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Life Off The Field

On the field, professional athletes are strictly managed. When they do well, they are showered with praise. They are advised on every aspect of their career, from training to psychology, but all too often the development of life skills is neglected.

Olympic champion Lizzy Yarnold, who wowed the crowd at the Sochi Winter Games, joined forces with Katherine Grainger, the 2012 Olympic rowing champion; English national rugby player, Leon Lloyd, and English national cricketer Holly Colvin at the launch of the Register of Personal Development Practitioners in Sport at the end of February at the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health (ISEH) in central London.

The success of Lizzy Yarnold at the Sochi Winter Games was the perfect reward for her commitment to an intense training regimen and a hectic competition schedule – that excellence must also be supported in ‘off the field’ development.


The critical need to ensure that athletes thrive in all areas of their lives is now being supported with a new initiative that recognises those who provide support on career advice, financial commitments, family support, education and welfare.

The Register of Personal Development Practitioners in Sport (RPDPS) will recognise qualified professionals who work in the area of Personal Development within sport. It takes a special kind of person to be a professional athlete. The training is rigorous, the diets are boring, and if you are successful, the media attention is unavoidable. There are dieticians and nutritionists to look after your food, agents and managers to look after your career, coaches and physiotherapists to look after your performance, and sports therapists to look after keeping your head in the game. But who is helping you make friends, look after your family emotionally, or keep your ego in check? This is where the RPDPS come in. They make sure that our top-tier athletes are getting life-guidance that complements their athletic training.

Steve Mitchell, Head of Consultancy at SkillsActive, the owners and operators of RPDPS, says, “Sport is becoming a lucrative industry, which means it sometimes attracts people to the sector who offer below-standard advice and services. By creating National Occupational Standards, RPDPS assures national governing bodies that the professionals working with athletes and players are fully qualified and competent in what is a very sensitive job role.”

Reaching the pinnacle of athletic success rarely comes without setbacks; committed athletes often need professional help and support along the way.

This can include maintaining perspective through corrective mentoring and lifestyle advice from Personal Development Practitioners.

Katherine Grainger CBE says, “Performance lifestyle has been instrumental and played a key role throughout my rowing career that has spanned four Olympics.”

Leading organisations involved in the independent public Register’s development include the Rugby Football Union, English Institute of Sport, England and Wales Cricket Board, Sport Wales, and the Professional Players Federation.

The new Register will also benefit organisations looking for professionally recognised practitioners. Such professionals work with some of the country’s elite athletes, from international team players to Olympic champions.

Kate Green, National Lead – Personal Development & Welfare at the ECB, says, “Having a register for our profession is hugely important in recognising the development in this area of support. The aim is to support lifestyle, personal development and wellbeing of players and coaches so that they can perform to the best of their ability, minimising unwanted obstacles and maximising future opportunities in both their personal and professional lives. Having specialised, experienced and trusted practitioners to perform this support is crucial, and having a clear pathway will enable keen and motivated individuals to follow a clear career progression.”

Steve Mitchell concludes, “RPDPS will provide the yardstick by which professionals are measured and accepted by the wider industry, and will enable Personal Development Practitioners to gain the trust and confidence of their clients. It is the additional, much-needed support that our committed athletes deserve, and will ultimately benefit the economy at large.”


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