Nik Diaper says "It's very satisfying to be working alongside athletes and their coaches to push the barriers of human performance."
Raise Your Game: What does your role involve?
Nik Diaper: I'm responsible for identifying new athletes and in the last year this has been specifically for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Once we've found those athletes, we then put them through a series of assessments and processes so we can identify the athletes with the most potential to achieve success in 2012 and beyond.
RYG: How did you start in this career?
ND: It started with my own career as a competitive swimmer. I've always been interested in performance and improving my own performance. Once my swimming career ended, it was a natural progression to go into a sports science discipline.
I specialised in physiology and was fortunate to secure work experience working with the Paralympic sport, wheelchair tennis, while I was at university. I became fascinated by the individuals I was working with, where they had come from and what they were trying to achieve.
RYG: What qualities do you look for in athletes?
ND: First and foremost, they've got to have talent, but equally important is commitment and the determination to face challenges. There are no athletes I'm aware of who have got to the top simply because they were talented. You've got to have an incredible work ethic and drive. That's what separates those that go on to achieve incredible success and those that don't.
RYG: What is talent transfer?
ND: Talent transfer is one of the most straightforward methods of identifying talent. Research suggests that the skills you learn from one sport can be successfully transferred to another. For example, someone from a rugby background could easily pick up wheelchair basketball very quickly because the understanding of team dynamics and tactical patterns of play are the same.
We always try to match people to the sporting background they had before they were injured, or in the case of people with congenital disabilities, the sports they have played in the past.
RYG: What are the highlights of your job?
ND: Sport is my passion and it's very satisfying to be working alongside athletes and their coaches to push the barriers of human performance and help them achieve what they want to achieve. London hosting the Olympic Games in 2012 has doubled that excitement!
RYG: Any lowlights?
ND: It can involve long and often anti-social hours and there's a lot of travel involved. People often have the misconception that working in sport is glamorous. You have to deal with pressure on a daily basis and having the 2012 Olympics at home is an additional pressure.
RYG: What opportunities has sport given you?
ND: I've met some absolutely fantastic people, not just athletes and coaches, but scientists alike. I've witnessed wonderful feats in terms of performance and have seen athletes defy the odds to go on to achieve success. The opportunity to travel, meet so many different people and accompany the Great Britain team to two previous Paralympic Games in Athens and Beijing has been a privilege.
RYG: How can young people continue to raise their game through sport?
ND: Regardless of whether you want to be an athlete or have a career in sport, you always need to believe you can do it. Sport has such great examples of people who have overcome injury or illness to go on to achieve amazing success. Seek inspiration from that.
You just try to relax and focus on what you've got to do.
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