Monitoring high performance sport

Kevin Parker is Head of Mission Control at UK Sport.  As well as having a very exciting job title, Kevin is responsible for supporting the development of UK athletes, making 2012 a very special year.  He explains what his job involves and how he got to mission control.

Tell us about the job you’re doing now.  What does it involve?

I am Head of Mission Control at UK Sport, the organisation that invests about £100m in high performance sport. My job is to manage the process by which we monitor the progress being made by all the sports we invest in, helping them to identify the issues and challenges they face in hitting their performance ambitions and finding ways of dealing with them quickly and effectively.

What is the most exciting aspect of your work?

Well I love sport, so the chance to work closely with all of the Olympic and Paralympic sports is really exciting. I work with some absolutely brilliant world leading experts and to know I have played a small part in helping Team GB prepare for the London Games is amazing.

Would your classmates from school be surprised at what you’re doing now?

I think they would be impressed by the job title! I’ve always loved sport and I always enjoyed planning – which is a big part of my role – so no I don’t think they would be completely surprised.

Was there a teacher who had a particularly strong influence on you and if so in what way?

I think my History teacher, Mr Harvey played a big role. He knew I was fascinated by the subject and made me realise that by putting in the hard work and learning key facts I would be able to enjoy the subject. A bit like in sport really, if you do your preparation then the performance should look after itself.

What school subjects were you good at and have any been surprisingly helpful later on?

Well I was good at History and Politics which have definitely helped in terms of developing strategies and thoughts and planning. As a youngster I was good at Maths but that all went out the window when formulas and matrices came in!

How did you decide what you wanted to do after school?

To be honest I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I knew I enjoyed certain subjects such as History and Politics and so I decided to continue studying those at university. I sometimes wish I had undertaken a more vocational degree or something with a more obvious career path to it but I really didn’t know what I wanted to be!

Did you take a gap year? Did it influence any decisions later in life?

I did not, I wish I had sometimes. I went straight to university but wished I had gained a bit more ‘life experience’ before it in many ways.

If you went to university what was your university experience like?

I enjoyed it, but looking back wish I had got more out of it. I was a bit too immature to really appreciate it and it probably wasn’t until the final year that I flourished. A year out before going would have probably given me a better start. I enjoyed my course though and made some fantastic friends who I still see regularly; in fact this year is our 20th anniversary of graduation and we’re having a weekend away to celebrate!

What has been the proudest moment of your life so far?

Work-wise it is probably working closely with Peter Keen, the man who started the transformation of cycling in this country and watching with him as we won pretty much everything in Beijing. Outside of work, the birth of my daughter Evie was a proud (and scary!) moment!

Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?

It’s really hard to know but I would like to think it will be in sport. It took me until 2007 to get into the industry so I would like to stay. Perhaps a little time abroad might feature at some point.

What advice would you give someone still at school who wants to do what you’re doing now?

Go for it! Get a job in the area you want to work in, even if it is at the bottom of the ladder. It’s a lot easier to work your way up from the inside than out. I took jobs in areas I didn’t really love because I didn’t want to take a risk. So you should always take a risk!

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