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Appointment CEO

Meet our new CEO, Rob Young

Posted on: 23 February 2021 by Rob Young

From co-founding Switch the Play to now our CEO, Rob Young MBE, shares his vision for StP, the challenges sportspeople face today and his ambition to help them fulfil their potential. 

Whilst I am incredibly humbled and excited to become CEO of Switch the Play Foundation, those that know me best will be aware that writing blogs was not high on the list of things I was looking forward to! However, new job lesson number one for me, is you can’t just do the fun stuff all the time. So here goes…  

As one of the original co-founders of Switch the Play back in 2014 alongside three other Loughborough University alumni, I have often been asked why we set up Switch the Play. The short answer is quite simply ‘to help people’. 

The slightly longer explanation is that our different life experiences to that point had brought us together around a common view that more could be done to support sportspeople, at all stages of their sporting journey and after the sporting dream is over. Were we naive? Undoubtedly! Have we made mistakes along the way? Naturally! However, our core purpose of helping people has never wavered, and I know that we have genuinely added value alongside other organisations in the sector that share our common purpose. I have never been prouder to be associated with Switch the Play than over the last 12 months. During 2020, the team managed to support and engage with more sportspeople than ever before and expanded our service offering, all whilst juggling the financial challenges that the uncertainty of the last 12 months has brought. This is down to the exceptional efforts of the core team, Associates and Trustees who bring their passion and expertise to help us fulfil our charitable objectives. 

So what is my vision for STP? There will clearly be a lot of continuity given I have been involved in various capacities within the organisation from the start. However, there are four main areas on my to-do list. First and foremost is to help put the charity on a more sustainable financial footing. That might not sound particularly exciting in itself, but we can’t help our beneficiaries without this. Transitioning from a Community Interest Company to a Charity in February last year was always going to be a significant shift for us and throwing in a global pandemic has made that particularly challenging. That is not asking for sympathy or implying we are any different from many other charities. It is simply a statement of fact. With Charlie Belbin joining as our first Fundraising Manager back in the Autumn, allied to the fantastic support of our existing donors, we are now looking forward to a year where there are hopefully a few less ‘speed bumps’ to deal with on the fundraising side.  

Secondly, I want us to build on the foundations that my predecessor Leon Lloyd has led and continue to forge strong relationships with organisations across the sporting landscape that have a responsibility for the duty of care of sportspeople. We have made real progress in this, and I am proud to say that the positive feedback we receive from those we work with reflects the quality of what we deliver. We genuinely believe that effective collaboration is the best way to achieve maximum impact, utilising the resources and expertise that exist across organisations. Our job is to continue to ensure that our behaviours are consistent and based on what can have the maximum impact for sportspeople.  

Three, as touched on above, we have to continually strive for excellence in everything we deliver. This includes constantly challenging ourselves in how we need to innovate, add to and evolve our service offer. Frankly, everything else is hot air if we can’t do this. In this area, I have to give a huge amount of credit to our Operations Manager Luke Jennings for all that he does in this space, alongside our network of Associates who bring expertise, credibility and a passion to their delivery.  

Finally, all of this is meaningless without demonstrating the impact we are having on beneficiaries. We will continue to build our knowledge and understanding of the difference that we can make, moving beyond reporting of numbers to highlighting the meaningful impacts of the work we do. 

I have been asked what I think are the biggest challenges facing sportspeople transitioning today. COVID is clearly significant for many in how it has altered the financial landscape and sporting calendar and created massive uncertainty for organisations and people. This compounds whatever anxieties that may exist for those considering what is next beyond sport.  More generally, from all the academic insights, personal stories shared and sportspeople I have spoken to, it is crystal clear that preparation is critical. That is perhaps a more straightforward message for those who know the end of their sporting career is on the horizon. Our role is to help people consider personal development as part of plan A and not just see it as plan B. Nothing I have personally seen or experienced since we founded Switch the Play has altered my view that the benefits of developing as a person during a sporting career, not only sets athletes up to succeed on leaving sport, but also positively impacts on their performance on the field of play. Better people make better athletes and I’m looking forward to the challenge ahead and StP playing its part in helping sportpeople at every stage of their life. 

I should just mention that it hasn't taken me long to volunteer to get involved in some fundraising activity! I am running the London Landmarks Half Marathon in aid of the Switch the Play Foundation on the 23rd May this year. If you would like to sponsor me any contributions would be gratefully received. 

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