Lean into your strengths for your post playing career: how Matilda Horn turned disappointment into a promising career

“Taking myself out of the system afforded me a viewpoint I couldn’t access before. Rowing didn’t have to define me but I understood I could use the lessons I learned along the way to help others and forge a new career.” 

Matilda Horn – British Rowing Coxswain & FutureProof Ambassador

It’s been two years since the Great Britain womens’ rowing team unceremoniously exited the Olympics in Tokyo, leaving broken hearts and weary souls in its wake.

After 20 years in the sport of rowing, Matilda Horn – the coxswain of that boat – finds herself for the first time outside of a system that had been the dominant presence in her life.

It hasn’t been easy for Matilda, reconciling with the change. Alongside coaching the sport she loves, Matilda has explored mentoring, and this change in dynamic is providing a fresh perspective and outlook. 

We spoke to Matilda about her journey, what she’s learned along the way, and how this new interest in coaching and mentoring is letting her see that these lessons will be transferable to other people in the working world. Providing an alternative perspective could unlock new pathways for others who find themselves at an impasse.

Matilda has joined FutureProof as an ambassador to support other athletes through the transition out of sport into a new career.  Matilda’s intention is to help others find their passion and transfer their learnt sporting skills. 

Prepare for anything and respond to change

Within days of learning which boat she would be in for the Tokyo Olympics, Matilda found herself miles away from her team and unable to practise as COVID kept us all indoors for months on end.

“It was so strange and difficult to deal with,” recalls Matilda. “I’m a control freak and so suddenly losing all control of the situation and being unable to train with my crew was extremely hard.”

But Matilda, like many, took the opportunity to brush up on her passion and enrolled in online courses in coaching and leadership. Valuable lessons on understanding people and their motivations.

As coxswain, Matilda viewed herself as the one to bring her team together, it was a role she relished as she steered her team towards their goal.

“I exercised every day and we built an ethos as a crew around winning gold,” Matilda says. “effectively we wrote a book around how we were going to succeed.”

Matilda’s rigorous attention to detail had always stood her in good stead and she felt the group was ready for the Olympics. Until the unforeseeable happened.

“Sadly, COVID and a change in GB Rowing strategy meant everything changed,” recalls Matilda. “We were forced into new dynamics and groups and sadly we were unable to deliver when it really mattered.”

Over the following 18 months, Matilda grappled with the defeat and took the time to evaluate her priorities. Leaning into what she knew, she began coaching and hasn’t looked back.


Recognise the strengths that sport provides you

“It was very difficult dealing with coming last at the games,” says Matilda. “My love for the sport waned and my desire to fight for my place and succeed at the highest level simply wasn’t there anymore”.

“The new strategy and change in leadership brought new challenges that a younger me would’ve relished. But now I have other dreams to chase in my life and I didn’t want the sport to define me anymore.”

After two decades competing at rowing’s more prestigious events, Matilda recognised that she had been indoctrinated into the rowing world. Breaking free from it will take courage and resolve.

“While I lost my place in the team, coming away from the system gave me a chance to see things from a different perspective,” says Matilda. “I separated rowing from elite rowing and it helped massively.” Matilda is using her rowing knowledge to stay in the sport as a coach whilst discovering other avenues to supporting people’s learning of themselves and their surroundings. 

Intuitively, Matilda knew that if she was going through these struggles that others must be too. And it’s what led her to FutureProof and back to coaching.

“What I learned through rowing and sport is incredibly powerful and useful in all aspects of life,” says Matilda. “Coaching gives me a chance to impart wisdom and help others through it, and I want to help people everywhere conquer the challenges in their lives.”

Start planning for your transition

Matilda’s work with FutureProof will see her champion athletes’ transition from sport to business (or working life). Sharing her experiences and calling on her coaching and mentoring skills, we are excited to have her as part of the team.

“The biggest piece of advice I think I could give would be to not wait around for those closing moments of your career to start planning,” says Matilda.

“Speak to FutureProof and to people like me who have been through it and build momentum. You never know what you might discover about yourself or where you end up.”

Looking to access a different talent pool? 

Here at FutureProof we focus on helping professional athletes transition into the working world. Speak to us today about accessing a diverse, driven and unique pool of talent for your business.


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