"It has been quite the year since graduating! I have been lucky that I had landed myself some paid work within Strength and Conditioning after graduating, alongside working on my MbR at Abertay University. I have also gained my UKSCA accreditation in the process. Things were going well…and then along came Covid 19.
As unexpected challenges go, I think this one about takes the cake. Unfortunately, I have had to completely suspend my studies. However, it is not the end of the world. I have taken the opportunity (with guidance from my boss) on setting up my own Strength and Conditioning coaching business. Trying to make the most of a bad situation! It has definitely been an unexpected challenge though! There has been a lot of work gone into it in a short period of time. I am however proud of the work I have done on it thus far, and there are some big things in the pipeline for Stewart Athletic Development!
I have been lucky that there is nothing major I would have changed in my decisions over the past year. Things have worked out quite well overall. On the horizon, I will (hopefully) get my MbR finished and then… who knows! Still torn between pursuing a PhD, or full-time work. We will see!"
For 2020 graduates, my advice is to take the opportunities that you get, and also to create your own! Enjoy life as a graduate, and all the best with future endeavours!
What are your long-term career aspirations?
In the long term I want to get into academia, specifically lecturing in Sport and Exercise science at University level and being involved with / carrying out academic research. Alongside full-time lecturing, I would like to work as a self-employed strength and conditioning (S&C) coach. This would allow me to keep working with real world athletes and help them improve their athletic performance, through principles and methods which are learned and developed through research, thus covering both practical and theoretical elements to sport and exercise science.
How will your next steps contribute towards your early career?
Initially, I will be aiming to complete my MbR at Abertay University. All going well with this, I can progress my research onto a PhD, which is generally required to become a university lecturer. Secondly, I am to gain my UKSCA accreditation, a sought after qualification and is regarded as one of the best both in the UK and worldwide. All going well I aim to have this completed prior to re-commencing my studies. Assuming time permits and I can manage both, I would like to get my own coaching business up and running on the side of my studies however this will be of secondary concern.
What approach did you take to researching your career path and industry?
I took a mixed approach to it. Directly speaking to lecturers at Abertay, and also speaking to S&C coaches in the field who are both employed and self employed to get an insight into the job. Specifically asking for the highs and low points of the jobs, challenges faced, perks / rewards of the job etc. I have also had the chance to speak to a variety of other professionals through workshops and conferences which has been really insightful! Family and friends have played a small part, but it is more just discussing ideas with them rather than taking much advice!
How are you feeling about everything?
Feeling both excited and nervous about the next steps. It is going to be a big step up in a lot of ways but I know I will be prepared for the challenges which lie ahead. Also feeling really positive about what the future will bring, and that I am on the right path.
You’ve now started your Masters by research at Abertay under Dr John Babraj and Dr Graeme Sorbie. How's it all going?
The topic have chosen for my masters is to investigate the effects of a non-traditional high intensity interval training (HIIT) on a variety of physiological and bio mechanical variables. I aim to collect data for this project between January and June (2020).
The Grad school is a great place to be based, completely different vibe from Undergrad, as fellow peers are all studying different areas and subjects. It is a good change of pace and a great way to meet people with different interests and perspectives. Socially, it also means that the majority of the conversation does not end up back on uni work which can be refreshing.
I think the biggest change between undergrad and postgrad is the difference in expectations from supervisors. In that you are left much more to your own devices and expected to organise yourself. Personally, this suits me and I have no issue with managing this.
I think the biggest problem could potentially be taking on more work than I can handle, external to uni. However, in the past this is something I can generally avoid, and suspect I will be ok with it again.
As well as your MbR, you’re still undertaking part-time coaching work at St Andrews University and the SRU, and you’re planning on doing a spot of teaching with Abertay’s undergraduate students. How are are you getting on with fulfilling all of these commitements?
I have several hours of coaching commitments as well as university commitments, however, managing them seems to be going well. To make it as easy and stress free as possible, I try and set myself into as constant a routine as possible during the week. Knowing that I have a set schedule makes life easier, and makes everything seem manageable.
To teach as a postgrad student, there is a training course we have to undertake. I have done 2/4 sessions, however I missed the final 2 as I was on Holiday. I will catch them up later in the year though.
I think there will be quite a lot of carryover from coaching style to teaching as the 2 skills appear to very similar in a lot of aspects. Clear communication is key for both, I think the main difference will be a further more detailed explanation is required for teaching than coaching as the students need to understand everything to a far greater level than the athlete’s I coach will. The athlete’s just need to be able to perform the task at hand.
You’ve still got the longer-term in mind, keeping teaching options open by potentially undertaking a PhD after your MbR, and coaching options open by keeping your hand in at various sporting institutions. How are you feeling at this point in time?
So far at this point I am pretty happy with how I am progressing with everything. It’s hard to properly gauge it as I am predominantly writing and reading just now, however I feel I have gotten myself settled into a good, efficient routine.
I’m not sure I can pinpoint exactly where my drive comes from.. I just try and push myself where I can and to achieve what I can to the best of my abilities. I have some goals that I wish to achieve and as cheesy as it sounds, I want to be the best version of myself as I can be. So I feel I have to push myself to try and achieve this.
Over the next 3 months I hope to complete the final part of my UKSCA assessment to become an accredited strength and conditioning coach. There are also some targets within university I wish to achieve for my project in terms of writing.
Overall from the last time we spoke, not a huge amount has changed from a University perspective. Writing is going ok, but it has taken a bit of a back seat. The main focus at the minute is further reading, and on data collection which is well under way! Very hectic but managing to cope with it ok!
I have now completed everything for my UKSCA, and am officially an accredited Strength and Conditioning coach with a governing body. This has also led to paid work within the field, which has been fantastic and opened up some avenues!
Overall things are going pretty well, busy busy as always!
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