Former professional footballer and Giveback athlete Chris McCready has been working in a part time role with the Trust focusing on Athlete Support and Development. Chris gives some insight into how the area is shaping up and his future plans.

"I started the new job in October and I have spent the last few months trying to look at creative ways that I can support the Trust in as we move forward and where I can add the greatest value.

I can’t thank all of those involved enough for the part-time role they have created for me: I am humbled at the faith they have in me, and I will work really hard to make the role a success. I think it is testament to the Trust and how it operates that they have been so imaginative and innovative in affording me this exciting opportunity. The role will specifically focus on two important areas: income and new project generation and athlete support.

If I take the latter first, I am currently into the final year of my PhD which is focused on the identity and personal development of elite athletes. The project mirrors my own journey, insomuch as I started my career with rather stereotypical views: I quickly moved sport to a central position in my life, ignored any other interests and relationships, and assumed that more sport would equal more success. I was, or tried to be, the 24/7 athlete. This form of development is my area of passion (and growing expertise!) and encapsulates my PhD in a nutshell.

In reality the transition from sport is challenging, and even with the best preparation, athletes will still need varying forms of support. Based on this I want to develop new initiatives and support the existing great work throughout 2017 and beyond. I would also like to develop ideas around support provided during careers as opposed to just post-career, as I feel the work of the Trust, the passion and purpose athletes attach to working with young people through programmes, can be their healthy separation and complimentary developmental activity to enhance them as athletes and people. The skills developed through training and delivering on our programmes can only be performance-enhancing when athletes compete. If we can continue to develop the person, regardless of where they are in their athletic career, then I am convinced that the Young People we work with, and the athletes themselves, will be in a far greater position to achieve continued success across the broad spectrum of their lives and what is important to them in their futures.      

   

This brings me to a project I’m working on called My Future Today (MFT) that focuses on the personal development of young athletes. MFT are workshops delivered on behalf of League Football Education (LFE) and the Trust. We deliver sessions to approximately 650 young footballers every season, through a range of interactive activities and messaging. We encourage the players to think about themselves in broader terms and away from the football pitch, ask them to consider where they are now, and challenge them to think about their own development as a young person and athlete. We then support them to think about the ways they could add more strings to their bow, without detracting from their central aim of becoming a footballer.

We propose that more interests, better relationships, more developmental activities, better separation, will allow them to perform, sustain positive mental health and smooth their transition (whether that be away from the game or continued success as they move through the ranks). I have been evaluating the workshop as the final part of the PhD and we are really pleased with the level of engagement and how thought-provoking, yet supportive, the workshop has become.

On the back of how successfully the programme has been received, in the New Year we will be working with two high profile clubs to address the ongoing personal development of their  football apprentices through a number of mentoring sessions and the delivery of a community project. These pilots will be funded by the Trust and some investment from the clubs, with the common aim of supporting and developing young players. I am really keen to explore how this workshop might look in other sports and how we could work with young athletes in a similar fashion. This is where I would like to empower other athletes to use their existing contacts and help us drive the sport-specific context of the day so that we can give something back to younger athletes and positively enhance their journey.

I hope this gives some context and clarity to the new role I have been given at the Trust and gives a brief insight into where I feel I can help support the amazing work of the Trust, and the fabulous people that help to drive us forward."

If you are an athlete or are interested in finding out more about how we currently support athletes please click here.