Elite sports men and women target career development through partnership with Newcastle Business School


More than 75 of Europe’s top basketball stars spent a week at Northumbria University recently as the first cohort to start a range of leadership and management courses.

Players including former Newcastle Eagles player Andrew Sullivan and Great Britain captain Kieron Achara have signed-up to the education programme. The initiative follows a partnership between the European office of the Basketball World Governing body (FIBA Europe) and Newcastle Business School to help professional basketball players build careers beyond their playing days.

TIME-OUT is the first project of its kind and has secured funding worth €550,000 from the European Erasmus+ Programme. It is designed exclusively for basketball players. Newcastle Business School, which is offering a range of leadership and management courses up to degree level, was chosen by FIBA because of its international reputation for pioneering learning and academic excellence. In 2015 it was named UK Business School of the Year in The Times Higher Education Awards. With a double Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB international) accreditation in business and accounting it is also among the top 1% of business schools worldwide.

Adopting a “dual career” approach TIME-OUT aims to provide the skills to transition from elite player to either a top international coach or business manager. Academic study will be through a mix of distance and block learning, with the first cohort already experience life as a student by spending a week on campus. They were able to meet representatives from Newcastle Eagles, who play at the University, and the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS), which is a funding partner of Sport England and also based at Northumbria.

Fraser McLeay, Professor of Strategic Marketing Management, said: “Partnering with an organisation like FIBA Europe and bringing some of the world’s top basketball stars who have represented their country and played in top leagues like the NBA in the United States is hugely prestigious. Like us they have ambitious plans to develop TIME-OUT well beyond the initial two-year plan and to offer it to as many elite players as possible.

“Our record of achievement and pioneering approach to business education, coupled with Northumbria’s status as one of the foremost universities in the UK for sport, makes us an ideal partner. It means we can fulfil the transformational dual-career approach by helping them grow and develop businesses opportunities in sports and other industries as well as experience life as a business student while they are here. Our focus on female roles in leadership is also an essential theme of the programme. Half the cohort are women.”

Kamil Novak, the FIBA Executive Director Europe, added: “Planning a career following retirement as a professional sportsman can be a daunting prospect across most sport. Basketball is no exception and we are delighted to have found the right partner in Newcastle Business School to offer this exciting initiative”

Ann Wauters, a Belgian professional basketball player for Los Angeles Sparks, said: “I am in the autumn of my playing career and am preparing a new chapter of my professional career. It is hard to let go of something you have been doing pretty much your whole life and you are so passionate about. This new project gives me the opportunity to stay involved in sports in a different role and try to make – particularly women’s – basketball more professional.” TIME-OUT will offer a combination of three different degrees: Leadership and Management certificate/diploma from Northumbria University, Basketball Management qualification delivered by FIBA and Talented Athlete Talent Support (TALS) certificate delivered by Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS).

A second part of the project will involve placing newly qualified managers in their national federations or in other sports organisations, as well as setting up player development programmes linked to FIBA, IBF and the TASS support network.

The first week at Newcastle Business School focused on leadership and management skills and introduced the players to lecturers and other guest speakers. They also spent an afternoon with Newcastle Falcons Rugby club to enjoy their facilities and hear how professional rugby players have developed careers in leadership through a similar programme with Newcastle Business School.

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