Welcome back to Industry Insider by Behind Sport. Our latest guest is Event Engagement Manager at Triathlon Scotland, Morven Bruce!
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
I’m Morven Bruce and I am Event Engagement Manager at Triathlon Scotland. I was promoted into the role last February, having previously been Event & Volunteer Officer. As part of that role, I was fortunate to be part-seconded to work as Assistant Competition Manager for Triathlon at the Glasgow 2018 European Championships, which was a fantastic opportunity.
Before I joined Triathlon Scotland, I worked briefly for Scottish Curling to support the delivery of the 2016 European Curling Championships at Braehead. Before that as a graduate I worked in leisure management for around three years. During this time I also volunteered at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games as a Clydesider for the road events, which really inspired my particular love of sports events.
What do you do in your current role?
My remit is wide and varied, which I love. As lead for events and participation I support event organisers across the country (both affiliated clubs and commercial organisers) to deliver over 100 multisport events each year (normally!), as well as organising Triathlon Scotland’s own events. This ranges from small, local ‘Come & Tri’ events to national and international events. I am also responsible for managing the recruitment, training and deployment of our volunteer Technical Official workforce as well as our wider volunteer programme including coordinating our annual awards.
I also have strategic oversight of the organisation’s communications including social media channels, website, digital content and publications, line managing our Communications Officer.
What does a normal week look like for you?
Before the pandemic hit a typical week involved responding to event organisers including checking their event paperwork as part of our event permitting process. I am often required to meet new organisers to provide support and help them with their plans including site visits. I need to ensure the event calendar is kept up to date and that officials are allocated. I also get to attend a lot of the events, the pinnacle of which are our 9 Scottish Championships each year. I also spend a lot of time planning our own events including our Scottish Schools Championships and our AGM and Annual Awards ceremony.
Over the past year, much of my work has been focused on providing guidance and additional support to Event Organisers and Technical Officials. I was part of a working group across all the Home Nations that created guidance for the safe running of multisport events with social distancing. We unfortunately only managed to have one event take place in Scotland last year before restrictions began to tighten again but we remain positive that we will see a return of events in the coming months and are confident that our guidance will allow these to happen safely.
Our communications have also had to adapt. With face-to-face interaction limited and no events to report on we have had to consider new ways to engage our audience and community. One of our latest projects has been running weekly live workouts for the community through Facebook, which will be taking place until at least the end of March. Our communications channels are of course also extremely important for keeping the entire triathlon community updated with sport-specific guidance given ever-changing restrictions.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
I was a competitive swimmer throughout my school days and this is definitely where my love of sport came from. At school, I excelled in science and maths so sports science appealed to me as the best of both worlds – what I was good at and what excited me. As much as I enjoyed my degree, by the time I graduated I was more interested in supporting sport for the masses, and wanted to get into sport development.
As a graduate, I was fortunate in my leisure management role at the University of Stirling to be exposed to a wide variety of different sports, situations and organisations. I wanted to move into Governing Body work and it took a little while but I was eventually successful in applying.
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
From an events point of view, we want to make sure all the events across the country are safe and fair, so that everyone has a great experience. We want people to enjoy our sport so that they come back for more and can enjoy a lifetime of benefits.
With my communications hat on the main focus is almost always engagement. We need to keep content fresh, interesting and relevant to our audience. We need to be aware of and keep on top of new trends, as well as national campaigns and issues. We also want to expand our audience and reach as this will help us grow our sport and help us attract potential new sponsors and partners.
What’s been your favourite moment whilst working in sports?
One of my favourite moments of my career was from my short stint at Scottish Curling, where I was tasked with engaging school pupils from across the Country. I contacted Active Schools departments from across Scotland to offer free access to some of the quieter mid-week sessions and the response was far greater than I could have hoped for. We had over 1500 school pupils attend and for me new into the role and career direction it was a real moment for me. However, that is just one moment to come to mind.
By far the favourite part of my job is being on the ground at events, the atmosphere is always fantastic, even in the pouring rain as it often is in Scotland! Working now in more mass participation events I get to see so many people on their own journeys and achieving their goals. A highlight would be our participation ‘TRI in the Park’ event attached to the Glasgow 2018 Championships, where over 300 people took part. We were the only sport to offer an amateur participation event alongside the elite racing which was really special. Many of the participants took their first steps into our sport that day down the same finish chute as the elites, their achievements no less remarkable.
What do you think is next for your industry?
Unfortunately, the events industry has been one of the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, and it is likely to continue to be affected for a while longer. While we remain hopeful that a return to participation events will be possible in the coming months, we know that some measures (e.g. social distancing) will need to remain in place for the foreseeable future. Facilities are also really struggling, with many not having yet reopened since the initial March 2020 lockdown. This may affect our ability to deliver pool-based events or those requiring facility bookings.
However, some changes forced by the pandemic have actually been pretty positive and are probably here to stay. Many of the adaptations required to make events safe have forced us all to think differently, and many things like additional use of technology have been well-received in certain aspects of delivery. There has also been a massive boom in virtual activities and events that will almost certainly continue to play a role beyond the pandemic.
Most importantly, we know that many more people have gotten active as a result of lockdown, taking up walking, cycling and running for exercise. We know that when we can return, we will hopefully have many more people across the country active and engaged in sport and our events and clubs can be bigger and better than ever!
In your area of work, what is something you feel most people don’t talk about enough or focus on enough?
Definitely something that is becoming more and more of a consideration in events is sustainability and their effect on the environment. In events there are often tight budgets and an expectation to provide a certain amount of ‘frills’ which can make focussing on environmental impact difficult, but I think people’s mindsets are beginning to change on this. We know this is something a growing number of people across society are also considering more and more and I think many would now choose to forego certain ‘frills’ like participation medals or t-shirts to know they are doing their bit for the environment. I think the key is focussing on what is really necessary to put on a safe and enjoyable event and using local or sustainable sources where possible for event supplies.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
Firstly, volunteer and take advantage of opportunities that are available to you. This will help you gain useful skills and experience. Secondly, persevere – I know from personal experience that it can be a difficult sector to break into, but if you are passionate and committed you will get there and it will be so worth it. Also, be willing to take some risks. I left my full time job to take on a three month contract for the curling event at a significant pay cut, but it led to where I am today and I’ve never looked back!
How to follow Morven Bruce on social media…
If you are interested in learning more about swim, bike, run and what our sport has to offer please visit us at:
Thanks for reading our Industry Insider with Morven Bruce! If you want to read more from the series, you can do so by clicking here.