Lockdown No Barrier To Learning Thanks To TASS CPD Fund

Lockdown hasn’t stopped S&C specialist Dave Hembrough from broadening his knowledge base and interacting with colleagues across the globe this year. TASS found out how our CPD fund has helped the Sheffield-based practitioner build on 20 years of sporting experience.


TASS: What’s your background in S&C and where are you based in 2020?

Dave Hembrough: I’ve been based at Sheffield Hallam University since 2006 and I have a dual role as their Sports Science Officer and Lead Strength & Conditioning Coach. I’ve been involved in the TASS programme from the start and that’s been really good for me in terms of building experience and developing my skills. I worked with the GB women’s volleyball team at London 2012 and at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow two years later I supported the British divers. I’ve worked with England Table Tennis, world champion boxers and mountain bikers. I’m also a weightlifting coach and run Hallam Barbell Weightlifting Club. It’s got a community focus with social and personal development at its heart. I’m passionate about the work we do there.

TASS: Has CPD through TASS been a key part of your S&C journey?

DH: TASS always provided the ongoing practitioner development programme in-house and via seminars. A strong regional network was established early on and they would pull together individual practitioners to cross-fertilise ideas and approaches. Individuals from different disciplines might work together and those within the same discipline would get together two or three times a year. It was an excellent opportunity to learn from like-minded professionals and develop ideas. In recent years the budget has allowed for practitioners to apply for funding to pursue specific CPD opportunities and it’s been hugely beneficial.

TASS: How have you benefitted from the TASS CPD fund?

DH: In the past I’ve applied for funding to attend the annual UKSCA conference. UKSCA is the UK’s professional body for strength and conditioning and it’s central to my career development. It’s normally a 2-3 day event and there’s an opportunity to listen to and rub shoulders with international calibre specialists. The networking opportunities are invaluable and it’s always a chance to catch up with my fellow TASS leads from across the UK. Last year I picked up the UKSCA Development Coach of the Year award and that kind of recognition was fantastic. I was looking forward to this year’s conference but for obvious reasons it hasn’t happened.

TASS: So how did you adapt and ensure your CPD wasn’t stopped in its tracks by COVID-19?

DH: I started looking for online opportunities and found a virtual conference organised by Proformance called Child To Champion. It was billed as a ‘must attend event for S&C coaches’ and it proved to be just that. It’s been running for three years but the event organisers were forced to move it online this summer. The TASS CPD fund enabled me to ‘virtually’ attend this year’s conference and the US and Australian versions. I had access to six days’ worth of videos and seminars and now I have a bank of material that will be invaluable moving forward. As a CPD opportunity it’s priceless.

TASS: Why should more practitioners access the TASS CPD fund?

DH: However you’re involved within the TASS network you have a responsibility to focus on CPD. As practitioners we have a professional responsibility to remain current and topical. We need to continue our learning and we have a responsibility to the athletes we work with to ensure we are delivering the best advice possible. We should be challenging preconceptions and constantly developing. It’s really important that practitioners engage in learning and TASS provide the support to do that.

TASS: How easy is it to secure funding?

DH: As long as you’re checking your emails and engaging with the hub network then you can’t miss the opportunities available via the CPD fund. There’s a short form to fill in and that’s about it! It’s a little more challenging to stay on top of everything due to COVID-19 but the support is still there. I’d say right now is the time to apply to the fund as we all have more time on our hands and there’s an unexpected opportunity to devote that time to learning.

TASS: How have you been able to adapt to the post-COVID landscape?

DH: I think the biggest challenge has been the end of face-to-face delivery. I’ve had to review the way that I work with athletes. It’s been a case of altering their mindset so that when it comes to S&C they have the confidence to be independent – rather than dependent. I’ve been working closely with sport coaches and supporting those coaches to deliver a joint programme to the athletes. Practically speaking I have a small child and I’m suddenly working from home so that presents its own challenges! But in terms of CPD, the explosion in Zoom meetings and webinars has been a positive by-product of lockdown.

TASS: Do you feel S&C practitioners will change their approach longer-term as a result of the challenges you’ve faced since March?

DH: I think the challenge is working out how we can capture key information in a way that ensures it’s retained and it’s impactful. There are a lot of Zoom sessions, podcasts and virtual seminars available but we need to encourage practitioners to look at whether they can make these options a more pleasant learning experience. We’re constantly evolving the way in which we’re working.

*To find out more about the TASS CPD fund and to apply now click here ralph.appleby@tass.gov.uk