- Written by Amy Longster
Following experiences on both sides of the Atlantic, Callum was driven to investigate how personality affects the transition experience of a sportsperson.
Of course, the primary focus of all aspiring young athletes is to excel in their sport and that is no surprise. But perhaps in solely doing so, the benefits of developing athletes in other areas of their lives have been overlooked. Enhancing other aspects of an athlete’s life does not have to come at the expense of performance – in fact, many athletes feel that having a balance might improve their performance. Having a sporting career and pursuing other opportunities in academia, for example, can often go hand in hand. Many student-athletes can achieve academically and in their sporting endeavours simultaneously.
Callum Jones is a fantastic example of someone who is excelling in many areas. Having studied and played basketball at university in America, he has demonstrated the possibility of continuing academic study alongside a professional sporting career. Now in his 11th season playing professional basketball, Callum Jones oversees the 59 student-athlete scholars in his role as Performance Sport Officer at Manchester Metropolitan University.
“As I progress through my career and towards the end of my playing career my passion has been giving back and supporting other people going through experiences.”
“My role involves the recruitment of the athletes into the university and then all of their support services whilst at university. A big element of that is performance lifestyle guidance, which involves making sure that the athletes are doing well academically, athletically and then also personally.”
“The aim is to make sure that our athletes, leave us as much more well-rounded people, as well as better athletes.”
Having had first-hand experience as a student-athlete himself, Callum acknowledges the importance of taking a more holistic view when developing and supporting young athletes to ensure they are advancing in many areas of their lives. And crucially, Callum seeks to tailor each programme to the individual to ensure each athlete’s needs are met.
“When I saw myself progressing in other areas, I felt better about myself and ultimately the impact on my sport was good, it was much more positive. And that's something that I've self-reflected on throughout my career. And for me personally, I found it to be healthier to have a balance of things going on.”
“Everyone has different personalities, and every sport is different in terms of what they require of their athletes, but I just think it's interesting to get more information from the athletes themselves because ultimately their perception and their own reality in their heads is the most important one.”
Since completing a Masters at the University of Worcester, Callum has begun further research as part of his PhD that complements his role at MMU. Despite his research being in its early stages, Callum hopes to explore how different personalities may affect how successful transitioning out of sport is for different athletes.
“What I'm most interested in is really the personality traits that can be negative or positive in that final transition, and how people have progressed into that retirement stage.”
“There are some really interesting themes emerging, especially comparing athletes from the 60s, 70s, and 80s before it was professional to that post-2000 period when UK Sport funding came into place.”
“How do environments or people and personalities contribute to athletes flourishing? That's really a major theme of mine.”
Once all the data has been collected, Callum anticipates that the findings will lead to further understanding of how to support athletes in all areas of their lives, which in turn will lead to better performance and importantly, greater wellbeing of athletes.
I would like to hope that there's going to be some greater understanding of the holistic development of athletes, the importance of that. And not only during their careers but also post sporting careers, that is of paramount importance."
“The ultimate goal of mine is to reframe the athletes’ own perception of what it means to be elite, what it means to progress and what it means to challenge themselves. I think the great learnings will be for them.”
“Sometimes I think when people hear the word well-being, it's automatically got negative connotations. One of the other outputs I hope will help reframe that too. I think in the past you only get help if you say you're struggling, but actually how can we maximise everyone's opportunities.”
Research such as this has the chance to contribute to the development of athletes beyond their sporting careers. Ensuring athletes have a good balance between things during their careers is likely to make #LifeOutsideSport and transition a more favourable and easier one.