What support is available for talented young athletes?
A TASS athlete in training (Credit: Sport England/Andy Thompson)
From equipment and nutrition, to competition fees and train fares, the list of costs talented young sportspeople face is seemingly endless.
Many athletes depend on the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ to fund their progression through their sport, but there’s a limit to how far even their biggest supporter’s budget can stretch.
In fact, in a survey commissioned by SportsAid last September, they found that the average spend on sport now stands at over £7,000 per athlete each year*.
What’s more, this figure is the highest total ever recorded by the charity, suggesting that athletes may now need to find additional sources of support to stay afloat.
So how can our country’s future world champions afford to continue their sporting careers to the highest level? The following organisations offer various forms of support to young athletes.
We work in partnership with student athletes, education institutions and sports to support our country’s most exciting young talents. TASS offers a support programme that is available to athletes from 32 different sports and is delivered via a network of 33 universities across England. The support consists of six core services: lifestyle, strength and conditioning, physiotherapy, psychology, nutrition and a private medical scheme. TASS athletes also receive a financial contribution dependent on engagement with the support services.
SportsAid aims to support the right athletes, at the right time, with the right support. The financial challenge of trying to reach the top of their sport is one of their greatest barriers to success. SportsAid athletes are supported at the beginning of the talent pathway before hopefully progressing onto TASS or National Lottery funding. SportsAid tries to support every athlete put forward but can only do so if it has the funds required to meet the level of nominations from the NGBs. The typical value of a SportsAid award is £1,000.
Backing The Best
Backing The Best, managed by SportsAid for Sport England, aims to support athletes who would face difficulties progressing through their sport’s talent development system without critical financial help. Backing The Best presents annual awards of up to £5,000per athlete to help with essential costs such as travel, accommodation, kit, nutrition and medical bills, as well as extra support from coaches. All Backing The Best athletes must demonstrate outstanding ability, as well as their family’s financial situation, to be eligible for the funding.
GLL Sport Foundation
The GLL Sport Foundation is an organisation operated by Charitable Social Enterprise GLL to support talented athletes across the UK. It provides young athletes with financial, training and sports science support. Applications are open annually from December until February and athletes’ support begins in April each year.
Many universities across England offer scholarships to student athletes who have displayed potential for success both academically and athletically. Benefits of a scholarship might include a significant amount of funding, as well free access to high class facilities and experienced practitioners. Athletes on university scholarships will usually beexpected to contribute to the university’s BUCS points. The amount and quality of support provided vary from institution to institution so it is advisable to research what’s available at a number of different universities. To find out more about a specific scholarship offering, please visit the individual university’s website.
Army Elite Sport Programme
The Army Elite Sport Programme (AESP) is an initiative to discover and develop new Olympic talent. The British Army has joined forces with the EIS and TASS in a collaborative venture to produce more British Olympians from its ranks. The AESP support programme includes access to services including physiotherapy, lifestyle support and strength and conditioning, which are balanced with pursuing a career in The British Army.
Everyone Active Sporting Champions
Everyone Active’s Sporting Champions scheme was launched in 2016, with the aim of providing ongoing support for talented athletes across the UK. The scheme offers both monetary funding and access to Everyone Active’s 150 leisure centres across the country.
County Sport Partnership
An easy way to find out about funding opportunities available to you both regionally and nationally, is to contact your local County Sports Partnership. The Active Partnerships website has a handy tool to search for contacts in your region.
In addition to SportsAid and GLL Sport Foundation, there are a number of other charities that offer support or grants for essential sports equipment such as The Joanna Brown Trust and the Dickie Bird Foundation. There may also be local charities that fund talented athletes in your area. For example, Sport Newcastle is a charity offering individual grants and scholarships to sportspeople living in Tyneside.
Local authority grants
It may be possible to access some support or financial assistance from your local authority as a resident athlete. It’s definitely advisable to check your local council website or contact them directly to explore what funding may be available.
Sport specific grants
Another great idea is to contact National Governing Bodies (NGBs) of sport to check whether any funds are available through the sport or associated trusts. For example, in athletics the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund is a charity with annual grants available to athletes between the ages of 15 and 23. The grants range in value and help recipients make the difficult transition from junior to senior level through support for equipment, specialist coaching or travel.
Sky Sports Scholarships
The Sky Sports Scholarships programme is currently helping 12 of Europe’s most exciting young athletes fulfil their potential on the international stage. The scholarship provides athletes with a unique level of support through their relationship with Sky as they develop their careers. The programme runs from 2017-2020 and offers benefits such as financial aid, both a sporting and business executive mentor, media training, personal development and work experience.
In the ages of social media, crowdfunding can be a powerful tool for generating financial support for your sport. It can be especially effective if you’re looking for help to fund for a particular purpose like an important competition. Many successful fundraisers offer their supporters a ‘reward’ such as a special thank you message or a one-to-one coaching session to encourage larger donations and build a relationship with their followers. There are now a number of few sports-focussed websites such as Pledge Sports and Make A Champ that are free to use in return for a small fee per donation.
Sport England provides some general advice, as well as the pros and cons of crowdfunding for sports.
Professional body grants
Dependent on what you are studying, it may be worthwhile contacting the professional body associated with your course to see if there is any funding available. For instance UKSCA, the UK Strength and Conditioning Association, offer annual grants like the Richard Holmes Award for emerging S&C coaches.
Students in higher education can apply for money directly from their university or college on top of any other student finance – you don’t have to pay this money back. Each university or college has their own rules about bursaries, scholarships and awards, for example who qualifies, how much you can get and how to apply.