CEO: British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association
Richard Parker studied at Loughborough University between 1990 and 1993, starting his University life living in Towers hall on campus. Richard gained a BSc in Physical Education and Sports Science and has used this to his advantage in his various roles since. Having been appointed the first ever CEO of the British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association, Richard has excelled in the sporting world.
Quite simply, it was the best university for Sport Science with the best reputation. There was only one University I wanted to go to. I still look back on my time with great fondness and it was wonderful to be surrounded by so many other people who had such a positive attitude and with sports people who really wanted to win. My time at Loughborough strengthened my desire to always be the best and this has helped drive my career in elite sport.
I also believe that the University's interest in sport develops camaraderie and team focus. I still see many friends regularly that I met over 25 years ago when I started at Loughborough.
I have worked in sport for the past 16 years and there are many alumni from my generation at Loughborough working in sport at the highest level. It is great to be able to work with friends and those that share the same passion.
What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time before you came to Loughborough?
I only started playing rugby seriously when I went to Loughborough and managed to play in the Premiership at Wasps. Loughborough played such an important part of my rugby development and I still see my coach today! However, I will always wonder what might have happened if I had started playing rugby earlier.
If you could give one piece of advice to Loughborough Sports students or recent graduates, what would it be?
Remember your network! It is probably the most important thing to keep in touch with people as it is the relationships with people that make everything work. If you want to work in elite sport, get as much experience as you can – volunteer, work with teams, earn your stripes and strive to be the best in your particular discipline. Seek open and honest feedback. We can all keep improving, so listen to the feedback you get and act on it.
Can you tell us more about your journey to becoming the first CEO and a Board Member for the British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association?
When I first graduated, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do and fell into teaching. I absolutely loved teaching and gave it everything for 7 years. This fitted perfectly around my rugby, playing for Wasps and London Irish, spanning the amateur to professional era.
Teaching gave me so much experience, but I didn’t want to stay in it for the rest of my career and so looked to move out. I had to take a pay cut to move out of teaching as I took a job in the pub sector, helping companies put training and career structures in place to improve staff retention. After 18 months, a role came up at UK Sport in establishing the lifestyle service for elite athletes. It combined all of my knowledge of education, elite sport and training programmes and so was a perfect fit.
Having worked at UK Sport for 5 years I moved into a broader management role at the English Institute of Sport and progressed through to senior management before I was ready for a CEO role.
Throughout my career, I have continued to challenge myself with professional development, board positions and management courses. These all helped to shape my leadership and management style over the years.
Working with people who have a positive attitude and helping athletes to achieve their goals. I love the responsibility of developing a strategy that will take an organisation forward and the challenge of meeting commercial targets to help us achieve them.
The EIS played a massive part in my development and I still have a genuine interest in watching the success of the organisation. It helped me develop my management skills, receive honest feedback about where to improve, and gave me the opportunity to prove myself and show that I have the capability to drive a strategy forward. I will be forever grateful to my managers during my time there, my colleagues and the teams that I worked with. Elite Sport can be a brutal world and if you make a mistake, there are plenty of people waiting to tell you. If you have thick skin and can take this on board, this is how you get better.
The most pressing ambition is for the BBSA to win medals in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games in 2018. After that, we will see what the future holds.