Lea Mettler and Marco Giger are not only apprentices at Innovative Sensor Technology IST AG - they are also young sports talents who complete their commercial training in addition to the high pressure of competitive sports. They spend many of their weekends all over the Alps in Switzerland and abroad, competing in the alpine ski disciplines (giant-) slalom as well as the speed disciplines super G and downhill ski. Marco and Lea were both the runner up Swiss Ski champions in giant slalom in 2016 of their year, and Lea won the bronze medal at this year’s Swiss Cup in the same discipline. Currently, they are both among the top skiers of Eastern Switzerland, and their goal is to reach the National Ski Squad. We asked them about their daily routines accommodating training, competition and office work.
Marco, you just started your apprenticeship here this summer. Why did you choose this combination of sports and professional training?
Marco: For me, the main focus next to sports is to get a practical education and learning a profession. At the Sports Gymnasium, for example, you end up with “only” a degree but no work experience.
Lea, you are already in your final year. How do you find a balance between school, work and competitive sports?
Lea: Along with being well organized communication and trust between employer/trainee and trainer are very important. Another important factor is setting priorities and of course studying. The sport can’t be coming first 100 percent every day. Sometimes, school obligations or a private engagement need to take priority.
During the first two years of your training you go to school exclusively. How many days/hours per week are dedicated to training and is there a difference between summer and winter?
Lea: Over the whole year it is quite balanced. While 20 to 40 percent of the time is dedicated to training in summer, it amounts to 50 to 70 percent in winter. In summer that means 3 hours of training (strength, stamina and endurance) a day, while in winter we ski 3-5 days on the piste.
Marco: Yes, the same goes for me.
Your professional education starts in the third and fourth year. How is the split between school, work and sports?
Lea: School time is reduced to half a day a week with focus to the final economics exam in the third year. The fourth year prepares for the German examination and all final exams. Other than that the training units remain the same.
Is there a difference to the ‘normal’ training in office administration?
Lea: No, not really. If we miss school because of training or ski races we can catch up the missed lessons online on a special learning platform.
Marco: The duration of our combined training is four years instead of three. The courses and the diploma are identical.
Marco, what are the conditions to be admitted to the combined apprenticeship?
Marco (laughs): Well, you need to be good at sports. Then you need a good reference from your trainer and a Swiss Olympic Talent Card. Then you get an invitation to an interview. After the admission you have to pass a four-month probation period.
Lea, you live in the upper Toggenburg Valley – a skiing region. Can you train locally? Are the commutes to work and to school long for you? Is there anything special you do during your way to work or school?
Lea (laughs): No, unfortunately I mostly train in Davos, which isn’t around the corner. I commute to work and school by train, meaning my commute totals two hours a day. The option would have been boarding school in Davos, but I didn’t want that. Of course this means I need to plan everything well, also meeting family and friends.
In your opinion, what personal traits are needed to accommodate education and sport?
Lea: Most importantly having a goal! This keeps the motivation going and helps to get up every morning, train everyday and to putting up with the long commutes. You have to celebrate small successes and draw motivation from the. Self discipline and flexibility are also vital. And of course friends who appreciate our daily rhythm – as you don’t see them very often and you have to cancel on them on short notice sometimes.
Marco: I agree, and you also need to be resilient and self-critical.
How far ahead are you able to plan your time?
Lea: In summer we receive a rough training plan including training camps. Then we get the following week’s training timetable on Sundays.
Marco: It is a great challenge. In summer it’s mainly endurance and strength training which can be planned individually. In winter, however training is very dependent on the weather, meaning everything can change at very short notice. That way it’s possible to miss work for two weeks in a row.
In your opinion, what are the special challenges your employer faces because of your sports activities?
Lea: Again, flexibility – especially because we do outdoors sports (sports carried out indoors are much more predictable). I’m grateful for the support I get from IST AG.
Marco: Me too. I don’t take it for granted that we can always count on the understanding of our employer, and I really appreciate the interest and support I get from work.