Recently I came across a job role that excited me as a current postgraduate student looking to enter work in a few months. Ipswich Town FC, a club that has been professional for over 70 years is looking to recruit a head of academy S&C coach (click here for job description).
I was looking through the desired characteristics for the role, subconsciously ticking them off as I went down the list. I came back up to the salary (£16,500 per annum) and felt my heart sink. Now before you assume that I’m looking for a lucky break in life or that the members of Dragons Den should invest in me, I want to put forward the fact that I’m a hard working young man with years of voluntary experience behind me in S&C.
What do I love about the role?
S&C is a blend of scientist, coach, support system, nerd and manliness rolled into one ball of self. There is nothing more rewarding then changing the way someone thinks, moves and performs in my eyes. So far, I’ve worked with a range of athletes, ranging from novice to professional and young to old in a multitude of sports and roles. Each of these roles, whilst giving me valuable experience and coaching tools have been unpaid. I’m clearly not work-shy and for years have understood that this is the way the field operates.
I had a conversation with a mentor and some friends about the role who argued that it’s a competitive field and you need to start somewhere, and to some degree they are right. I was left with a nasty taste in my mouth, a mix of guilt and shame that I should expect more for doing something I love. I mean I’ve worked two part time jobs, lead a football S&C programme and studied for much less than 16k a year (much less) and committed endless hours to the discipline, so 16k is a steal right?
I’m not going to say wrong and pretend I didn’t know the salaries weren’t great because I do know that some roles are gateways to bigger and better things. However, it got me thinking…. how much am I worth?
Now the position is advertised as ‘full time’ which to me can fall anywhere between 35-41 hours. I know from experience that athletes are multi-faceted, suggesting that some will require more time than others. I know that the administrative roles (reports, data review, justification, planning) takes hours. On top of that, there is a learning process required of how the club currently functions from youth up. If you are like me and take your job home with you, you will also know that waking up at 3.00am to jot down an idea is normal, suggesting that there is an emotional and psychological stress accompanied with the role. So does £16,500 (40p more than minimum wage) reflect that?
The benefits of being in this role are that I could hold my head high, wear the badge and represent the role with professionalism and passion. I could also stack shelves for 8 hours, spend half the time doing it with no social cost, knowing that my free time was ‘mine’. For an extra 2k a year, I would be responsible for ‘x’ amounts of athletes, their learning, preventing injury and providing an environment that develops the athlete holistically.
So what am I worth?
Does my debt, degree, working towards publication, postgraduate degree and years of voluntary experience warrant minimum wage? No. I currently work in a part-time role that could be ‘full time’ if I took more hours and the reason I still do it is because it’s a nice release from reading, writing and working with athletes. Stacking shelves is a doddle. Are they even in the same ball park in terms of commitments, responsibilities and hours? Not by a long shot. My part time internship is far more taxing than my part time job because of my investment and scientific rationale.
How do we solve this problem? It can’t come from the bottom up as we’d have to cut off our own noses, knowing full well that others would happily gain that valuable experience for free. However, I do believe it’s time that as interns we ask for more opportunities (CPD and expenses) so we become part of a discipline that contributes to performance and receives the respect and commitment back that we put into it.