One of Clementine Goutal’s many gifts is the way she has managed to balance her career and her love for all things equestrian. Her business, Upper Echelon Academy, a tutoring service catered to student athletes, helps high school and college students do the same. And although finding a healthy equilibrium between sports and studies will always remain a challenge, Goutal is living proof that you can succeed at both—and still have time for the other things you love. “I connect with a lot of our students because I am addicted to the horses,” she says, “and yet I demanded excellence of myself in school.” That credo—that the full contours of life, including its pleasures, obligations, highs, and lows, are nothing to shy away from—appears central to her business and how she prefers to live her life.
Q: What makes UEA different than other tutoring programs?
A: Most of our clients are student athletes so we coordinate with their schools, coaches, parents, and anyone else who might play a role in scheduling and conflicts. UEA helps our clients organize their priorities, balance their commitments, manage their time.
Q: What prompted you to start this business?
A: When I finished my studies at Brown, I was disappointed in the career sacrifices I saw my equestrian peers making. Many of them—and they had the opportunity and capability to attend great schools—either skipped higher education all together or elected to enroll in online programs they wouldn’t likely complete. In addition, I saw so many shortcuts in the education provided to students. Most of our students really do want to have it all. We have this juggling act down to a science and get our clients on track so they can give it their all in the show ring, in the class room, and in any other domain for which they need time and focus. I get so much joy seeing kids who were once hardly willing to do math homework—because they only had time to ride—suddenly volunteering to help with our philanthropic projects, having already done all their schoolwork.
Q: When you were a student, did you have a mentor?
A: Yes, and he is now my partner. Andy Bowers started tutoring me when I would come down to Wellington for horse shows, and he taught me how to manage my time and maintain my grades while I was competing nationally, and eventually internationally.
Q: What do you like about riding?
A: I love my horses more than I could ever express. Being able to jump on a horse and go for a ride has gotten me through the worst days of my life. The connection we can establish with these animals is astonishing and therapeutic.
Q: How does being an athlete help sharpen your focus in school and other aspects of life?
A: Learning to perform under pressure is the first thing that comes to mind. Athletes work day in and day out to give their best demonstrations at competitions. Walking into an exam, needing to deliver information you spent weeks or months learning, seems a lot less daunting once you get used to what we do. I also think the way athletes learn to lose is really important. Anyone can have fun winning, but staying motivated and finding positives…on bad days…well that’s different. The nature of athletics is that you cannot win all the time, but we have to learn from mistakes and grow from them. Finally, athletes learn to ask for help. We all need advice, support, and guidance, and there’s no shame in reaching out.