Professional sport, interns and exploitation
I observed with interest the publication last week of the British Association for Sport & Exercise Sciences (BASES) position statement on graduate internships in sport. In the last decade, particularly in the UK there has been a growing trend for, in the main but not exclusively, professional sport to offer graduate intern opportunities within the disciplines of sport science. This trend has also been reflected within applied sport psychology. Professional sports clubs became aware of the fact that for graduates the opportunity to gain experience in the real performance and developmental sports worlds was a significant lure. This led to sports taking advantage of this desire by offering unpaid internship positions. Some of these internship positions were a few hours a week but others were in essence full-time positions. The clubs were taking the expertise and knowledge of the internees to fulfill jobs and reduce employed staff workloads without paying them for their time.
The BASES position statement is encouraging as it is published with the support of other organizations including Intern Aware, English Institute of Sport, Sport & Recreation Alliance, UK Sport, and the UK Strength and Conditioning Association.
There now seems to be a desire within the industry to tackle this issue, which is not before time. The British Psychological Society (BPS) Division of Sport & Exercise Psychology (DSEP) is starting to work in partnership with National organizations and governing bodies to get a fair deal for trainee Sport & Exercise Psychologists. There are projects in development with the Football Association (FA) and the UK Government funded Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS). Hopefully this is a vision of a future where trainees expertise is appropriately recognized. The analogy I will use relates to hair dressing. If you go to the hairdressers you can have your hair cut by a trainee or a professional. The trainee is cheaper (reflecting their current position), but you are still getting a haircut, so you still have to pay. Supervisees in Sport & Exercise Psychology already have 2 degrees, so it is reasonable to expect to pay a fair price for their knowledge, time and expertise.