A summer celebration of sporting success is gathering pace after the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS) revealed plans to salute a landmark anniversary in style. The scheme, managed and overseen by SportsAid, is marking 15 years of support to talented young athletes. And with the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games on the horizon there has never been a better time to focus on the value of backing the nation’s future stars.
“Since 2004 TASS has helped more than 6,000 emerging athletes spanning 70 different sports from across the country,” explained Guy Taylor, National Director for TASS. “Supported athletes have won more than 170 Olympic and Paralympic medals and many have gone on to realise their academic potential and develop valuable careers.
“We started out as an athlete award scheme – providing talented young people with financial backing and specialist support. During the last 15 years the scheme has evolved significantly and we now boast an international reputation for developing the dual career pathway and ensuring more performance athletes remain in education and prepare for future employment.”
This summer’s celebrations will recognise the achievements of current TASS athletes and alumni who have benefitted from a package of dual career support. Skeleton athlete Shelley Rudman was the first ever TASS-supported athlete to win an Olympic medal after claiming silver in Turin in 2006.
“For me, the TASS funding came at a crucial point in my career and enabled me to progress on to train and compete at the highest level,” she said. “The backing from TASS was invaluable in that it also gave me the belief that I could succeed as a senior athlete. “I received help back in the scheme’s first year whilst studying at University of Bath but it has since developed to have an incredible impact on the sporting pathway. I hope that it will continue for many years to come.”
A range of online and offline activities will showcase the scheme’s impact since 2004 and look forward to an exciting future – including the support of English athletes targeting the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022.
“It’s no coincidence that we are kicking off our celebrations in Birmingham in May at the TASS Strategy Day and Conference,” added Taylor. “We are returning to the venue of the scheme’s inaugural network event which was launched by the then Sports Minister, Richard Caborn. It’s an exciting time to be involved in sport in the city and many of our athletes have one eye on the 2022 Commonwealth Games.”
Taylor’s view is echoed by Zena Wooldridge, Director of Sport at the University of Birmingham and a key supporter of TASS. “TASS can be so proud of what has been achieved since its launch in 2004,” she added. “For many supported students it has presented opportunities and experience that have put their sport, careers and lives on a different trajectory.
“Its 16th year cohort, entering university in 2019, will be special in that most students will graduate a few weeks prior to Birmingham 2022. I hope that will be an added incentive for a record number of TASS athletes to make the England team for a home Commonwealth Games.”
TASS continues to be a beacon for best practice in terms of matching talented athletes with specialist sport staff and tailored support. And Taylor added: “Birmingham will bring together athletes, practitioners and specialist support staff and focus on a holistic approach to supporting dual career athletes.
“That’s at the core of what we do and what we are championing in 2019. We’re hoping the TASS Strategy Day and Conference will serve as a fantastic networking and learning opportunity and create a real buzz around our 15th anniversary celebrations.”
The party starts in earnest on June 12 with 15 consecutive days of online interaction, case studies and athlete interviews knitting together TASS’s history and outlining its ambitions. London will play host to the TASS 15th anniversary reception on June 26 with special guests descending on the capital to join athletes, alumni and staff in celebrating a significant milestone in the scheme’s ongoing contribution to the country’s sporting future.
“We want our best young athletes to feel as if nothing is beyond them – on and off the field,” added Taylor. “With support from Sport England – and as a part of the SportsAid family – we’re confident that the TASS partnership between athletes, education institutions and sports will continue to help the next generation of rising stars to thrive.
“In 2019 there is ample opportunity for talented athletes to achieve their sporting goals and gain qualifications in their chosen area. “The dual career approach should be encouraged and celebrated. We have come a long way in 15 years and we intend to go much further in the next 15 years.”