In the technology press this week was the news that Facebook has suffered a drop in use in the UK, for the second month in succession. I use Facebook, mainly as a tool to stay in touch with friends and to distribute links to this blog, and I have to say that I too have experienced a little fatigue in using it. Not enough to stop though. I also use Twitter (@nwconditioning) and Linkedin, both of these I use more as a strength and conditioning coach/business owner and definitely find I get more from these two tools.
The strength and conditioning roundtable on Linkedin has been useful for coaches to share ideas and debate certain topics. Linkedin has a fairly large strength and conditioning community to connect with but I don’t find it’s format especially intuitive and so the major use I get from it is to post my blogs to it. I’m also not a huge fan the feature allowing you to see who’s viewed your page, it definitely restricts the amount I browse on there.
By far and away the tool I use most though is Twitter. If you pick your followers wisely, the content you can be directed to takes a lot of time out of browsing for it yourself. That’s what I use it for. There’s a of posts on there that I’m not fussed about reading but after using for a little while you can identify those who post things you find useful and use the list feature. I use it as a bit of a filter. In terms of tweets, I’m quite targeted about what I put on there, if I find something I think is useful for people to see then I’ll post it or retweet it. I also use it to get some advice such as info certain products or text books and to occasionally mention something I’m doing to maintain activity on the site.
To be honest though, I think you get more out of a 5 minute chat with another coach rather than from 140 characters at a time, which is one reason I’m looking forward to the UKSCA conference this weekend. I try to make sure that social networking via the internet doesn’t detract from actual face to face networking and try to meet up with a couple of other coaches each month to share ideas and grow my network. I also think Skype is a great tool that I’m hoping to use more for networking so if any coaches reading this fancy a Skype chat anytime just give me a shout (Skype name is neilwelch).
I had a quick look at the jobs board on the UK Sport website today, it’s something I do every so often to see what’s out there. I’ve noticed over the past year or so that the number of internships for sport science and strength and conditioning roles seems to have increased. Maybe it’s just my perception and seeing a few come out at the same time has skewed that. Still, worthy of a blog I thought.
I’ve not been through an internship myself and so would not want to pass comment on the experience obtained throughout one, which I’m sure is incredibly valuable. It’s more regarding the structure of the internships. Nick Clegg, deputy prime minister, brought up the subject of internships in the not too distant past suggesting that interns in Westminster should be paid for the work that they do. I think that’s a pretty good idea and one that all the professional teams would do well to emulate.
I know that the field is incredibly competitive and tough to break into and that showing commitment by giving away time with local, national and professional teams is par for the course. However I think that getting someone to work full time for a whole year, frankly, is taking the piss a bit. Organisations are taking advantage of a labour market that is massively skewed in their favour, namely lots of graduates desperate to make their way. The numbers are such that it is likely someone will be able to afford to undertake the position.
It also leads me to think about how an organisation views a free asset such as an intern and the structure of the internship. Again, idle speculation on my part but what value is an organisation going to place on the intern and the work they do if they are working for free? I guess it depends on the reasoning behind creating the internship in the first place. If the reason is to give something back to the field or to use it to nurture someone into the organisation, as is the case with internships in other fields, then maybe the intern is viewed as more valuable than if the reason for creating an intern role is for someone to work for free and take some of the load from the current staff. Having said that, if I had someone to take some of my workload from me free of charge I might find that valuable, but in a different way than if I was providing more of a learning experience to someone or preparing them to work with me.
Either way, I think that if you have enough work to create a single full time position within your organisation then it should be paid. It would also encourage more applicants and probably increase the caliber of applicants as you wouldn’t be restricting them to purely those that can afford to work full time unpaid for a year. You then increase the likelihood that you have the best people working within your organisation and with your athletes.
For this blog I/you have to thank Ian McKeown (@IanMackers – has a good blog here that is definitely worth following) for pointing me in the direction of a blog on early specialisation on twitter . It got me thinking. What is driving this behaviour? The blog mentions the commercialisation of sport and the media glamourising rich athletes creating extrinsic motivation for the young athlete, parents wanting to provide opportunities to excel and a limited number of coaching jobs causing coaches to push athletes into earlier specialisation as reasons. I’d like to delve a little deeper if I may.
I’m not so sure on the first point. Are young athletes driven by the wages and commercial opportunities that are associated with success at the highest levels of sport and the entrapments that so often seem to accompany it? They don’t tend to get mentioned in separate articles within the media. If young athletes read the tabloid press, I’m not sure the hounding that Tiger Woods, Ryan Giggs and Lance Armstrong have received recently would seem too appealing.
I’d say that young athletes are the most likely of anyone to dissociate the celebrity and monetary rewards from the adulation received from having 80,000 screaming their name after making a match winning play. If anyone is to be drawn in by extrinsic rewards, I’d have said parents would be the most likely candidates (see this documentary for details). I’m sure the majority of parents are driven by a will to give their children the best opportunity for success and that was why the dad I saw at 630am the other day was with his two under 10 year old children dribbling a football around cones in the park.
I think that commercialisation of sport has had an effect but in a different way. Many professional clubs have academy sides that start at a very young age. These sides are seen as a gateway to success and so children (and parents) are trying to get into them. For clubs that rely on developing talent as a source of income by acting as a feeder club, these sides represent an important part of their business model and they perhaps see that the more kids they can hoover up into these sides, they have perhaps more chance of discovering talent and seeing an investment return. Essentially professional clubs are panning for gold. Instead, professional clubs should be playing the role of alchemists.
The approach of sports teams relating to community should be a joined up one across a number of sports. The development of athletic ability should be the primary aim and increasing long term participation in sport. The athlete can then decide what sports they enjoy competing in and have a pathway into whichever sport they choose because they are all involved in the development process. The talented, driven and more committed athletes will still succeed but social interaction between groups of young athletes can be enhanced. This can allow sporting success to be defined and measured differently.
At the top end, success will always be measured in time, distance and points. It has to be. But the success of community sporting projects should be measured in ongoing participation, sports club members, long term health and anti social behaviour and crime. Sport is about so much more than just winning medals and making money. We can’t lose sight of that.