Speed specialists from across the UK are hot-footing it to Sheffield this month as one of the fastest-growing fields in performance sport takes centre stage.

The inaugural Diversity Of Speed symposia will focus on how a better understanding of speed can impact positively on elite athletes and their coaches.

And the event — staged at the city’s English Institute of Sport — will seek to start a conversation around encouraging more people from diverse backgrounds to pursue careers in performance sport.

Quick thinkers Alan Murdoch, Ruth Waghorn and Hailu Theodros are the headline speakers at an event hosted by Sheffield Hallam University in association with the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS).

And all three bring a unique perspective on speed at a time when athletes are picking up the pace when it comes to thinking outside the box.

Ruth Waghorn

“The area of speed within sports science is significant across so many sports,” explained Steve Thompson, Senior Lecturer and S&C Coach at Sheffield Hallam University.

“However, it’s one area that does tend to fly under the radar. Certainly, in terms of research and profile it’s a bit neglected.

“The Diversity Of Speed title points to the diverse demographic of people who already practice in the field but it also seeks to encourage more people from diverse backgrounds to look at S&C and physiotherapy as a future career.

“Our panel reflects that. We wanted to provide a set of speakers that represents the diversity that’s already there.”

The one-day applied learning symposia will see sport-focused Masters students from Sheffield Hallam University join TASS accredited practitioners from across England to talk all things speed.

And the groundbreaking event kicks off with a series of practical speed sessions delivered by three experts in their field.

Alan Murdoch, Head Coach at Bath-based Speedworks, will introduce the concept of ‘Gamespeed’ while Ruth Waghorn, Physical Performance Coach at The FA, is set to focus on ‘Simplifying Speed’.

Alan Murdoch

Hailu Theodros completes a trio of big hitters in the world of speed as the Lead Athletic Development Coach with Chelsea FC Academy discusses ‘Defending and Decelerating’.

Hailu Theodros

“Speedworks are the frontrunners when it comes to speed and change of direction and they’ve cornered the market in terms of helping athletes progress,” added Steve.

“They’ve used their approach to fit all sports and their popularity has grown massively over the years.

“In terms of hosting a symposia around speed it was hugely important to involve Speedworks.

“Ruth has a fantastic reputation as a forward thinker when it comes to speed and it was a no-brainer to bring her on board.

“Hailu is young, fresh and playing a key role within a top quality football club. He really fits the bill when you look at the topics we’ll be covering on the day.”

The Diversity Of Speed is the first event reflecting a new partnership between Sheffield Hallam University and TASS focusing on encouraging more people from diverse backgrounds to consider careers in performance sport.

TASS is working alongside a number of universities to explore greater opportunities within sport for under-represented groups.

And Ralph Appleby, National Lead (Practitioner Development) at TASS, added: “We’re looking at creating more opportunities for under-represented groups around strength and conditioning and physiotherapy.

“We wanted to look at how we can get more people from diverse backgrounds to become practitioners.

“Several universities are exploring opportunities for future practitioners and The Diversity Of Speed is a fantastic launch event in that respect.

“Steve and his team have ensured a great balance to the day. I like the fact that there’s an applied aspect in the morning and the opportunities for those attending to engage and learn.

“We’re expecting 25-30 TASS accredited practitioners to attend from across the country and this will be only the second in-person event that TASS has co-hosted since the start of the pandemic.”

Popular podcaster Rob Pacey will host an athlete/coach-led Q&A session after lunch featuring Leonie Ashmeade, Ben Simons, Sam Heathcote, Zach Shaw and Lewis Samuel.

And there will be an opportunity for delegates to network later in the day.

“We wanted to deliver a combination of practical and presentation but also wanted to hear from athletes and their coaches,” added Steve.

“We’ve invited a range of athletes — able bodied, those with disabilities, male and female — from a diverse range of backgrounds and cultures.

“We’re really excited to see where this can go. As a university we’re trying to offer more of these opportunities and the partnership with TASS means we can start to move the goalposts in the future.

“The Diversity Of Speed is a drop in the ocean but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.”

If you are a TASS practioner and would like to attend this event, please contact Ralph Appleby ralph.appleby@tass.gov.uk