Three members of the Perform team, the official healthcare provider for St George’s Park, reveal what it’s like to work at the home of elite sport in England in the world of sports science.
Unless you’ve been on Mars for the last few years you can’t have failed to notice burgeoning success of St. George’s Park, The Football Association’s national football centre. The world-class training home in Burton-upon-Trent is a home to a range of elite sports as well as football and provide a physical hub where sporting and business communities can benefit from each other’s experiences.
At its heart is Perform, the official healthcare provider. The Perform centre is home to top-class clinicians and state-of-the-art equipment with the aim of becoming an internationally-renowned centre of excellence for sports and exercise medicine, performance science, injury rehabilitation and strength and conditioning. Designed for elite athletes but accessible to everyone from corporate groups, individuals, schools or sports teams, Careers in Sport went behind the scenes to meet three people who revealed what it’s like at the new centre of excellence and how you can follow in their footsteps…
Elite Football Physiotherapist
“My position is a job share and so I split my time between working for the Football Association and Perform.
“My role at the FA is to ensure that England’s 24 national teams make the most of the facilities here and use them to their full potential. I also travel with the senior England team home and away to training camps and games. We’re treating the England teams as a club and we screen, assess and rehabilitate before during and after tournaments, which means we can assess players’ balance, stability, range of movement and ensure they get maximum preparation and recovery during competitions. It means that England players get the same services they’d get at their club when they come away on international duty.
“For Perform, I provide rehabilitation support for elite athletes who want or need an intensive period of rehabilitation or rehabilitation assessment in conjunction with our clinical director, Dr Charlotte Cowie.
“I have a nice balance of clinical work on a day-to-day basis while being able to research in the sports medicine world and lecture while working at the top of elite sport with the national team. It’s a dream role. For me, hands-on work as part of a team and day-to-day interaction and camaraderie with players is the most enjoyable element.
“Players are starting to understand the importance of sports science, too. We’ve had enquiries for those looking to come in two or three weeks before pre-season while because they’re starting to take ownership of their own issues. They’re realising they can make marginal gains by dealing with things such as body fat, performance and speed. Take the England senior team, for example, three quarters of the players are in the gym an hour before training all doing their individual programmes set out by their clubs. No-one was telling them to do it, but they’re all driven and realising what it takes to stay at the top level. Hopefully we can learn from them, too.
“My role at the FA is to ensure that England’s 24 national teams make the most of the facilities here and use them to their full potential. I also travel with the senior England team home and away to training camps and games.”
“I left Salford University with a degree in sports rehabilitation and got a job with Leeds United’s academy. The key to getting that role was my performance on work placements at Blackburn Rovers and a sports medicine practice. I was offered work by both, proving you can’t underestimate the importance of such placements. It’s not just a case of being in the right place at the right time, it’s about how you carry yourself on your placements. You have to assume you’re an employee and if you make a good impression, even if there’s not a job there your name might be passed around when there are links to other jobs. I get calls now from people looking for interns and junior members of staff.
“While at Leeds United I realised my sports rehabilitation degree wasn’t seen as the leading qualification, so I added a part-time chartered physiotherapy degree (recognised by the FA and the Premier League) and part-time Masters, which I thought would enhance my employability, which is important.
“The sports science world is very competitive; it’s a growing industry because it’s being taken more seriously than ever, from exercise physiology to nutrition, conditioning and performance. When I look at CVs I look at who people have addressed their letters to – I’m looking for someone who has found out a specific name rather than a head of department. I’m also looking for those who have done voluntary work off their own back and invested in courses to see if they’ve tried to keep up with the latest changes. A masters degree isn’t enough any more, you have to keep improving and evolving with sports science.
Sports Science Support
“My role involves testing and monitoring all the athletes that come through our doors, whether it’s someone from a clinical setting or an elite performer. Alongside that I help run endurance and corporate sessions, monitor corporate clients as well as schools and other groups. It’s a varied role.
