World class athletes to support next generation of talent

Laura Whittle competes at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games

What do a Commonwealth medallist pole vaulter, a Paralympic ski racer and an Olympic 5000m runner all have in common? (Besides their outstanding sporting achievements, of course).

Three very different athletes with a shared ambition: to offer their support to the next generation of talented athletes with personal development and managing the demands of their lifestyle.

Sally Scott, Anna Turney and Laura Whittle are three of the newest recruits onto the Talented Athlete Lifestyle Support (TALS) course, which got underway in London last week.

The TALS qualification, developed in partnership with 1st4sport and delivered by TASS, provides the theoretical and practical foundation for any practitioner who will be advising or mentoring talented athletes.

And having already embarked on the first stage of course, the trio of elite athletes are ready to put their skills in practice with some talented young people.

Skier Anna Turney explained: “I can’t wait to get stuck in with TALS and I’m really looking forward to delivering lifestyle support to some local athletes soon”.

Turney will undoubtedly be able to draw on her own wealth of experience, having competed at the highest level at the Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014 Winter Games.

And since retirement from sport, she’s as unstoppable as ever; speaking at a TEDx event, playing wheelchair basketball for Warwickshire Bears, judging a local BBC sport awards, practicing yoga and mentoring young athletes.

Even finding the time to become a new mum.

Supported by TASS for several years as a student-athlete, Turney has shown she has the energy and ambition to succeed in all aspects of her life.

“I like turning obstacles into opportunities, but having that additional help from TASS was really important financially, as well as receiving physio and other services.

“And I remember during my transition out of sport, the lifestyle support from TASS really came into its own and managing that transition well was essential.

“That’s why I’m excited about the opportunity to give back to talented athletes like those on TASS. I like the idea of achieving intrinsic success so I hope it all goes well.”

Anna Turney speaks at a TEDx event

Meanwhile another TASS alumna, Sally Scott, has been working closely with young athletes for the past two years since stepping away from competition.

The former pole vaulter who claimed a bronze medal for Team England at Glasgow in 2014, currently tutors and assesses for the AASE programme and has recently been appointed as a national trainer with UK Anti-Doping.

But her journey into a job in sport began long before retirement, rather whilst studying at Loughborough University.

“When I was about 14 or 15 I went to a training camp at Loughborough and I remember really firmly saying to my Dad, ‘that’s where I’m going to go’.

“As I studied Sport and Exercise Science I’ve always been 100% focused on sport and I feel a real loyalty to the uni. For me, it was a privilege to receive their support.

“The lifestyle service was especially good. My advisor, Julie, used to do these activities like coming on food shopping trips with us to see what we were spending.

“I became involved with AASE through our Athletics Director. He put me in touch with Loughborough College and I progressed from there to having my own cohort.”

Having now returned her native North East, Scott is still pursuing a dual-career of sorts; studying for a Masters in International Sports Management at Northumbria University, alongside her tutoring work and TALS training.

“While winning a bronze at the Commonwealths will be my highlight forever, I get a real buzz from my professional career too.

“Moving home was a real downer at first, but now I love getting out there making connections, getting experience and I enjoy working with student-athletes.

“And working from home means I get the time to take my two Cockapoos, Sammy and Gary, to the beach!”

Sally Scott inspires the next generation at a school talk

It’s similar story for runner Laura Whittle, who has taken on the TALS course in addition to her day job. However for Whittle, there’s also the small matter of the World Championships in her sights.

Inspired by her Dad, an impressive marathon runner in his own right, the 5000m expert is now back in full training after representing Team GB at her first Olympics.

“The whole Rio experience was amazing. I raced quite early and my parents were there to cheer me on at the start line. Then after the race we got to go and watch Bolt!”

Both working and training at Loughborough University, Whittle is fortunate to have such a flexible set-up. She admits:

“To get to the Olympics whilst working has been brilliant. I’ve had a part time role for five years but just before Christmas the job came up in Performance Lifestyle and luckily I got it.

“I’ve worked with around 20 athletes so far across all different sports and I’ve enjoyed sharing my experiences with them, as well as learning a bit more about other sports.

“Work has given me a great structure and routine. If I just had running to focus on I think it would magnify the stresses, so work helps me to keep my mind clear.

“On the TALS course I’ve really enjoyed meeting other people in various practitioner roles and being able to see how they work and their style of delivery is really interesting.”

With a busy twelve months ahead, Whittle’s personal goals are clear on and off the track. She explained:

“I learnt a lot from the Olympics and now I’ve got a lot to aim for. We’ll see how the World Champs goes this summer, then it’s all about qualification for the Commonwealth Games next year.

“I don’t like to look too far ahead though, it’s best to concentrate on the here and now.

“If I do get to the Gold Coast it’s obviously for the competition, but watching Neighbours is a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine. I’ll definitely visit Ramsey Street while I’m there!”