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Interview: Sports Psychologist Ben Paszkowec discusses Saville Assessments

Athletes dedicate their lives to breaking records and being the best, but what happens when their careers reach the end of the track?

Beyond professional sport lies an alien world which can often throw up the toughest challenges an athlete has ever faced.

Countless stars confess to having difficulty when it comes to retirement and ‘normal’ life; free of intense training, focus and top-level competition at the highest level, athletes can feel lost and without structure.

More recently, following her sobering article on the realities of life after sport,  badminton Olympic silver medallist, Gail Emm’s spoke on national radio about how she’s struggling to make ends meet.

Sports transition specialists, Athlete Career Transition (ACT) exist to support athletes going through precisely these kinds of issues.  By working with individual athletes, ACT creates safe pathways from professional sport to a second career in business that will satisfy the sports person’s high-performance needs.

ACT’s Transition & Performance psychologist and former pro-footballer, Ben Paszkowec, explains how psychometric testing provided by Saville Assessments, is integral to the profiling that ACT conducts as they find athletes the role they need to succeed in life after sport.

What is psychometric testing and how does it work?

We work with Saville Assessments to generate psychometric reports for the athletes that come through ACT (Athlete Career Transition). The reports we use are generated from self-perception questionnaires which measure personality, professional competencies, talents, motives and preferred cultural fit.

We use the Wave Professional Styles questionnaire, and overall the process is extremely simple but highly effective for our needs. Each question has a motive and talent element; we get an in-depth insight into what each athlete perceives to be motivationally important to them, and what they perceive they are talented at. The range of clusters and dimensions that make up the psychometric profile provide a comprehensive overview of each athlete.

Using the data that comes from the tests, we match athletes to suitable businesses and roles which we feel will enable the athletes to thrive and work to their full potential.

The tests are integral to this matching process because they reveal the athletes’ various different strengths and highlight areas that might need development. Going into more depth, the psychometric testing breaks down adaptability, the influence the athletes exert, how they deliver in the workplace and how they are motivated to develop, for example. It’s a really thorough analysis of their competencies and potential, not only in a professional capacity but also in a way that’s sensitive to their personality and preferred way of working.

Why is the psychometric testing useful?

The testing enables us to showcase the athletes’ high-performance attributes and transferable skills, which we then present in a document to a business and prospective employers.

It’s also a valuable self-awareness tool for the athletes, highlighting how they perceive their own strengths, motivations and talents. The responses are benchmarked against a database of the perceptions of 18,000 international professionals and managers, which offers a highly accurate and relevant template for interpretation of the athletes’ responses.

What is your role with the psychometric testing?

In partnership with Saville Assessment, I take care of the administration of the test to the athletes. The test takes about 40 minutes to complete, after which three reports are created that best suit our profiling needs: the Expert’s Report, the Leadership Report and the Work Roles Report.

I’ll analyse and interpret the results from these reports and follow this up with feedback sessions so that the athlete can express their own views on the results. We’ll go into depth, discussing the various areas of the test and put more context around the responses to compile thorough individual profiles. These profiles are then forwarded to the businesses that will potentially employ the athletes.

Research conducted by Saville Assessments shows that the reports have a lifespan of between 12 and 24 months, which means that they will show similar results for up to two years after the test is initially taken.

What is the profile made up of?

The final profile is multi-faceted. One cluster, for instance, is “Influence”. Within this cluster are many areas, one of which concerns how the individual develops relationships, how they interact with people, and their qualities as a team worker.

Often, athletes may fail to perceive a strength in one particular area, simply because they’ve not had to use that quality during a ten- or fifteen-year career in first-class sport; it may be that the particular quality has never been important to them.

If we’re looking at a potential role in business and one of these areas is integral to the new role, we’ll discuss the context around their responses and focus on development opportunities, or help the athlete recognise their strength. All this information goes forward into each athlete’s individual profile, so that they can be matched to an occupation and a working culture that fits them best.

The profile is used in combination with video interviews, one-to-one sessions, other forms of feedback, and the athlete’s experience in and beyond sport, to bring as much depth as possible.

Are there any other advantages that the profiling brings?

Besides being a great development and guidance tool for athletes, the profiling enables us at ACT to really get to know the candidates, which again only helps us to tailor each professional profile and go that bit further towards finding a second professional environment in which the athletes can thrive.

Many companies now rely on these psychometric reports, whether that’s through self-perception questionnaires or through aptitude tests. Our processes are very much aligned to industry norms.


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