PLEASE INTRODUCE YOURSELF:
Hi! My name is Aliyah, I am 20 years old from Scotland. I dream of having a career as a Performance Coach for an F1 (and other motorsport series) driver and/or team. I love the idea of being part of a driver’s daily routine and being able to create training that allows them to develop and be the best they can be. Currently, I am at the start of my journey studying Sports Coaching and Development and can’t wait to get right into the industry.
Tell us about your passion for the industry:
I’ve been watching F1 for as long as I can remember and some of my earliest memories are watching the races every Sunday. I’ve continued this trend as I have grown older and rarely miss a race. I won’t be biased and disclose my favourite team, but I will say that some of my favourite drivers include a certain Honey Badger (Daniel Ricciardo), Dutchman (Max Verstappen) and recent first-time Grand Prix winner (Pierre Gasly) amongst so many others.
Growing up I watched the determination of drivers such as Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso and always admired the work and effort they put into perfecting their careers. I always knew that I wanted a career where I could help people develop performance in sport and it wasn’t until 4 years ago when I was digging deeper into the different roles of F1 that I discovered I could combine my passion for development and motorsport into a career as a Performance Coach. Soon after I started working with athletes in my local area and became 100% certain that this is what I wanted to do.
Tell us about your study path so far:
As I mentioned previously, I always had a desire to do something with sport/exercise and where I could help people grow and develop. School really helped me to pick out subjects that were relevant to my career path as well as recommending subjects that would stand out on my CV. By the time I had left high school in 2019 I had completed a wide range of subjects such as English, Maths, P.E, Physics, Spanish and French amongst others. After leaving school I decided to take a place at University of The West of Scotland studying Sports Coaching and Development. I picked the course as a broader area as it would allow an easier route for me to specialise in Sport Performance.
My course has a lot of different modules including Sport Psychology and Management. The wide range of modules that are available has really allowed me to understand how important sport can be in different ways, it’s also made me appreciate the hard work that everyone associated in the sporting industry has put in to make sports the phenomenon it is today. I have taken a keen interest in Sport Performance and Biomechanics and hope to progress my knowledge further in these areas as I go into my final 2 years. My plan going forward after I graduate is to complete a master’s degree in Sport Performance/ Science or Strength and Conditioning so I can build my knowledge even further.
I always found it easier to talk to someone before making choices. Whether it’s my friends, sports coach, or university lecturer, they have always helped me to ensure that my decisions will benefit me in the long run. Talking to people can also help open the door to many opportunities that you weren’t aware of before.
Work, industrial placements, and benefits
Although there is difficulty in getting experience in this industry directly related to F1 and motorsport in general. I have always tried to gain athlete development experience where I can even if it’s in various sports from where I had past connections as a coach and an athlete. Where you can get experience in Performance Coaching it is important to research the organisation prior. Don’t just go asking for a placement, get to know what they are about as it shows you are going above and beyond and makes you stand out.
Work experience is key as it’s about getting your name out into such a competitive industry so where you can volunteer for roles and further experiences. The right work experience also enables you to see for yourself the ins and outs of what working in a particular career could be like.
F1 and motorsport in general is a particularly competitive industry and they often look for those with direct industry knowledge and as that can be limited, try to gain experiences in relevant places such as gyms. My advice? Keep searching for organisations that are willing to give motorsport experience. Always follow up with emails, just because you haven’t heard back doesn’t mean rejection, they might just be busy.
What about Covid-19?
While it can be hard to gain experience for performance coaching, COVID-19 restrictions don’t make it any easier but there is always something to do. I have found in the past year or so that there are many courses that you can do online and in-person to enhance your knowledge about areas such as Biomechanics and Strength and Conditioning. From my understanding of the sport there are several must-haves and desirables that the industry looks for. These include UKSCA Strength and Conditioning Accreditation, aerobic courses, and sports massage amongst many others.
Who is your industry role model?
For me, every single Performance Coach in F1 and motorsport is an inspiration and I can see, as a student who is starting from the bottom, how much dedication and effort has been put in.
For me, possibly the biggest influence I’ve had from the industry is Tulshi Varsani. Most recently she was the first Performance Manager and Coach for Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team and has worked as part of Hintsa Performance. She is also the co-host of Unapologetically You, a podcast which talks about all things Strength and Conditioning and the experiences that come along with it. I connected with her last year and she has been so helpful in answering my questions and giving me guidance on how to better myself going forward in my career. Listening to her story and experience she has had in performance and fitness leading into her career in F1 has given me the extra drive to work in the industry and be as successful as she is. She has definitely been one of my greatest influences and role models!
What’s been your biggest challenge so far with regards to pursuing your dream career?
For me I would have to say that breaking into the industry at a young age and there being a lack of opportunities to experience the industry first-hand has been difficult for all sports not just for F1. It is appreciated that the job requires a lot of travelling, but many of the F1 team’s factories and locations have training facilities, and for experience opportunities within them would help greatly. Also, sport/ exercise is massively overlooked by the motorsport industry and I believe that there is a large investment for teams in this sector which could open up many jobs and experiences for the next generation.
Overcoming fears and being proud
While I am proud of being recognised for my work in sports development, right now in my life I am most proud of the confidence I have gained in myself in the past 3 years. Growing up I would never express my opinions or reach out for opportunities (such as work experience) and I saw it influencing my development. The determination that I have to be a Performance Coach in F1 prompted me to discover more and seek new opportunities, I am very proud of the success I have had in this and credit LinkedIn as an important tool for me as I’ve been able to get my name out into the motorsport industry. Don’t shy away from asking people about their job and if they have any leads that can help you. One day I hope to say my greatest success is being a Performance Coach in F1, till then I will keep pushing until I get there. Even when I’m there I will never stop working to achieve more.
Advice for future students
Social media and networking is a great thing. Nowadays most young people have grown up with some form of social, be it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. One of the best tools I have found is LinkedIn, especially now that employers are looking in the digital age. Don’t be shy to connect with people, as it’s excellent to have first-hand knowledge on what to expect in a career. Join groups like this one, I found it to be so helpful and have been able to connect to many others like me. I have linked my profile below and would love to connect with all of you reading! My biggest advice? Never give up on yourself and always have confidence in your ability. No dream is too big to chase and if along the way you deal with failure, it’s completely normal. It just makes the success even better.
‘’Hard work, dedication & pure motivation makes you who you are and will become’’- Lewis Hamilton
Check out Kelly and Tulshi’s podcast Unapologetically You: https://open.spotify.com/show/5x3L2mGyfh8yjKeXVGZMBW
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