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Old Girls Talk Careers in Sport

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Earlier this month, five former pupils of the Girls’ Division of Bolton School returned, virtually, to talk about their respective careers in sport. In a fascinating evening, a large virtual audience learnt more about the diverse range of career choices within the sector and the character traits and skills required to succeed.

Beth Coton (Class of 2013) was up bright and early to join the presentation from Melbourne, where she is a Tennis Coach and Customer Service Manager at Kooyong International Tennis Academy. Beth told how she came from a sporting family and how she began playing tennis aged 4. After leaving Bolton School, which she said shaped who she is today, and having represented Lancashire at tennis and reached a top 5 ranking in the UK, she went on to study Communication and Media Studies at the University of Northern Colorado. Alongside her studies she told how she played tennis at Division 1 level, going on to be ranked in the top 40 Intercollegiate Tennis Association of America and captaining the university’s tennis team. She told how being active in sport can be an expensive business but one of the advantages of studying in the US was that they paid for everything! Upon graduation, she explained how, after travelling in Asia, she moved to Australia where she has been for four years. She began work at the Kooyong Academy and told how she has recently held tennis clinics alongside world number one players, Stan Smith and Ash Barty. Considering sport as a career, she said your career takes up much of your life, so why not do something that you are passionate about?

The next speaker was Catherine Rees (née Salmon, Class of 1994), who is the founder of Move PR, a sport and lifestyle PR company and a non-executive director of the FA National Futsal Series. She recalled her days at Bolton School, where she was a keen sportswoman; captain of the Athletics team and involved with the lacrosse and netball teams. She told how she then went to the University of Liverpool to study History before taking a Postgrad in PR and Journalism at the University of Cardiff. She briefly recapped her career, telling of jobs in a London PR agency where she worked on the Reebok account, in Amsterdam working for Cirque du Soleil and in Manchester working for a consumer department of a PR agency.

Catherine told how, before setting up her own agency, she was Global Head of Communications at Umbro, which was bought out by Nike, who she then worked for with responsibility for high profile campaigns around the England football team, Manchester City FC and some of the world’s best-known football players, including Pele, Beckham and Cantona. She told the audience how she now works with sport companies, brands and charities from grassroots sport upwards. This, she said, includes working with a charity that supports professional sportspeople when their sporting career comes to an end. She also told how, in her role with the FA National Futsal Series, she recently helped secure a broadcast deal with BT Sport, the biggest of its kind in the history of futsal in England! Considering why young people should consider a career in sport, she said the industry was opening up more for women and that there is a ‘huge machine’ behind what you see happening on the field of play – there are positions for those working in law, in fashion, in PR and journalism and so much more. In order to work in the PR industry, she said it was important to be truly interested in the news agenda and to be able to remain calm under pressure.

Dr Rosie Arthur (née Poynor, Class of 2001) is a Lecturer of Sport and Exercise Psychology at the University of the West of Scotland. Rosie, joined the lecture from Scotland and talked about and gave some examples of how her interests focus on the psychological determinants of sport performance and physical activity behaviour. She explained how she investigates the interplay between psychological, physiological and social factors, such as deprivation, and how they work together to influence the participation and performance of physical activity. She said there are broadly three parts to her job: teaching, research and dealing with other organisations, such as GB Rowing, NHS Lanarkshire, Celtic Football Club, the Scottish Football Association, British Military paratroop regiment, Street Soccer and Sport Wales, to assist them to understand and improve their sport and exercise programmes. She also told how she uses her research findings and experiences to support University students to develop their understanding of Sport and Exercise Psychology. Recapping her time at Bolton School, from age 4 to 18, she told how she developed a love of sport, particularly lacrosse and recalled her trip to Australia. She also studied at Cardiff University, where she became more serious about lacrosse and ended up playing for Wales and where she learnt a love of understanding the psychology underpinning sports performance. She then studied for a Masters and a PhD at Bangor University. She said to work in her field, you need to have a thirst for knowledge and an ability to problem solve. Communication is also vital in the role as well as an ability to work in a team or independently. She agreed with the other panellists that there are lots of different career opportunities in sport.

Jasmine Howarth (Class of 2021), a very recent leaver, explained how she is now studying Sport and Exercise Medical Science at Kings College London. Jasmine told how she joined Bolton School’s Sixth Form and, following the completion of her A Level studies in PE, Biology and Psychology last summer went on to live in London to start her studies. Jasmine said she has played a lot of sport over the years including swimming, dance and gymnastics and has recently started powerlifting. She told how she is involved with her university's dance team, which competes against other universities across the UK. Jasmine explained the breadth of content involved in her course and the wide range of modules to choose from and said that she is particularly interested in the applied physiology of the human body to sport. She said her intention is to do a law conversion course after completing her undergraduate degree in order that she can consider sport contract law as an option. Jasmine felt that the wide variety of careers on offer in the sector was very appealing and she also liked that there is no pressure to make an early choice.

Annabel Ault (Class of 2014) is a Media Analytics and Strategy Manager at City Football Group. Annabel told how, after leaving school she joined Deloitte on a scholarship where she worked for them before reading Geography at the University of Oxford and during the summer vacations. She told how she got to travel the world working with some fascinating companies and some less than fascinating ones. It was an eye-opener for her in that she realised that she needed to do something that she was passionate about. Her interests lied in the sports she had undertaken at university and Bolton School: rowing, football and lacrosse. She said she was lucky to find a role perfect for her when she began working for the Strategy and Ventures team at City Football Group. She explained how CFG own Manchester City and ten other football clubs globally and are widely recognised as one of the most innovative and fastest growing companies within sports. The focus across her role, she said, was to identify new opportunities in a rapid growth period for the group – working on projects as diverse as acquiring new clubs, determining the optimum broadcast deals for women’s football and launching a Manchester City language learning app during lockdown. Annabel said she had recently been promoted to her position as Media Analytics & Strategy Manager and told how she is also studying part-time for a Global MBA at the University of Manchester. She enjoys, she said, the diversity of her job and the opportunity to work internationally, citing an example of visiting Japan and Hong Kong with the Man City team! Considering why someone should work in the sector, Annabel said that sport is loved around the world and is a powerful force in bringing people together. The challenge can be getting your foot in the door; her advice to pupils was to try and gain experience in grassroots sport, which is a good way to build your CV. 

You can watch the lecture in full here.

‘Perspectives’ is a series of free, public lectures hosted by Bolton School Girls’ Division, currently taking place on Zoom. They are free to attend and open to pupils in Year 10 and above, parents, alumni, and all other members of the School and local community.

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