In January 2004, as she prepared for the Athens Olympics, Dame Kelly Holmes realised that, whatever happened at the Games, she wanted to help young athletes learn what it takes to become world class and to achieve their dreams.
Whilst lying in bed one day the idea of setting up a mentoring initiative started to form in her mind. She believed that athletes could learn from her life, with its mixture of successes, setbacks and disappointments, and hoped that she could assist them to develop in their own careers. Kelly approached Aviva about her idea and they were keen to support it – ‘On Camp with Kelly’ (OCWK) was born!
Then the unthinkable happened and Kelly won TWO gold medals at the Athens Olympics in August 2004. But despite the huge changes that were to affect her life following the Games she was completely dedicated to driving ‘On Camp with Kelly’ forwards. Her vision of OCWK was that it should be an educational development programme so that the athletes who are part of it gain life experiences as well as learn what it takes to become a world class athlete.
The aims of the ‘On Camp with Kelly’ mentoring and education initiative are to:
- Retain talented young middle distance athletes in the sport
- Assist transition from talented junior to successful senior athlete
- Teach what it takes to become a world class athlete
- Develop athletes as ‘all-round’ people
Kelly identified four key areas for support:
- Social - the environment the athletes find themselves in
- Emotional - how the athletes are affected by what is going on in their lives
- Physiological - how can the athletes stay fit, healthy and injury free
- Psychological - how do the athletes deal with success and failure and setbacks such as injury
Eight talented young female middle distance athletes were selected to participate in the first OCWK Educational Camp in South Africa in October-November 2004 and since then, with support and sponsorship from Aviva, ‘On Camp with Kelly’ has gone from strength to strength. 59 athletes aged 19-27 are currently members of 'On Camp with Kelly' - 45 female and 14 male. 'On Camp with Kelly also supports the athletes' personal coaches.
In the eight years since the first camp in South Africa there have been a wide range of ‘On Camp with Kelly’ educational events including:
- Educational Camps at major international championships
- Ten day Educational Camps for new athletes
- Army Training Weekend
- Visits to the London 2012 Olympic Park
- Nutrition and Cookery Masterclass with Celebrity Chef Ainsley Harriott
- Financial Planning and CV Writing Workshops
Each year one or two ‘On Camp with Kelly’ races take place at the Aviva Grand Prix meetings and OCWK also sources international race opportunities for leading athletes on the programme.
Each OCWK athlete is assigned to the Gold, Silver or Bronze tier which entitles them to different levels of mentoring support from Kelly and medical and financial support. Coaches are also invited to attend OCWK camps and get-togethers and receive benefits according to the tier of the athletes they work with.
Recent research by BPS Chartered Sport Psychologist Dr Anna Waters revealed that long term mentoring such as that the athletes receive through ‘On Camp with Kelly’ makes a measurable difference to athletic performance. The research identified six key ways in which OCWK has been supporting athletes since 2004 and contributing to their success - one-to-one mentoring from Dame Kelly, support, preparation, education, long term regular contact and injury management. The benefits of this six step mentoring model are demonstrated by the recent success of OCWK athlete Hannah England who won a silver medal in the 1500m at the 2011 IAAF World Championships. Click here to read more about the research.