“First steps towards high performance sport: what attributes do young athletes need to stand out from the crowd?”

by Jasmin Campbell Uncategorised

In January, we hosted our first Twitter Takeover with Wesport CEO, Steve Nelson. Steve is committed to, and has a great passion for the role sport and physical activity can play in transforming lives. He believes people within organisations can make a difference and works to bring the best out of all colleagues.

His background includes:

  • Professional Basketball player for 15 years (England International)
  • Head of Development for England Basketball
  • Creating the County Sports Partnership for Sussex, and Wesport.
  • Numerous non-executive roles in the sport, culture and voluntary sectors, currently
    • a Director of new voluntary sector community interest company, and
    • co-opted onto the Executive Board of Gloucestershire County Cricket Club

Steve has also worked on a consultancy basis for UK Sport as part of the International Inspiration programme, working in India and Trinidad and Tobago.

Outside of work, he has been a volunteer basketball coach at junior national league level, with his team crowned under 18 men’s national champions in 2011. He has developed and supported more than a dozen players that have gone on to represent England or GB, including his son and daughter.

We felt that due to this experience, Steve would be well positioned to answer the question “First steps towards high performance sport: what attributes do young athletes need to stand out from the crowd?” from his personal background of being a player, coach and parent within high level sport.

Steve kicked off the discussion stating that “Talent is over rated! Different sports have different needs, but one thing all coaches want are committed young people who are willing to work hard to improve their skills. Hard work> talent.” This theme continued throughout the conversation, with South West Sports News summing it up with the well-known phrase “Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard.”

Sophie (University of Bath student) commented that “intrinsic motivation is also key”. The University of Bristol Sport agreed with this comment, adding “sometimes external motivation isn’t enough to get you to training, or to work harder. It has to come from within!” Steve also agreed, stating “inner drive is a fundamental component- you can’t do it because someone else wants you to… you have to be able to push yourself when the going is tough!” followed by a personal anecdote; “One of my biggest personal disappointments was not making England juniors… for about 2 weeks I believed I was rubbish and should probably stop trying! Then something clicked and it became part of my motivation- I had a good career, outshining most/ all who made that squad!”

Other attributes that were highlighted as key for high-performance players were: a strong work ethic, a good support network, the courage to make mistakes, passion and commitment.

Finally, all agreed that a love for the sport is where it all must begin. Sarah (Create Development) made the point that “you have to love the sport first, everything else will follow.” Jamie (Deputy Head and Coach) also commented “first thing a kid needs is an opportunity you have a go and take part. Falling in love with sports through a high quality initial experience is the trigger.” Steve agreed; “you have to love what you are doing and want to get better… you have to work to make the most of your talent! And not just in sport, in life…”

Thank you to all those who joined in the discussion for our first twitter takeover. You can read all the responses in full here. We really appreciate the input from our partners and feel that sparking these kind of discussions within the network are valuable in the development sport and physical activity.

Look out for our next takeover on Wednesday 25th March 6.30-7.30pm, where we will be asking Elaine Wyllie, the founder of The Daily Mile; “As an ex head teacher, what do you perceive the main barriers are to implementing The Daily Mile for teachers and what are some of the best ways to overcome them?” Make sure you are following @WesportAP and @Elaine_Wyllie to get involved. Look forward to seeing you there!

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about the author

Jasmin Campbell

Marketing & Administration Officer

T: 0117 328 6250