Online And On-Point – TASS Research Forum Focuses On Athlete Wellbeing And Career Transitions

The third annual TASS Research Forum takes place next month…with a twist. With a focus on athlete wellbeing and athlete transitions, this year’s event is going virtual! We found out more from host and TASS Research lead Dr Emma Vickers.

Dr Emma Vickers presenting at the Division of Sport & Exercise Psychology Annual Conference

TASS: How has the TASS Research Forum adapted to the challenges of a global pandemic?

Emma Vickers: Like everyone else we’ve had to change the way we present this year and we’ve moved the entire Forum to Zoom. I’ll be hosting seven presentations throughout the morning on December 10 with the focus on athlete wellbeing and athlete transitions. It was a step into the unknown but it’s proved to be a step in the right direction.

TASS: Tell us more…

EV: The one big difference to previous years will be the number of attendees. With a few weeks to go until the Research Forum more than 280 people have confirmed they’ll be attending. That’s four times as many as we’d usually expect!

TASS: Where in the world will people be watching?

EV: We have people registered from as far afield as Japan and Australia and by moving online it’s clear we’ve been able to broaden our reach. In the past we’ve had people coming over to the UK from Holland and Ireland but to be able to present to a truly global audience is very exciting. Although circumstances beyond our control have forced the move to online we’re very aware that this event is opening up TASS to a whole new audience.

TASS: Is this an opportunity to showcase TASS’s work further afield now and in the future?

EV: It looks that way. In the past the majority of the people attending the Research Forum would have come from within the TASS network. This time I’m guessing the majority will be from outside of our network. We have to capitalise on that opportunity. Looking ahead of course we’re considering whether online events — or at least a combination of online and in-person events — are the way forward. With such a huge spike in interest we need to look at what works best for everyone. We’re even considering two events per year to cater for the demand. The interest in the event is one of the positives to come out of what has been a very difficult year. We didn’t foresee so many people wanting to join us online but I’m asking myself ‘why didn’t we take this approach before?’. It feels crazy that we never considered moving online in the past!

TASS: Can you give us an overview of what to expect from this year’s TASS Research Forum?

EV: There will be seven main presentations and it’s the first year that we’ll be able to properly focus on TASS research. There are so many projects to report on and there’s been a lot of positive work going on behind the scenes. Five out of the seven presentations are actually based on TASS projects — either something we’ve funded or something we’ve designed. Emily [Cartigny] and Grace [Harrison] — who are part of the TASS Research Team — will both be presenting.

TASS: Can you tell us more about the themes underpinning this year’s event?

EV: This year’s forum focuses on athlete wellbeing and athlete transitions. Most of the presentations feature one or the other. Of course, athlete wellbeing is very much a big issue at the moment with so much sport delayed or cancelled as a result of the pandemic. The postponement of the Olympics has affected many of the athletes in the sports we work with and it’s not a healthy situation. Athlete welfare and wellbeing is a critical issue now more than ever and it’s something the research event will focus on in some depth. Athlete transitions are a key part of the athlete career path and I’m confident this year’s Research Forum will shed significant light on this area.

TASS: Has 2020 been a fruitful year for research?

EV: Quite a few new research projects started during the first lockdown period. Some were funded by other organisations and one of those was in conjunction with England Basketball. The study looked at why players choose to enter the US college system and how it’s possible to better support their decisions. TASS has never really looked in detail at the pathway to US colleges for talented athletes but it’s a growth area and incredibly popular. We’ve started to look at what that pathway looks like for other sports too and it’s an area that we’re looking to do more work in moving forward. Another project launched during lockdown was with British Sailing. It focused on the pathways sailors take in their dual career journey. Looking back, the first lockdown period was extremely busy in terms of research and I’m predicting much more to come in 2021.

To attend the 2020 TASS Research Forum register for free