"If my experiences and the knowledge I've gained on my journey so far can help the students then I am grateful to the University for the opportunity to share this with them."

Volunteer in the Spotlight: Rob Dawson

'In the spotlight' is a regular feature which shares the stories of some of our alumni volunteers. This month is the turn of Rob Dawson (BSc Psychology with Sport & Exercise Science 2011).

Rob is the Founder and Managing Director of Mindsport Consulting Ltd and has been a key College of Life & Environmental Sciences alumni volunteer during 2013/14. Rob did his first piece of alumni volunteering at our Sport & Health Sciences Careers Day, where he shared his journey into the Sports Consultancy industry and discussed entrepreneurialism more generally. Rob has also volunteered his time to take part in wider employability networking events with our students and has also co-facilitated an eXfactor session for first year students, which focuses on the importance of employability skills and preparation whilst at university.

As MD Rob’s role is all encompassing which means he takes on marketing, accounting and recruitment for the company, as well as delivering a Mental Strength Coach role out in the field.

Below we ask Rob more about his current role,his tips for career success and why he is so keen to engage as an alumni volunteer.

What do you do and where do you work?

I am the Managing Director and founder of a company called Mindsport Consulting Ltd. My company specialises in Competitive Cognitive Conditioning and Asset Performance Development with individuals, teams and businesses in all sectors. The business is currently in its eighth month of trading and the first year of my business strategy is to establish the brand as a household name in elite level combat sports and international level women's football.

The Competitive Cognitive Conditioning part of my job involves using a variety of psychological perspectives as well as popular sport psychology techniques which I learnt during my time at the University of Exeter. I use my knowledge to design bespoke techniques and programmes based on individual, team or business needs or goals. For example I may work with a gym of top level mixed martial artists, of whom one suffers with anxiety through self-doubt, another may struggle with pressure whilst a further fighter may be overly confident and lose emotional control at key moments. My aim would be to identify strengths and help them develop their assets whilst also working at solving any problems they may be experiencing.

The Asset Performance Development side of my job is a way of evaluating the needs of a team or business, then looking at what Assets an individual requires in order to excel in a role within that structure. This process is more tailored to businesses however it does have uses in sports teams as well

How did you get into working in your field?

I got into the sports and performance psychology field pretty late in comparison to a lot of students. I was 27 when I left full time work and went back into education however having had ten years of work experience gave me the knowledge about who I was and what I excelled at. Having always loved sport but never been particularly gifted athletically I decided that after years of success in leadership and managerial positions that I should use my assets and pursue a career that I was passionate in. This is when Mindsport was born and I took my first few steps toward my dream job.

What’s it like working as a Mental Strength Coach in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)?

An amazing buzz is probably the best way to describe what it is like at the minute. Each day my diary has a different world class athletes name pencilled in for either a telephone session or gym time. Being able to work with men and women who represent their countries in tournaments, or fight for world class honours and then having them come to ask for my advice, help and coaching is a real honour. I'm currently working with two fighters preparing for World Titles in MMA and two kick boxers preparing for World Titles in K1 boxing. Plus I have a number of clients who are potentially one win away from a World Title opportunity. On top of that I have spent the last six months coaching a Women's Super League Team and was with them on Easter Sunday to experience their first home game in the highest tier of Women's Football. One thing that does take some getting used to are the practicals and getting punched and kicked in the head by elite fighters does hurt a bit although the pain is replaced by pride when I see one of the athletes wearing my logo on their fight wear.

What are your top tips for getting into working in your field?

  • Self-belief is the most important thing. I have never competed at a high level in any sport however I believe that I am the best in the world at what I do and this belief and confidence transfers to my clients.
  • Never stop testing yourself. The moment you become complacent and rest on your laurels someone else will come along and start doing something bigger and better than you. I ran a marathon recently because I wanted to see what 'hitting the wall' felt like and to test my own mental strength, in addition if you can back up what you are teaching people with personal anecdotes then it can be really powerful.
  • Make effective use of all the tools at your disposal. Social media has taken my business from strength to strength and through effective use of Twitter and Instagram I have been able to make good use of my own network as well as the network of my clients and with some of my celebrity clients having around a quarter of a million followers the potential value of that reach to my business is quite staggering.
  • Plan and adapt. You need a strategy to start off and it's important to have a structured approach. However, if an opportunity presents itself that deviates from your plan then don't let it go and play it safe. Being a successful entrepreneur or business professional is about taking risks at times.

And finally, what inspires you to volunteer so much of your time to help Exeter students?

My motivation to help students comes mainly from being a very selfish student! When I studied at the University of Exeter I had a very clear and vivid goal in my head. I knew exactly where I was going and how I needed to get there. Due to this single-minded drive I feel as though I took a lot but offered very little in return. I didn't join in with many teams or societies opting instead to either work or focus on developing my business. Now that my dreams are being realised I want to offer opportunities to others like me who want an opportunity to pursue their goals and if my experiences and the knowledge I've gained on my journey so far can help the students then I am grateful to the University for the opportunity to share this with them.

Date: 28 April 2014

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