being behind the scenes and supporting them. I started contemplating going out on my own and starting the business, and ironically it was through the promotion of the BCC’s Innovate programme and seeing the other businesses go through that that made me take a risk and start it.”
While the business has taken off to a roaring success, the work does come with its own challenges. “With the way I run the service for my clients it really is 24/7. You can have athletes in New Zealand, in Norway, in Japan and everyone is in different time zones. If it is an important time for athletes, your timing has to change.”
It was the first Games I’d been to, and compared with watching it on TV it just does not match the excitement and the nerves
Even with the fantastic Glasgow results, Kelly is already encouraging her troupe to focus on the future, with the 2016 Rio Olympics at the forefront of every athlete’s mind. “This year is a really important year for them; they need to get good results in order to be selected to go to Rio next year. A lot of people think Rio is the big pinnacle year, but in 2015 they have a lot of work to do to ensure their position is cemented.”
While her athletes are at the peak of their careers currently, Kelly is also there to ensure that their future is positive once they have moved on from competing. “Life after sport is a big one. In the last five to ten years their life as an elite athlete is finite. We work with them, even when they are emerging at sixteen and seventeen, to get them to focus on a life after sport.”
Even though it is a life of managing high stakes, intense pressure and time zone jumping, Kelly wouldn’t have it any other way. “We joke and call it the AP family actually; we all support one another. It comes down to the people –