BBL legend Andrew Sullivan joined more than 40 current and former professional basketball players from across the globe in Prague earlier this summer as he plotted the next step on his sporting journey.
The London Olympian is studying for a Certificate In Talented Athlete Lifestyle Support (TALS) - a FIBA-backed qualification aimed at retaining the skills of experienced players and preparing them for life after basketball.
Sullivan and his star-studded peers - including Euroleague veterans and WNBA favourites - moved on to Newcastle’s Northumbria University a week later for another round of presentations and seminars. And the group will reconvene in Slovenia and Hungary next summer to complete the practical elements of a wide-reaching course.
“The TALS programme gives us, as players, opportunities off the court that we maybe hadn’t considered before,” said Sullivan, who announced his retirement from Leicester Riders earlier this summer after leading the East Midlanders a domestic treble.
“It’s a bit different for British players but I would imagine that if you came through the system in a top European country - and you’ve been playing at a high level for many years - in some instances you may have finished your education at high school.
“TALS gives players the chance to get back into education and realise their academic potential through the sport they love. There are athletes involved who have been to high school and benefitted from a great university education in the States and - they are the ones who may be looking at a Masters and beyond.”
Players working towards their TALS certificate are expected to complete eight assignments during a two-year period. A combination of written and practical tasks will ready those involved for a career working with young athletes and, it is hoped, convince fellow professionals that it is possible to use the sport they love as the foundation for a career beyond the court.
The qualification is being offered to former - and soon-to-be-retired - professional basketball players by the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS) and the European arm of the sport’s world governing body, FIBA. Its aim is twofold - to retain the expertise and skills of elite players and train those players to use that experience to advise and inspire the next generation of hoops heroes.
TASS is building a global reputation as a provider of dual career support. It already supports more than 400 UK-based athletes in full-time education and FIBA spotted an opportunity to work alongside the Sport England-backed organisation in order to deliver a groundbreaking programme to a group of international stars.
Kamil Novak, the FIBA Executive Director Europe and former Czech international star, added: “Planning a career following retirement as a professional athlete can be a daunting prospect across most sports. Basketball is no exception and we are delighted to have found the right partner in TASS to offer this exciting initiative.”
It is hoped a second group of basketball players will enrol on the TALS course in 2018 with interest in the scheme soaring. Guy Taylor, TASS National Director, said: “We are excited about our partnership with FIBA and the support we are offering more than 40 world class athletes as they look towards their future careers. Our TALS course will provide the athletes with the necessary skills they will need to guide future stars across the world and ensure they can make the most of the opportunities available to them.”