“This is my first job out of university. I finished my Masters at Nottingham Trent University in August/September so I’m lucky to be here. Working in sport is all I’ve ever wanted to do. When I finished my undergraduate degree I set out a goal to try and work in sport, football specifically. I considered what the routes were and studied and planned my next steps. I saved up to do a masters and alongside it did a lot of work experience, sometimes up to 40 hours a week at different football clubs, to help me supplement my degree. That gave me a good background. I helped test players and do running sessions, provided physiological support and coaching and helped with athletic development with academy footballers. I then worked with the first teams at Notts County and Chesterfield football clubs, which gave me a wide range of experience working with U8s to the professionals.
“Networking in particular is a key part of your career development and there are plenty of opportunities for internships.”
“You have to be proactive, that’s how I got this job. My current role wasn’t advertised, but I’d spent 25-30 hours a week writing letters to specific people and networking as much as I could to try and land the role I wanted. Networking in particular is a key part of your career development and there are plenty of opportunities for internships.
“St. George’s Park is a fantastic place striving to be one of the best sports medicine and rehabilitation places in the world. To be working alongside physicians who are at the top of their game and who have been in professional sport and clinical practice for a number of years is a fantastic opportunity for me.
“My aim is to develop my career here. It was always my target to get a job here and now I’ve done that it’s about developing my skills. It’s one thing being involved in sports science, another working at a place like this, so I realise it’s about making the most of the experience and working my up to becoming one of the leaders in the field.”
Business Development Manager
“Perform is a new venture, so the first part of my role was to conduct some market research about what facilities we’ve got that would be attractive, and what sort of packages we could put together for certain markets. Attending conferences and contacting the right people was key to help us do this and we now target several areas.
“The first is elite sport, so professional sports teams, in relation to medical teams around rehab and performance services, pre-season training camps and player rehabilitation. This has involved building relationships with medical teams, club secretaries and chief executives, people who sign off budgets.
“We also target the corporate world and provide a range of packages. They include health screening (we have a range of packages called Perform for Life, which are annual health and lifestyle checks) and corporate residential packages that look at what people can learn from elite athletes and teams to take back into the corporate world. This involves contacting HR directors, chief execs… anyone in a business making decisions about the development of their staff.
“We have also education packages that allow A-Level PE and BTEC sport science students to see the facilities, visit the Perform clinicians and watch demonstrations. Also, in association with the FA, we can facilitate school visits where students can look at body composition, which no-one else is doing, so that involves contacting all the best independent schools and directors of sport.
“It’s a great place to work. It saves me £50 on gym membership for a start! But getting to work with some of the physios and clinicians here is a rare opportunity, while seeing some of the people who use the facilities, like the football and rugby teams, is brilliant.”
The other market is the health market, so triathletes and fitness enthusiasts looking to test themselves, analyse and improve their performance and fitness levels.
“The big thing here is that 30 per cent of the time we facilitate services for the Football Association and their 24 England teams, as well as the coaching services. That equates to a third of our business, which means we have to generate the other 70 per cent. It’s a commercial venture, so we have to be proactive and tenacious in order to spread the message about the services we provide.
“It’s a great place to work. It saves me £50 on gym membership for a start! But getting to work with some of the physios and clinicians here is a rare opportunity, while seeing some of the people who use the facilities, like the football and rugby teams, is brilliant.
“I studied business management at Liverpool John Moores and so I come here without a sports degree, but obviously a huge passion for it. I went into wine after university, but soon moved into sports. I worked in rehabilitation insurance and then sports hospitality in London and Stockholm, before going to work in the commercial department at the club I support, Derby County.
“The key to getting my current role wasn’t just a combination of the experiences above but also contacting all the sports recruitment companies, people like Sports Recruitment International, Knoll and Parnters, Michael Page and Sporting Appointments.”
SGP in numbers
Here’s a closer look at what makes the new facility so special…
275 Jobs created
800 elite coaches UEFA B, UEFA A and Pro Licence coaches to be trained and qualified per annum at St. George’s Park
55,000 coaches through courses developed at St. George’s Park, Level 1 and 2 and Youth Award qualifications will be delivered across the country
250-person Education complex
12 full-size pitches including one indoor full-size pitch and five with under-soil heating and floodlighting
5 gymnasiums Hilton gym, Hampton by Hilton gym, Biomechanical gym, Rehabilitation gym, Strength and Conditioning gym
200 people can watch from the viewing gallery at the full-size indoor 3G artificial pitch.
60m sprint track with equipment to measure speed and running style.