The Future's World Class

Published 5 May 2005

With the margins between returning home from international competition a medallist or a near miss narrowing with every event, the focus on the expertise behind our top athletes is growing ever more intense.

UK Sport, in conjunction with the Institutes of Sport in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have come up with a scheme to fast-track some of the nation’s most promising individuals working within sport’s high-performance system. The scheme, now about to enter its second year will target practitioners - from areas such as sports science, nutrition, physiotherapy, performance analysis, strength and conditioning and biomechanics – and seek out ways in which to develop their specialist skills as quickly as possible.

"In the UK, we are setting ourselves ambitious performance targets across just about every sport and for every team and individual. Our world class aims have to have world class back-up if they are to be realised", said Scott Walker, UK Sport’s Sports Science and Sports Medicine Consultant. "The Fast-Track Practitioner Programme is about doing just that – taking talented performers in crucial disciplines and finding ways in which we can make them even better."

The scheme works by hosting internships within the UK’s sports institutes, where those on the programme can be supported by a mentor on a day-to-day basis. In addition, the practitioners take part in a structured and challenging professional development programme consisting of a series of workshops held at institute venues around the UK.

"What we want to do is equip our chosen interns with an essential toolkit for working in high-performance sport. This means that they need to understand and embrace the high-performance culture, develop the right technical skills and be able to analyse athlete performance and provide support that will improve performance", Walker added.

The programme was also welcomed by the other partners involved. Sarah Rowell, summed up what it meant for the English Institute of Sport:

"It gives EIS an opportunity to grow our own specialists and maintain the world class services currently on offer from the EIS. This is an invaluable opportunity for both the interns and for the future of the EIS. The interns will gain experience in the field of elite sport and each one will have a mentor who can guide them in their chosen field.

In addition to the development of discipline-specific technical skills, interns also have the opportunity to develop their non-technical skills through a series of regular workshops. Presentation skills, communication and relationship building are all included - elements which will help equip practitioners with the extra skills required to work successfully in elite sport."

Ronnie Smyth, Head of High Performance at the Northern Ireland Institute said:

" Developing practitioners within the various disciplines of Sports Science and Sports Medicine is an important role of SINI in order to service the needs of athletes and coaches working in the high performance environment. The UK-wide support for the fast–track practitioner programme by UK Sport is most welcome in Northern Ireland"

A total of 10 internships are being advertised across the English, Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh institutes. The posts run for 12 months and are supported financially by UK Sport and the respective sports institutes. Details on the vacancies can be found by following the links below.

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