TASS Conference calls for focus on fundamentals

May sees the return of the TASS Practitioner Conference and our Covid-safe virtual event features many of sport development’s key players. As we prepare to welcome keynote speakers and delegates from around the world, we caught up with Ralph Appleby, National Lead – Practitioner Development at TASS to find out more.

TASS: How’s the panel shaping up for the TASS Practitioner Conference 2021?

Ralph Appleby: It’s looking very exciting with a number of experts in their field confirmed to talk about a range of issues focusing on the fundamentals of supporting dual career athletes. We’ve just added Di Lewis, National Talent Manager at the ECB for the Women’s and Girls’ Player Pathway, to Monday’s panel. She joins Ben Holliss (Senior Performance Pathways Scientist, EIS) and Stuart Martin (Performance Manager for British Weightlifting) on the first day as we focus on prioritising those fundamentals. All three speakers will take part in a Q&A session immediately after their presentations are complete. It’s a fantastic way to kick off five days of debate and discussion.

TASS: How did you decide on this year’s impressive line-up?

RA: Many of our speakers are very well known and they’ve presented to thousands of people across the world. But they’ve tweaked their presentations to highlight the topics that are important to TASS and its practitioners. For instance, I’ve seen Mo Bobat (ECB Performance Director), Prof Marcia Wilson (Dean of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Open University) and Dr John Alder (Head of Performance Pathways at UK Sport/EIS) speak before and I found all three hugely engaging. I was keen to invite all three and I’m looking forward to hearing how they approach this year’s conference. Dave Hamilton (Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Director Of Performance Science) has a reputation for developing world class performance programmes across a range of sports. He’s worked with GB hockey, US hockey and more and has a history of success at the highest level. I wanted to give Ben and Stuart a bigger platform as they’re professionals with a lot of positive and thought-provoking things to say and bringing Di on board is the icing on the cake. She has a relationship with TASS stretching back many years and her experience in multiple sports makes her a valuable keynote speaker.

TASS: So what can we expect from the 2021 Conference?

RA: The topics we’ve chosen for the 2021 conference are all focused on fundamental aspects of the dual career journey. Inclusivity and diversity (Prof Wilson) are cornerstones of who we are and what we offer. Engaging athletes is hugely important and the session with Dr Alder points to the softer skills that all practitioners need to have. This conference — and our CPD programme — is all about encouraging our practitioners to showcase their ability and helping them to develop existing and new skills. The key topics reflect that.

TASS: Why is there a need to focus on the fundamentals?

RA: We know that athletes going on to world class programmes have a certain skill level but do they have the wider knowledge and developmental skills that are so important to complement their talent? It’s a question that crops up frequently when we discuss dual career pathways and an issue that our practitioners are keen to debate.

TASS: How have you been able to adapt the conference format in 2021?

RA: We have more than 100 delegates attending each day and more than 220 unique attendees signed up to this year’s conference. It feels great to get back to a full conference format — albeit remotely — after we were forced to limit last year’s event due to the first lockdown. We wanted to run an in-person conference again this year but it became clear that we’d have to run it online. We’re looking on the bright side. An online conference has its benefits. I think we can offer more to the attendees in terms of a greater number and range of keynote speakers and we’re probably more accessible to a greater number of people. On the downside, you do lose that face-to-face interaction and those discussions and informal chats outside of normal conference hours. That will be a miss but fingers crossed everything will be back to normal this time next year!

TASS: Is the TASS Practitioner Conference central to practitioner development and engagement?

RA: Definitely. In truth, it’s become the focal point of the CPD programme. And if there’s been a silver lining to the problems we’ve faced during the last 12 months then it’s the fact that there’s been a significant uptake in those accessing the TASS CPD programme. Since September there have been more than 800 places for practitioners and representatives to get involved in a TASS CPD event. Since last March we’ve organised close to 70 different events and the engagement has been fantastic. The challenge is to maintain that level of engagement once things get back to normal.

TASS: Is it too late to register for this year’s conference?

RA: Not at all. People can still register and we’d encourage anyone and everyone interested in sport development to do so. There’s no need to be a TASS practitioner or to be involved with TASS in any way. We want this to be a thought-provoking five days of learning and debate and we want practitioners to go away from the conference feeling challenged and inspired to develop and improve.

For more information on the event: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1pxNgfUUbONnCt-fDQHe_LVC63WE0I4Ib/view?usp=sharing

To register your place at the TASS Practitioner Conference 2021 for free — click here [https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/tass-conference-the-fundamentals-of-supporting-dual-career-athletes-tickets-148600890263] for details.