Akin Solanke is the CEO and founder of The Athletic Network, an agency at the forefront of athlete representation. With the current climate and COVID times, everyone has had to rewire and learn to live differently. We interview Akin to understand how the sport industry is coping and what truly matters to Akin for his athletes.
What was your inspiration behind The Athlete Network?
Sport has always been at the epicentre of my life and who I am as a person. Once I realised a career in professional rugby was not going to happen, I made the decision quite quickly that I wanted to be a dot connector in the sports world. The inspiration was all about bringing people together: athletes, teams, brands and fans.
What has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
I would say this year has been my biggest challenge. I have had no choice but to sit and reflect on who I am as a man and the flaws (and good things too) that I want to work on to become a better version of myself. I’m still not there yet but I have started to overcome it by being open and honest, and not being scared to start all over again!
How has COVID-19 effected the sports industry if at all?
In ways you couldn’t even imagine. This was the year of many big sporting events like the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Euro 2020, and Wimbledon. With all of that wiped out and really humanity’s future on the line, the sports industry has been rocked internally in terms of team processes, the way players are able to interact with fans, fans at stadiums, TV money, sponsorships looking for value and so on. We will bounce back for sure, but I don’t think things will be the same again.
What does fitness mean to you?
Balance. If I’m working out constantly, I feel more me – more centred and more focused. It’s never been about lifting the most or having the most defined abs, but more about the confidence I feel when I’m fit, healthy and raring to go.
WholyMe are an organic certified brand. Is leading an organic and healthy lifestyle something that is important to yourself and your athletes?
For me personally, one trillion percent. I don’t eat any processed foods, drink jasmine green tea with fresh sea moss gel and ginger every other day and focus really intensely on what I put on and in my body. For my athletes, I expect the same. Of course I don’t dictate what they can and can’t eat, but the good ones know that you put premium fuel in a premium car, so the same should go for your body.
What does your fitness routine look like?
I’m in the gym 3 times a week. I don’t do upper, lower, arm, back splits, I just go in there for an hour and blast the whole thing. For the 4th session I change it up. It might be a sprint track session, a swim or even some bikram yoga, but I find the more different stimulus’ I have, the better my body responds.
How have the WholyMe Balm and Drops helped your athletes’ performance?
The Relief Balm in particular does a fantastic job of replacing products like Deep Heat and Tiger Balm which aren’t fully suitable for an athlete needing targeted recovery that they can trust. I represent athletes in sports which are in high impact sports such as football and rugby, so the Balm has been essential in making sure that post-game and in training, they are already in recovery mode and feeling refreshed.
How do you recommend your athletes use WholyMe products?
Post session. Of course, this something I leave to our team of physios and trainers for the most part but using the WholyMe range to rest up and go again has become mandatory for a number of our top clients.
Who is your biggest inspiration and why?
I had to think long and hard for this one. My mum of course has been a huge inspiration. I had everything growing up: clothes, holidays, happiness, family friends etc, and now I’m an adult, I realise how hard it is to bring that all together, so she’s up there for sure. Outside of her and my two grandmother’s I’d say Robin Williams. It was such a shame he took his own life, but he inspired me to look for happiness, hope and light in every situation. His role as the Genie still lives with me now!
What advice do you have for someone trying to turn their dreams into reality?
Quite simple really, ask yourself “this dream I’m chasing, if I had to exchange 5 years of sweeping the streets in order for this to become a reality, would I?” Because if you even have to think about it, I suggest you find a new dream or focus – you don’t want it badly enough. I’d give up all the followers, events, cars and money without even thinking if it meant I become the best agent in the world. Find something you are equally as passionate about and nothing will ever be able to deter you.
What is the most important thing you’ve learnt this year that you will take with you into 2021?
This thing we call life is so precious. I’m always grateful every day I wake up. This year has made me realise how quickly loved ones can go, or your health, home and future can vanish. I’ll be much more grateful in 2021 than I’ve ever been before.
Have you tried the Relief Balm and Relief Drops for yourself, and if so, how are you finding they help your everyday life?
The Relief Balm is now an essential part of my Sunday evening wind-downs. I steam my face and beard, hop in the sauna and once out, apply the Balm. It really penetrates and soothes me like nothing I’ve used before. The Drops I’m still getting adjusted too, but after a long day of zoom and work calls, a few drops under the tongue really mellows me out!