Dr Tracey Devonport Institute of Sport, Reader in Sport and Exercise Psychology
‘I started my career in 1995 working as a Sport Science lecturer at Darlington College of Technology. Following spells as a sport scientist with England Netball and lecturing at Coventry University, I started working at the University of Wolverhampton as a Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology in 2001. At this point in my career, my priority was gaining accreditation as an applied sport and exercise psychologist, I had no research aspirations or outputs to speak of. However, I quickly developed an enthusiasm for research partly because of the informal mentoring of Professor Andy Lane. Such mentoring provided a belief that I could cut it as a researcher and the opportunity to do so. My key research achievements to date include 47 papers published in peer reviewed academic journals, 3 books, 13 book chapters, and 10 professional papers. In 2015 I was honoured to be made a fellow of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Science (BASES) for my contributions and commitment to BASES and sport and exercise sciences.
So, what happened in the 15 years since my appointment at the University of Wolverhampton to facilitate my career development? Most importantly, I have felt well supported to pursue my career aspirations, and feel fortunate to be working in a highly collegiate environment. I have received two short, but highly instrumental sabbaticals. The first in 2006 to finish off my PhD and the second in 2009 to write a book and prepare research bids. I also received University funding in 2008 from the Early Researcher Award Scheme to undertake research exploring dyadic coping among PhD students and partners. In 2012 I applied for and was awarded the title of Reader in Applied Sport and Exercise Psychology allowing me to focus on research and support others in pursuing their own research aspirations. I was submitted to the Research Excellence Framework in 2014 with positive outcomes for unit of assessment 26. In 2015 I became the Athena SWAN champion for the Institute of Sport enabling me to lead and develop initiatives intended to support equality of career development opportunities.
In my personal life, in 2010 I became a mother for the first time and again in 2012. This has been the most rewarding and transformative experience of my life. A second transformative event was the passing of my mother from a short and devastating illness in 2013. The University allowed me to work flexibly so that along with my father I could provide home care for my mother during her final months. As my parents live in North Yorkshire this was a most welcomed concession from the University, and demonstrated an investment in people that I cannot imagine finding in many other places of work or vocations.
Taking opportunities for flexible working with children and whilst caring for my mother has allowed me to continue my career development and support the University research strategy. Indeed 29 of my 46 peer reviewed outputs have been published since having my first and then second child, and whilst caring for my mother and coming to terms with her loss. A flexible attitude towards working allows me to work full time whilst concurrently meeting all the (lovely) demands that young children present. Maintaining a personal life and hobbies are vital for my well-being. In 2014, in memory of my mother I cycled from Lands’ End to John O’Groats raising over £5,000 for the hospice that helped care for her.
In summary, my advice for anyone looking to further their career is to keep the four F’s in order. Fun working, Focussed working, Flexible working and Family focus (making time for each other).’