Is there a place for professionalism in amateur sport?

Written by:
Mark Cairns

This I hope will be one of many posts on how schools and amateur sports clubs can adopt professional strategies to help gain a competitive edge and give their players the best chance of reaching their potential.

Professional - a person engaged in a specified activity, especially a sport, as a main paid occupation rather than as a pastime.

Professionalism - the competence or skill expected of a professional: the key to quality and efficiency is professionalism.

I work as a PE teacher at a large independent school in Edinburgh, sport is very competitive amongst the independent schools in Scotland and winning tournaments along with the obvious exam results is one of the only ways to compete directly with other schools.

As such coaches/teachers in these schools are looking for ways to make their team as successful as possible. My school has been great in letting me go away with the Scottish National 7s team to Dubai and South Africa, and other IRB World Series events, but I do feel it will benefit them also. I now have a good idea of how my school can adopt some of the strategies used at the highest level.

My rugby career

I also play rugby at an amateur level for Currie RFC but a lot of what I do in preparation before and recovery after games is of a professional standard. I would even go as far to say that I have a better recovery strategy than many professionals.

As mentioned above I was lucky enough to be involved with the Scotland 7s team that travelled to Dubai and South Africa recently as part of the IRB world 7s circuit. In a squad of 13, I was one of four amateur players. The rest of the squad were made up of six full time professionals and three young players with ‘elite development’ contracts.

The team is well supported:

  • Full time manager

  • Physiotherapist

  • Coach

  • Video analyst

  • Strength and conditioning expert

  • Psychologist

  • Physiologist.

During my two weeks as a professional I couldn’t help but compare the resources available to that of my school and club. I then started to problem solve and found there are many ways in which my school and club teams can bridge the gap without too much cost, time or resources.

As an ambitious teacher/coach and a once frustrated player I guess what I am trying to say with this first post is that the gap between the professional and amateur player/team can easily be reduced with professionalism.

I would like to use this blog as a resource for like-minded coaches, teachers and players to write about their experiences, especially if they have adopted successful strategies to help improve professionalism in some way or another.

It would be great to read some of your stories in the comments below.

The next post in this series is how we can learn from the psychology support we have in place in the squad.

Mark