England’s young athletes are learning how balancing all their commitments and focusing on areas outside the sport can create a positive impact on their performance on the table.
Lifestyle Month is the second themed month of learning in the BetterME initiative launched last month.
The young athletes in the National Training Squad, Futures Squad and the GB Start and GB Potential groups are taking part in in-person and online sessions designed to help them develop skills to effectively manage all their commitments, understand the importance of developing an identity outside of sport, and navigate the challenges of the athletic career, such as moving though transitions.
James Hooper, a performance lifestyle coach from the UK Sports Institute, took charge of the first online session last week, on the subject of The Impact of Personal Development on Sports Performance.
Further sessions this month – including one for the athletes’ parents – will be led by Grace Harrison from the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS) and by Table Tennis England Head of Pathway Development, Emma Vickers.
Emma said: “For most of the athletes, this will probably be their first introduction to this area.
“We had our first session with James Hooper and spoke about what performance lifestyle means. There’s a lot of research that suggests that athletes who have a hobby or other personal development activities actually perform better – there are performance benefits which have been proven.
“For me, the main thing is to help the players reflect forward a bit more about what’s coming up in the next five to 10 years and how they can start to plan what their table tennis careers might look like.
“A key thing is to realise that table tennis is not everything and helping them to understand that we as a performance team are there to support them to develop themselves as people.
“Realistically, a very small number of our cohort are going to make at as senior professional players, and we have a duty of care to prepare them for life outside of table tennis, as well as within the sport, and to protect the players’ wellbeing.”
The BetterME scheme consists of a four-month programme of workshops leading up to Christmas and started with Psychology Month in September. The focus in November and December will be on Nutrition and Physical aspects of the athletes’ lives.
A digital guide for pathway athletes is also in production, and will include case studies with current senior players to help young athletes and their parents see what skills they have used to help their journeys in the sport.