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Major conference draws delegates from across the world to Birmingham

A major conference which focused on athlete talent and personal development attracted delegates to Birmingham from across the globe.

TASS (Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme) collaborated with UK Sport, English Institute of Sport and the University of Birmingham to hold its annual conference at the University of Birmingham for the first time to coincide with the Commonwealth Games.

A high-calibre of speakers led the discussions and debates in the Teaching and Learning Building with ground-breaking research and best practice taking centre stage.

The main focus was on athlete wellbeing and mental health, talent development programmes and initiatives, athlete transition, the athlete voice, and diversity and inclusion in talent and elite sport.

Speakers included Dr Arabella Ashfield, Performance Lifestyle Research Lead and Joanna Harrison, Head of Performance Lifestyle, both at the English Institute of Sport (EIS)​; Nathan Price, Culture and Wellbeing Manager and Suzie McDonald, Mental Health and Wellbeing manager, both at New Zealand Rugby; Sophie Brassard, Advisor at Game Plan Canada; Ellen Chambers, Dancers Career Development; Paul Jones, Isle of Man Sport; and Dr John Alder, Head of Player Development at Welsh Rugby Union.

Around 100 delegates attended each day with representatives from across the UK, Europe, and as far as Canada and New Zealand.

Dr Emma Vickers, National Research Lead at TASS, said one of the key focus areas had been insight and research to support athlete and practitioner development.

“The conference was set across two days with day one focusing on the latest research developments and day two on innovative practice,” she said.

“The themes of the two days were centred around athlete wellbeing, talent development and initiatives, athlete transitions, the athlete voice, and diversity and inclusion in the talent/elite sport space. These are all topical issues and important areas currently being considered across the Commonwealth.

“We decided to host the conference during the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games as it was the perfect opportunity for delegates across the Commonwealth to gather and discuss important issues within the world of sport.

“The squash and the hockey games hosted at the University was also a fantastic back drop to the event, and we had many delegates come to the event and then attend sporting events in the evening.

“We chose the Teaching and Learning Building because of its fantastic facilities, we could not have asked for a better environment to conduct the event, with the choice of rooms, technology, and ease of access from the University station.

“The catering was also excellent, and the central space offered a great opportunity for delegates to network.

“This was our first annual conference in person since the pandemic and it couldn’t have gone any better.”

Dr Barry Drust, from University of Birmingham’s School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences, said it had been a pleasure to host speakers and delegates from around the world at TASS’s annual conference.

“It was a really thought-provoking conference which focused on important, topical subject matters from a number of experts in their fields,” he said.

“Hosting it during the Commonwealth Games provided an ideal backdrop to the conference, as well as facilities to enjoy the hockey and squash tournaments taking place at the University which provided more talking points after the sessions!”

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Caption: Delegates from around the world joined the TASS conference, which was held at the University of Birmingham for the first time

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