This week Jane Scott tells us how a career in sports administration can be just as rewarding as on the running track.
I've always been sporty and active, often out with my friends climbing trees, riding our bikes, etc but athletics was always my passion – and I was pretty good at it too! However, any dream I had of making a career as an athlete was cut short by a Crohn's diagnosis in my late teens and I withdrew from the sport for a few years. Nonetheless, I got back involved in my mid-twenties and continue to take part on a recreational basis, getting as much from it now as I did as a youngster, including a few pb's too!
I had never really thought of a career in sport off the track until, after several post-university jobs I hated, I finally found a career I loved in sports development. I first started as Athletics Development Officer with Edinburgh Leisure and have never looked back, going on to become Coaching and Development Officer with triathlonscotland, where I am now National Development Manager. I love my job and it rarely feels like I am going to work each day. I find a career in sports development is a fulfilling way to spend my life – helping other people, both young and old, get into sport and gain all the positives one gets from being active; it’s certainly way better than chasing people's pounds, to make monster profits for the fat cats at the top of the chain, like I had to do in other organisations I've worked for!
Just over a year ago now I applied for and was accepted on to sportscotland's Future Leaders initiative, a CPD programme designed to support the development of sport’s governing body staff to develop as leaders of the future. Along with only 11 others from a variety of Scottish sports governing bodies I attended a series of workshops and took on a number of personal development projects, culminating in a day of mock CEO interviews. The sessions we attended together were primarily leadership workshops, taking us out of our comfort zone and developing our leadership skills and abilities. Running in parallel to this was a personalised Personal Development Plan to help you work on the areas you had identified at the beginning of the programme.
My experiences on this programme, along with my day-to-day on-the-job experiences, have helped me to develop and grow into my role as a leader in my workplace where I lead a small team of development staff. However, a key factor for me this year was the scholarship I was awarded by sportscotland to attend the inaugural Women's Sport Leadership Academy (WSLA) in Bognor Regis in June.
WSLA was a week-long residential course where 36 women from around the world gathered for a programme of leadership development. Every continent was represented and it was a real privilege to be among such incredible female leaders and hear about what they have achieved in their countries. We shared our experiences of working in sports development and enhanced our leadership behaviours and networks of support, through both a mixture of sessional activities and a series of daily tasks completed in "home teams". The course was founded by The Anita White Foundation (AWF) and Females Achieving Brilliance (FAB), who are UK based organisations committed to supporting women's leadership in sport. Both have a particular focus on helping women who work in senior positions in sport or sport for development organisations become great leaders and WSLA's aim was to develop tomorrow’s female leaders of sport.
WSLA was a key point in my leadership development journey and had a massive influence on me, particularly my self-confidence. During the week I experienced a whole jumble of emotions, from self-doubt and uncertainty – "some of these women are incredible, what on earth and I doing here?!" – to confidence and inspiration and I came away brimming with ideas and plans for things I would do when I got home. I took so much from the week, far more than I had ever anticipated and I put this down to the motto I took for the week – “do the things in life that scare you, you'll never achieve anything if you don't and since you are only here once, just get out and do it”. I engaged fully in all activities, tried my hand at a game of netball (turns out I have not missed my calling and am in fact rubbish at netball, not to mention injury prone when running from side to side to dodge / defend, as I hit the deck injuring my ankle and knee!) and I even sang a solo in our choir at our final evening dinner reception, when we were joined by VIP guests including Liz Nicholl, CEO of UK sport and my sportscotland sponsor, Jacqui Stone. It has to be said I am not a singer by any stretch of the imagination, I sound quite terrible really, but I took myself out of my comfort zone that day to teach myself that if I can screech a few solo lines in front of a crowd, I can tackle anything! And I have actually drawn on that memory for that very reason since then…!
The WSLA Choir – check us out on You Tube!
Although the first group of women to graduate from WSLA were only together for one week in June 2014, the support from the programme and the networks and friendships that were created there continue to reach every one of us. We are regularly sent tasks to complete and return, including videos of what we have all been up to since returning home, and are in contact with each other for all manner of things. One task that I committed to doing as a result of the week was to apply for a position on a Board, something I have now achieved as I have recently started as Director for Development with Scottish Pentathlon. In this post I am faced with new challenges and things to learn but by continuing to keep putting myself out of my comfort zone, I will continue to build on my skills and abilities and become a better leader. I still have other ideas and plans to implement to continue developing myself and will no doubt turn to this global network at some point in the future for some help!
So, while I did not fulfil my childhood ambition of "making it" as a professional athlete, I have still managed to forge a career in sport, one which I love and am grateful for. I am continually pushed and challenged to make progress and improve myself, much in the way athletes do in training, whether recreational or elite. I have found my alternative pathway to success, where the prize isn't a medal or a trophy, but a rewarding and enjoyable career and one that can open many interesting and exciting doors in the future…!
And I can still challenge myself on the track targeting the World Masters Championships in 2016 – when I’m old enough!! J