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Friday 8 September 2017

Combining sport and academia

Southampton Solent University is one of the first four institutions to be accredited by an innovative new Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS) initiative.

The Sport England-funded scheme believes that every young person on a talent pathway should have the opportunity to gain qualifications alongside their sporting pursuits and have the chance to follow other interests and personal development.

By formally recognising an institution’s commitment to supporting student-athletes, the TASS Dual Career Accreditation Scheme aims to enable athletes to reach their potential in education alongside achieving success in their sport.

Referenced within the Education section of Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson’s Duty of Care in Sport Review, published in April, accreditation shows that a college or university has the ability to support students following a dual career route. Backing the new scheme, she says:

“I believe we have to a duty to help young people to achieve their potential, whilst prioritising their welfare, wellbeing and education. For the vast majority of athletes, skills and formal qualifications are needed to help them find alternative careers, either alongside their sporting activities or once their sporting days are over.

“For me the TASS Dual Career Accreditation Scheme is a vitally important measure to ensuring all athletes have the chance to pursue an education and enjoy a more well-rounded approach to life.”

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As a Dual Career Accredited Centre, Solent Sport will be an important extension of the network of universities that already partner with TASS, delivering core support services to more than 400 student-athletes each year including: physiotherapy, nutrition, lifestyle support, psychology strength and conditioning and a private medical scheme.

While some of the existing services delivered focus solely on developing the young person’s sporting performance, a dual career support structure and academic flexibility policies will be central to the help available to athletes based at an Accredited Centre.

Dual Career Accredited Centres will receive a toolkit of resources to help provide practical dual career support and bring together all parties who work with the athlete.

For student-athletes, the academic flexibility policies may mean they have the opportunity to access online notes or resources, have a choice of assignments, are able to arrange catch up sessions with lecturers, or even reschedule deadlines or exam dates in exceptional circumstances.

TASS National Director, Guy Taylor, says: “We hope that the academic flexibility policies put into place for the accreditation will begin to develop an effective and lasting dual career structure within each institution.”

Sport England’s Director of Sport, Phil Smith added:  “Our future sporting champions shouldn’t have to choose between getting an education and excelling at their sport, but they are at risk of dropping out of one of them if they don’t get the right support.”

For Solent Sport, the recognition of becoming a TASS Dual Career Accredited Centre is expected to be beneficial by attracting a greater number of talented athletes and building connections with other local sporting institutions.

Kelly Jones, Athlete Support Officer at Solent University says: We are incredibly proud to be recognised for our work in supporting talented athletes to excel in both academia and sport. This accreditation will help us to attract, support and raise the aspirations of talented student athletes of the highest calibre.”