In recent weeks there have been some very rare and exciting vacancies advertised in Sports Science, Strength and Conditioning and High Performance, most of which we tried to share on the Sports Discovery Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn feeds. This got us thinking about our own careers; what has helped and hindered getting where we are today and what could help the many people applying for these kinds of jobs in a very competitive industry.
Nick Broad, whom the Sports Discovery blog is inspired by, was dedicated to furthering his own knowledge and expertise but also to growing the careers of the Sport Science students and graduates he worked with. He was dedicated to developing his ‘fledglings’ and built a very successful internship programme during his time at Chelsea FC. Those interns have since gone on to work in professional sport across the UK, Ireland, Spain, France, the United States and New Zealand.
However, people like Nick are rare and so we wondered what the experiences of others are, good and bad, for developing within this industry. We have put together a brief survey to try and capture some of your views and it would be great to get as many responses as possible. It doesn’t matter what stage of your career you are at; student, graduate, intern, practitioner, senior staff - we would like to capture the whole spectrum.
In light of the survey we have each put together some insights into our own career paths so far which you can read further below the survey. The survey will be live until December 31st. Thank you for taking part!
The survey is already over.
Jo Clubb (About Jo)
I worked as a Sport Scientist in English professional football for more than six years and have recently achieved my dreams of working abroad and also in a different sport. I think my work experience during University at Leicester City and then my internship at Chelsea were invaluable experiences that gave me my first insight into the applied world and ultimately got my ‘foot in the door’ for a full time role. I think finding a good mentor is also very important to both praise and constructively criticize you along the way, and I was very lucky to have Nick as my mentor in the first few years of my career.
Some of the courses, workshops and conferences along the way have helped develop my knowledge but more so it has been the contacts and the networking that have connected me with people and experts around the world. I think there can at times be a large gap between University studies and what happens in the applied work of professional sport in Sport Science, so we need to better prepare students with knowledge and skills to transfer directly into the real world.
Jonathan Bloomfield (About Jonathan)
Since my first “real” job working with Ulster Rugby in 2004, I have had a range of excellent experiences working in both the public and private sectors of the elite sports industry. Along the way, I’ve been fortunate to be able to travel the world, be part of global events, and feel that I’ve made a real difference to the coaches and athletes I’ve been serving. Since 2012, I’ve been self-employed within the industry, which has provided a wonderful variety of opportunities which have allowed me to fit a career into a more balanced lifestyle.
My advice to those considering a career in elite sport is to really understand what requirements are going to be placed upon you in your chosen role, and consider carefully how that’s also going to impact you in 5, 10, & 15 years time. The role of a member of full-time support staff requires a very high commitment in terms of both energy and time and it can be difficult to manage a reasonable work-life balance in this industry. Sacrifices are required, it’s part of the territory, so be prepared for that. I’ve been in roles in environments where a typical day starts at 6am and ends at 10pm - Monday to Sunday. It can be great, but it can become difficult to sustain.
Another significant factor is that you must go were the work takes you, which often means moving away from friends, family and your social community. This can become more difficult to manage when you have your own family to consider. Also, there’s not many elite sport practitioners who have been able to continue participating in their own sport regularly at a good level, particularly in team sports. It’s hard to be in two places at once!
Choosing a career in high performance sports can, however, provide an amazing life experience and the peer-network of staff is a sensational circle to be part of. It’s a rapid environment with lots of high pressure and innovation, but recognise there’s a huge commitment needed, from you and from others around you to support you with your career choice. If you’re ready for all these challenges, give it everything you’ve got and strive to become the very best in your field!
David Penny (About David)
Working with computers and data analysis wasn’t my aim. The aim was to work for myself. Computers and data was simply the mechanism for fulfilling that desire. Luckily for me working with a computer was already a hobby and not a chore.
Interestingly, I chose a business and engineering degree, not software development. I felt my career path would develop along business lines, not software.
Like all graduates in my experience, the day I graduated I was arrogant and thought I knew everything. Day one in my first full time job turned that notion on its head. The university theory of accounting, marketing, or corporate strategy meant nothing when invoices needed raising, debtors chased, a website built, and all the other mundane day-to-day tasks associated with “a job”.
What helped most was my ability to spot potential opportunities. Even something as tedious as being shown how to structure accounts for an operational business could have a silver lining that would be useful in the future. I had a focus on my long-term goal, and looked for any stepping stones on that path.
Previous colleagues, employees and customers have aided my journey, and continue to help through recommendation and acting as mentors or informal sounding-boards. Our separate shared experiences prove a useful mirror to individual current issues.
Working with data is like completing continuous Sudoku. It keeps me interested and it’s easier than The Times crossword (though I guess that’s a personal perspective). I’m lucky to do something I enjoy, something rewarding, and something that is continuously changing.