The alumni project: How ASE looks after its scholars
Ranging from professional contracts to helping secure university places, the Academy of Sports and Education has exhaustive measures in place to support its former scholars.
Known as the 'alumni project', the scheme is designed to track and support those who have been part of the ASE set-up and departed in years gone by.
It has been led by the Academy Care team for the past six months who have studied ways alumni programmes work at American schools and colleges to help put first-class structures in place regarding the prosperity of former youngsters.
There's a common feeling around the Academy – that the scholars join a really great journey with us through the Academy.
Hopefully, they leave the Academy and make it professional or towards their chosen pathways and if not that then they go to another senior club or alternative route. No matter how successful they are, they will at some point leave. That's when we have a duty of care to continue helping – it's never been done to simply tick a box. We feel it's right that we do that not just throughout their time here but when they leave as well.
When a scholar does leave, the Academy and all relevant staff have an 'exit strategy' laid out to aid individuals with the next stage of their life – whether that is continuing in sport or pursuing another profession. Either way, wide-ranging resources and networks can be tapped into.
We are absolutely driven to make sure that if they want to be a footballer or boxer, we're going to exhaust every avenue possible to make sure that we can try to make that happen – whether that be in this country or another country.
If it doesn't happen from a sporting perspective then we'll exhaust everything we've got available to maybe then look to find something to do with higher education, for instance, a sports scholarship in America and looking at what another career looks like.
How the programme shines is highlighted by two examples;
1) The first is a scholar that left the Academy set-up to sign a professional contract.
2) The other is the tale of a scholar joining our higher education programme that may still lead to a professional contract.
We're currently helping others manage the process of getting into one of the top universities in USA and England to continue their academic journeys there.
They're things that go on all the time – coming back, seeking advice, seeking help, sometimes just coming in to say hello and touching base. In turn, the Academy can use the experiences of its former prospects to improve the careers and lives of those here at ASE now.
We do studies where we've reached out to the alumni to seek, 'How was your experience? How can we get better as an academy?'
We speak a lot to the scholars at 16, 17, 18, 19 around grasping the opportunity and giving absolutely everything they can to be a professional athlete.
Quite a few former scholars over the years that probably didn't grasp that opportunity as fully as they should, and they realise that when they're in their 20s. There's nothing more powerful than having a person didn't quite utilise everything to come in and speak with the scholars and speak with parents.
This type of support has always been available for former players of the Academy, albeit on an informal basis through individual members of staff.
Why would you have a scholar come all the way through the programme, then leave and then not want to carry on helping them. Everyone will leave at some point. Hopefully it's after 10, 15 long illustrious years with their chosen clubs but if it's not, they will leave and there will always be help there.
When a scholar leaves, it should be as positive an experience for them as it was when they joined – meaning that they have the support, they have the advice and they have the avenues to go down should they need them.