Case study

Performance nutritionist — Ed Tooley

Find out how the skills and experience Ed gained during his sports science degree at Swansea University have helped him develop a career in nutrition and performance

How did you get your job?

I studied BSc Sports Science at Swansea University, and after graduating I completed a one-year internship with the Welsh Rugby Union. I then went into a consultancy role working with multiple professional sports teams across the UK and Ireland.

In 2017 I applied for my dream job of being a lead nutritionist for a national rugby team, in this case Scotland. I'm now coming to the end of a two-year post with them and am returning to my consultancy business.

What's a typical working day like?

Currently, at Scottish Rugby I look after the nutrition education pathway for the U16s upwards, where we've developed a syllabus of education and skills. I work with athletes in all national teams and the two centrally contracted Pro14 teams (Edinburgh Rugby and Glasgow Warriors).

I sit on the anti-doping panel and am an anti-doping educator, and also help with the planning and logistics of training camps and tours, and also work with the commercial department on partnerships that will benefit us.

What do you enjoy most about the job?

My role is so varied, and it's also very rewarding to see your athletes do well.

What are the challenges?

In high-performance sport you have to be quite critical of yourself and your practices, and be open to receiving a lot of criticism. When working at high pressure times of the year (for example the Six Nations, when I'm looking after the men's, women's and U20 squads) you have to really nail things, because getting it wrong is win or lose and jobs can be on the line. You end up pretty drained at the end of the period, both physically and mentally, but at the time you just have to get it done.

How relevant is your degree?

My degree is very relevant. I was pushed to use my initiative and find solutions myself. It also opened the door to work experience opportunities with elite athletes, which gave me the skills I use on a daily basis to communicate with players and staff in a professional sports setting.

Where do you hope to be in five years?

In five years' time I hope to be running my consultancy company successfully, whilst also completing a PhD. I've always wanted to do a PhD but I don't think I was ready to start one before now. I now feel I'm ready for the challenge, and would like to pursue a PhD in nutrition and performance.

What advice can you give to others?

  • Don't take your opportunity at university for granted. Swansea University has some great lecturers who helped develop me as a person as well as academically.
  • Try and get work experience and start building a network of contacts as soon as you can. I found that doing this during my studies set me up well for when I graduated.
  • Enjoy your time at university. Swansea is one city I would always move back to and spend time in the beautiful Gower, which is one of my favourite places in the world.

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