Athlete Career Transition

Naomi Riches, Paralympic gold medallistUSA 7's Rugby

Specialist career transition agency for sports professionals Athlete Career Transition Pathway (ACT) uses Thomas tools to match athletes with potential workplaces.

ACT is the brainchild of retired rugby players Andy and Steve Moore. The brothers set up the business in 2011 with the aim of getting athletes working again after retirement from the world of sport. Both of them played rugby union and were inspired to start ACT after their own experiences of transitioning out professional sport into business. ACT now has 60 professional athletes on its books from all over the UK and 20 businesses ranging from global blue chips to enterprising SMEs.

The challenge

ACT needed a comprehensive set of tools able to assess athletes and their potential workplace matches. The tools needed to be easy-to-use and deploy for both the businesses and athletes, and deliver reliable consistent results.

The solution

ACT has been using psychometrics as an integral business tool since the inception of business, but always desired a partner that really understood athletes. Thomas Sport was able to offer assessments geared specifically towards sports people and developed with the help of sports professionals.

After consultation, it was decided that the Thomas PPA and Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire (TEIQue) were the ideal tools to match athletes to the right environment.

"We chose the PPA and TEIQue to help us understand the athlete we are dealing with and help them understand who they are and who they can be in the future," explains Moore.

The athletes are asked to complete the PPA and TEIQue profiles. A top-down approach then is used within the businesses, with CEOs taking the questionnaires first, then the employees. It is these profiles that athletes are matched with.

"It is not necessarily the sector a business is in that matters," says Moore, "it's the environment that is key."

"Whether you're selling services, products or in manufacturing, it doesn't really matter - we look for environments that are conducive for the individual athlete to perform well so it's less about what the business does."

After an initial meeting with an athlete which addresses questions such as their age and qualifications, they will be asked to complete both assessments. ACT's psychologist Nikki Donovan, who has been trained to assess profiles by Thomas, will then give the athlete feedback.

"There will be a couple of questions coming out of that which we follow up on to get a really clear and thorough understanding of the athlete, of who they are, and who they can be in the future," explains Moore.

The reaction to the results is amazement. "They [athletes] tend to focus on themselves in terms of performance, not in terms of personality profiling," Moore says. "They are constantly trying to improve their performances without thinking about themselves in a deeper level."

It is this self-knowledge that steers them into a new career. Off the back of the Thomas assessments, ACT will aim to place athletes for three-month placements or full time work, depending on the type of role and stage they are at. All placements offer a chance for the athlete to progress through the company as well as a basic mid-level entry.

Whether we’re placing them in an environment for three months or three years, we’re always working towards an end goal of being fully employed… with a clear pathway of progression so there’s no glass ceiling. These guys are ultimately very ambitious people, it’s in their DNA.

ACT have also developed a transition assistance program that works constantly with the athlete to mentally prepare the athlete for their transition, meaning that even if the athlete isn't immediately placed with a business, ACT are consistently working with the athlete on an ongoing basis.

The results

ACT has now placed 32 of its athletes in work placements, 11 of which are now in full time employment. High profile ex-rugby professional Gareth Thomas is one of its success stories. The former Wales player is a development director at Prospero Education Recruitment, and now uses Thomas to recruit new athletes into the business, "In that sense it's self-perpetuating." says Moore.

ACT doesn't need to advertise, all of its clients come through word of mouth or via its social channels. Moore and Moore's sporting contacts set them up, but it is the success stories coming through that lead athletes and businesses to seek them out. Businesses working with ACT desire athletes for the same reasons.

"The make-up of an athlete may at first seem as far away from a 9-5 existence as you could get, but they are ideally suited for the transition." Moore explains.

"The athletes have been in good, solid, stable environments and the big thing they crave is structure, achievement and in some respect - criticism too, because that's the only way they improve. Hiring an athlete is much less of a risk to a business because they have tangible proven track records…we've all seen them do it…they've been on TV."

Moore's biggest compliment came from Gareth Thomas. "I asked him how it was going and Gareth said he is now getting from his new career what he used to get from rugby. That's a huge statement for me knowing how passionate he was about his sport and it just goes to show we made a great match."

The future

ACT plans to expand its client base to below international level, looking at club athletes. Thomas tools will continue to be used alongside the social media and public speaking training that ACT also offers its athletes. "It is the use of Thomas tools in recruitment that really inform the matchmaking process." Moore says.

Psychometrics is absolutely essential for us as a business to put the right person with the right company. It really does minimise the risks and room for error, bearing in mind we’re trying to place someone who is mid-30s, who hasn’t got a lot of time to make mistakes, and who wants to get to a top level fast.

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