Sport – A Career Choice: 1-2-1 with Gabriela Tichelea

Welcome to our ‘Sport – A Career Choice Series’, a one-to-one meeting with sport professionals. On a regular basis, we discuss sport career paths with leaders from the industry, who share their tips, journeys, backgrounds, experience, ups and downs. At its core, this is an initiative to promote the exciting types of employment opportunities available in the sport environment whilst also featuring beautiful stories with hard-working people who are making a difference.


1. Can you briefly introduce yourself?

I am Gabriela, a former professional handball player, now coach and consultant at GTS-Agency.

Also, I am the most positive person you may ever meet. 😉


2. Walk me through the step-by-step process that you went through to get to where you are today.

At the age of 8, I first entered a sports hall and that was also the moment I first touched a handball ball. That moment was magic, as I fell in love with the sport. Thus, sport has become a defining element of my life.

I say this because all of my choices have been influenced by my sports activity.

In my whole sports career there have been happy but also very hard moments. And now I am going to tell you a bit about those hard moments, because those were the ones that made me stronger, helped me define my character and due to them, today I am a person who loves her work.

There is a study that says that only 3% of high performance athletes are financially independent after ending their sports career. About 15% make it to the top. I wasn’t in any of those categories, but as a professional player I say it proudly that love, passion, wishing, hard work and the sacrifices for handball were huge and I lived everything at high intensity.

As I’d never put myself first, I had suffered significantly from a physical point of view. By the time I was 25, I had already had 5 knee surgeries, and I had also begun to have terrible back pains. After many doctors’ consults, I was told that it was time to retire, because this time, the recovery meant just to be able to stand and walk again.

I woke up to an unknown territory, without any kind of support, just thinking that all what I know is to play handball. For 2 years I have tried to find my own way.

At friends’ recommendations, I started to work with a business coach. I didn’t know anything about that process, but I wanted to improve my life, so I accepted it. At the end of the coaching sessions, not only had I found clarity about what I wanted to be in the future, but I had also started my own business.

Thus, GTS-Agency took shape – a coaching and consulting agency which supports sportspeople in finding the best approach to obtain top performances in their personal and professional life.

I have invested in my education, following two coaching schools: “The Academy of Executive Coaching” and “Centre for Transformational Presence”, I am an accredited coach CTPC, and I am member of International Coaching Federation. I am accredited Trainer and Personal Development Advisor. I am EHF Licensed Club Manager.

So, for me, these were the most important steps : Start playing, stop playing, restart myself :)))


3. You’ve talked about the big step in your professional career of opening up a business.  Can you describe your company’s ideal customer?

  • a sports team manager who wants to discover the best approach, attitude, strategy and action plan to build a successful team;
  • a coach who wants to lead a team that has a clear goal. A team where the tension between teammates is seen as an opportunity for improvement. Where conflict is avoided, but tackled in a simple way through a supportive process. A team where listening and dialogue are common skills for better mutual understanding.
  • an athlete who want to reach the maximum potential both professionally and personally .

I have all the tools, techniques and strategies that suit their needs. I work with individuals 1 to 1 and with teams.


4. What’s the…

a. Proudest moment of your career as a sportswomen and businesswomen?

In the end I did all the things I thought I couldn’t do.

I don’t know if “proud” is the right word, but when an athlete you work with, tells you that you changed his life for the better – that’s priceless!

On the second topic, I am learning how to do business.

b. First tip that comes to your mind if a student who is passionate about sport, but doesn’t have a degree in the industry, came to you for advice?

In our country people give so much value to a diploma.

Nowadays it’s not about your degree, it’s about how passionate you are about what you want to do.

“Do what you can with what you have where you are.” – Theodore Roosevelt

In 2018, things work better if we turn this statement around.

“Where you are, with what you have, do what you can.”

I truly believe that once you have a “desire” you can accomplish it. You just need to find the resources, and believe me, it’s all inside you.

c. Most important skill someone should develop to be successful in a career like yours?

I think you should have a very clear answer to the question “why?”

Once you know why you want to do it and what is your driving force, then you will find all the resources you need. Have the will for a continuous learning process, new explorations and you will find and develop the skills you need in order to be a successful coach.

Openness, trust, focus, intuition, challenge, creativity and fun – that’s my style.

d. one person / role model that has inspired you the most during your sports career and also after entering the sport business industry?

Since I was a kid I’ve always looked up to people that could inspire me.

From sport, it is professor Gheorghe Sbora. He has taught me more than playing handball. He taught me what responsibility, discipline, professionalism and respect mean. Together with his wife, they have been a great example of beautiful people who cared about us. They have advised us in all life aspects, which is very important for a young athlete who is away from the family, to see example of great people with strong values.

From my life after sport, it is Joost Smits and Gabriella van Rooy, two amazing Dutch people who inspire, support, encourage and guide me to be the best version of myself.

The love and respect I have for these people is beyond words.

e. First most important thing you would change in the way sport business is done in Romania – something that, if implemented, would initiate the development of sport as a whole?

There is no magic formula that, if implemented, would provoke immediate change.

But if we, as individuals, believe that we are here to create something bigger than ourself, then we might have a chance. So, I invite you to expand your thinking, perception, awareness, and understanding. 

At the end, sport is not about how many medals you win, how many times you score, or how many people you train.

Sport is EMOTION, it is about how many lives you can touch while you are playing or working in sport.


5. How has playing handball professionally helped you become the person you are today?

Playing handball taught me values that guide me: fairness, discipline, perseverance and respect.


6. Playing sport and doing business in Romania, obviously, have their own ups and downs. What do you consider to be the best part of both being a Romanian sportswoman and business owner?

I see a lot of potential on both sides.

Romania has so many talented athletes who need support and guidance. Once we use our expertise and experience on helping them succeed, they will feel empowered and on their turn they will give so much back to our society – on all levels. Yet the best part is that in Romania there is a big “field” for everyone who want to play what they know best in order to help the world of sport.


Learn more about Gabriela Tichelea, a true inspiration of  a former sportswoman who’s become a successful businesswoman, by connecting with her on LinkedIn! 


Teodora Busurca

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