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Personal development funding for Olympic & Paralympic athletes increased to record high level

James Platt | 04 June 2020

Funding for the Personal Development Award (PDA), a UK wide programme to assist podium funded athletes with personal and professional development, has been increased to its highest-ever level after attracting a record number of athlete applications.

The PDA, offered by UK Sport and facilitated by the English Institute of Sport (EIS) Performance Lifestyle team and their counterparts in the Home Countries, helps athletes develop as people and plan for life after competition. A variety of factors, including the postponement of the Olympic and Paralympic Games to 2021, have seen demand for PDA funding steadily increase.

As a result, the overall budget for the scheme has been raised to £200,000, and a pilot will be launched to open up the PDA to D&E level athletes for the first time.

Marcia Bailey, EIS Performance Lifestyle Technical Lead, said: 

“We’ve been delighted to see demand for PDA funding increase and it’s great to be able to meet that demand.

“2020 was a year in which athletes were expecting to be out of the country for 90% of the time. Now they’re back at home with their families and many have more time on their hands. This means more podium-level athletes will be supported and offering the service to athletes lower down the pathway has been a long-term ambition.

“Performance Lifestyle practitioners will now be able to work proactively with D&E athletes to give them financial assistance they have had to generate privately in the past.

“The pilot will allow us to see if it’s something athletes at that level want to take advantage of, in the sense of personal and professional development.”

The EIS #More2Me campaign encourages athletes to improve sport-life balance, and recognises the benefits of planning for a life after sport. The PDA is all about helping athletes to prepare for the future but also to find interests, hobbies and activities that re-energise them for sport and cultivate a well-rounded personality.

Examples of pursuits undertaken by athletes through the PDA include guitar lessons, theology study, learning Arabic, horse-riding and yoga.

“We want athletes to find something they can go and lose themselves in for a short while,” explained Marcia.

“Some athletes have been all-or-nothing with sport in the past and when they’ve walked away, they feel really vulnerable as they haven’t invested in themselves. This is a way we can encourage them to lay strong foundations and keep going with things they enjoy doing.

“When they walk away from sport, they’ll feel just that bit more confident about the skills they have or the passions they’ve developed.

“It’s really important for athletes to know that sport is just a part of their identity and the PDA helps them explore and develop the other elements of themselves.”