New TASS athletes welcomed and inspired by Rookie Week

Scores of students are finding their feet at TASS Delivery Sites across the country this month as the new academic year gathers pace.

And thanks to our returning Rookie Week, the new intake of TASS athletes is primed to capitalise on the range of support available throughout the year.

Rookie Week made a successful debut virtually in 2020 and returned 12 months down the line to help empower our next generation of talented students.

Its aim is to celebrate, inform and prepare with key addresses from TASS athletes past and present.

Three-time Olympian Steph Twell wrapped up a two-day introduction to all things TASS by urging this year’s rookies to make the most of a golden opportunity.

“I’m in my early 30s now and I’m still involved in elite sport and still enjoying it,” said the former TASS athlete. “Sport is a lifestyle and it’s so rewarding regardless of any success.

“When I look back now I really think that being on TASS was one of the biggest building blocks for my career.

“Your time with TASS allows you to lay the foundations that will stand you in good stead throughout your career.

“The learnings from my time as a TASS athlete turned out to be really instrumental in terms of what I went on to achieve.

“I became part of a wider group of like-minded athletes and that proved crucial in terms of opening my eyes and helping me to progress in my chosen profession.

“The strength and conditioning support I received as a TASS athlete played a pivotal role in terms of preventing potential injuries and it’s a subject I’m still passionate about now.

“Off the track TASS helped me to develop as a person and enabled me to organise sessions more effectively.

“Being part of TASS gave me a louder voice and I loved absolutely everything about it.

“This year’s intake of TASS athletes are on the cusp of really taking off in their chosen sports and I’d urge all of them to engage with their delivery sites and practitioners as much as possible.”

Alison Brown, TASS National Lead (athlete support and governance), led the two-day Rookie Week programme.

And she added: “The sessions aim to inform and prepare the athletes and to equip them with the information and the insights that they need.

“The next step up from Rookie Week is the first TASS Delivery Site (TDS) session. The students who’ve been through Rookie Week can approach their TDS with confidence and with a greater understanding of where they sit within the athlete pathway.

“A number of our athletes won’t study at their designated TDS and many aren’t even university students. It could be quite daunting for them attending their TDS for the first time without the benefit of the Rookie Week sessions. It’s a big step so we try to allay any fears and ease that transition.

“We want to inspire our athletes to make the most out of their TASS support and to capitalise on the opportunities it offers. They need to know that it’s a great opportunity but it’s something they also need to take ownership of. It’s a classic case of you get out of it what you put in.”

2021 TASS Stars award winners Tom Smith and Liam Spinks joined the diverse online programme to provide a current athlete perspective.

Tom Smith (left) and Liam Spinks (right, right) who helped to inspire this year’s TASS intake.

And the engaging duo captured the imagination of those rookies keen to find out more about the opportunities available.

“TASS has been a massive part of my development as an athlete,” explained para powerlifter Tom. “It’s allowed me to focus on my education at the same time as I’ve been progressing through the powerlifting ranks.“It’s been a great stepping stone for me. It’s taught me to look at myself like the CEO of a business where the business is you and the future’s in your hands.”

Liam, one of English football’s rising stars, scooped this year’s Most Inspirational athlete prize at the annual TASS Stars awards.

And he added: “I’d just say to all of this year’s rookies — make the most of all the TASS support you’re offered and attend every session that you can!

“Linking in with my S&C coach has had a huge impact this year and I’ve also benefited from the psychological support and lifestyle advice.

“As an A-Level student — studying biology, sports science and psychology — I find scheduling is key and TASS has helped me to organise my time so effectively.”

A slew of TASS practitioners from across the country contributed to Rookie Week, providing an overview of the expertise available and underlining the value of TASS support.

S&C specialist Liam Connor, TASS lead at Hertfordshire University, explained: “The main things to consider as a TASS athlete are engagement and communication.

“The more you engage as an athlete the more tailored support you’ll be able to access.”

And Liam’s message was echoed by Ryan Fagan, a Performance Lifestyle Advisor based at the University of Nottingham.

“It can be quite demanding being a dual career athlete but TASS can help you to build your self-awareness and teach effective coping responses,” he said.

“As lifestyle coaches we can often be a sounding board and as a one-to-one service we encourage personal growth and professional development.”

Performance nutritionist Jodie Redgrave, who works with Goalball UK, urged this year’s TASS rookies to be proactive.

“The saying goes you can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink,” she said. “It’s down to you as a TASS athlete to get the most out of this excellent opportunity. Take ownership!”

Alison is already putting plans in place to ensure 2022’s Rookie Week builds on the success of this year’s event.

And she added: “The contributions from TASS athletes past and present were fantastic and the practitioners made a series of invaluable points. I’m sure our rookies went away from the sessions feeling ready to make the most of their TASS support.

“Although the pandemic drove us towards communicating with our athletes in a different way, the online Rookie Week sessions worked really, really well.

“The attendance was high and I think it did resonate with the athletes. The feedback’s been positive so far and it made us feel as if what we’d delivered fitted the bill.

“Most of the TDS sessions will be in person again this term and it’s important that TASS athletes don’t miss out on that face-to-face support. But I think we can deliver a strong mix of content — both online and in person — moving forward.”