TASS continues to expand network nationwide


Kings college staff working with athlete (Credit: Kings College)


The TASS network continues to expand nationwide with more institutions encouraged to join a community committed to dual career opportunities. King’s College London and the University of Derby are the latest universities to gain TASS Delivery Site status…Simon Rushworth found out more.

The dual career model has never been more relevant to elite athletes, with hundreds of rising stars across England realising the value of setting goals outside of sport and retaining the support of forward-thinking universities partnering with TASS.

Interest in dual career opportunities and a greater understanding of its associated benefits has led to a surge in interest from institutions keen to do more for talented students seeking to combine their studies with sport.

And according to Rhondell Stabana, Graduate Sport Performance Officer for Team Derby, the University of Derby’s decision to apply for TASS Delivery Site (TDS) status reflects a recognition that the dual career approach is the way forward.

“We wholeheartedly believe that athletes should pursue a dual career path to best prepare themselves for life after sport,” he explained.

The University of Derby joins the TDS network from September and is in the process of applying for TASS Dual Career Accreditation (TDCA). “The dual career approach also encourages students to tap into a social network and a learning environment to help them switch off and cope with the intense pressures of elite sport,” added Stabana.

Student athlete training in the University of Derby Sports Centre (Credit: University of Derby)

“There have been many cases recently of athletes (outside of dual career) who speak about losing their identity when they have an injury or when they don’t perform to their best. They see themselves only as ‘the elite athlete’ and that can be a struggle.

“If more athletes can follow the dual career model and maintain multiple drivers in their life then their wellbeing and self-value will help to keep them in the sport for longer and provide them multiple options when the time comes to leave elite sport.”

Stabana’s view is echoed by Zak Evans. The King’s Sport Health, Fitness and Performance Manager is a staunch advocate of the dual career approach and King’s College London will join Derby as a TDS from September. In addition, TASS Dual Career Accreditation has already been secured.

“Dual career support is hugely important at such a pivotal time in an athlete’s life,” said Evans.

“With the big transition in coming to university, and potentially changing the support structures in place for their sport, the dual career approach allows us to further develop the relationship with the athlete and personalise their support.

“It allows us to raise athlete awareness and point out ways in which they can develop their skillset while also learning about how to best translate the transferable skills, learned in sport, that can enhance their employability and professional careers post-graduation.

“The Dual Career Accreditation was the first step on our journey to becoming a TDS. It’s aligned to our university strategy in terms of putting our students at the heart of everything we do and supports our education strategy as we strive to build a synergy between education and a culture of empowerment and personal development.

“As a programme, we were keen to expand the support available to our athletes through working with other areas of professional services such as the Careers and Employability team who supported us in delivering these workshops to our athletes.

(Credit: Kings College)

“Moving into the next academic year, all athletes on our programme will have the opportunity to obtain the King’s Leadership and Professional Skills Award which will be included on their Higher Education Achievement Report.”

Back in the East Midlands and Stabana is confident Derby’s sport students will experience multiple benefits as the university transitions towards TDS and TDCA status. And he is certain more young people are buying into the constantly evolving dual career model.

“Athletes are realising the benefits of combining their sport and studies,” he added.

“We are receiving more and more applications for our scholarships year on year so it looks like the awareness within our institution is improving.

“However, many athletes still forego university places while they pursue sporting success without realising the many benefits of – and support available for – studying at the same time. More still needs to be done to evidence the benefits of the dual career pathway.

“With TASS beginning to collaborate with institutions to commission research into the topic area, I am confident that this will drive the pursuit of best-practice in the sector. And TDCA will allow students to easily recognise institutions that have met a minimum standard in their support for dual career athletes.”

Evans agrees and feels King’s College is already reaping the rewards of the decision to forge closer ties with TASS. “We have seen the benefit of partnering with TASS in supporting students, staff and practitioners, advancing our performance programme and elevating its profile within the college,” he added.

“Our students have already seen first-hand how our practitioner structure will support them moving into the new year and we are excited to be able to further support our students moving into an Olympic year.

“We invest a great deal into our staff and they are the foundation of our programme. Being able to upskill them in other areas has been hugely beneficial and we’re grateful for the expert support we have received in doing this.”

Securing TDCA status was key to King’s College delivering the optimal support package to their elite student athletes and Evans is confident more can follow in the footsteps of celebrated alumna Dina Asher-Smith. The sprinter, who received TASS support during her time at university, has emerged as poster girl for the dual career approach and heads to Tokyo 2020 as the reigning European 200m champion.

Former Kings College student Dina Asher Smith celebrates after victory in the women’s 60m final at the Sainsburys Indoor Championships Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Andrew Boyers Livepic EDITORIAL USE ONLY

“We are very lucky to have such a role model student athlete in Dina at King’s,” added Evans. “She is a huge ambassador for her sport and also the university. We are also fortunate to have a number of distinguished Olympians, including Dame Katherine Grainger, as part our university’s alumni community who retain and actively advocate relationships with the college.

“Since Dina, we’ve continued to recruit successful student athletes such as Laviai Nielsen and Imani-Lara Lansiquot, in addition to a number of other athletes with huge potential in their sport. Ultimately our commitment and ambition remains the same – to provide holistic support and an environment for our athletes to thrive both academically and in their sporting ambitions.”


*For further information on how to join the TASS network and apply for TDS and TDCA status email info@tass.gov.uk or call 0191 6078270.