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The Armed Services

All three Armed Services have a long history of supporting sport and sportsmen/women. Sport is positively encouraged for a number of reasons – primary being the impact it has on physical fitness and the importance the Services obviously place on this. Importantly though it also fosters and develops some of the performance behaviours that transfer directly into an effective and successful Armed Service e.g. teamwork, discipline, commitment, adaptability, problem solving, performing under pressure, etc.

Triathlon and the Armed Services

Since the sports inception there have been very good links with Triathlon – in the early years a number of the sports British pioneers were members of the Royal Navy and for some time the Navy had one of the strongest triathlon teams in Great Britain. More recently the Army and Royal Air Force through their Elite Athlete Programmes have offered a good level of support to high level triathletes.

All three Services operate a tiered approach in terms of how sport is supported – the higher the level of athlete and competition the greater the amount of available support, though it will normally take some time to work your way through the various tiers. This can be anything from an afternoon off on a Wednesday to compete in an intra-Service event to the top level Army and RAF Elite Athlete Programmes where staff are given significant time off their day jobs to focus on their sport.

Joining the Armed Services

Despite sport being actively encouraged in the Services and there being some great opportunities to practice triathlon to a very high level, it is hugely important to understand personnel are joining to be in that respective Service first. Whilst all the Services suit active individuals who thrive in challenging situations and enjoy performing under pressure any application to join should be very seriously considered and all applicants should absolutely be prioritising their desire to join the Services.

Basic and Phase/Trade Training

No matter which Service you chose to join all successful candidates will have to complete both basic and trade training. If you aren’t applying as an Officer Basic Training is normally relatively short (around 12-14 weeks in most cases). Athletes will not be able to train for their sport during this time, they will, however, be subject to a good amount of physical training. For Officers Basic Training can last a much longer period of time (around 40 weeks).

What is known as Phase or Trade training in most cases follows basic training and again for most will involve a more standard 8am to 5pm working pattern – during this period there will be opportunity to fit in some training. The length of time Phase or Trade Training will last is varied and you would should find out more information on this if applying interests you.

Watch and Listen

We have included 2 video interviews below that hopefully will give you a greater understanding of a career in the Armed Forces alongside the challenges of balancing this with being a top level athlete. Both athletes are on their respective Service Elite Athlete Programme.

Lucy Nell – Doctor in The Royal Air Force

Lucy, who joined the Air Cadets whilst at school, was sponsored through Medical School by the RAF. After Top 20’s at Continental Cup level Lucy was invited to join the RAF’s Elite Athlete Programme. Lucy is not the only triathlete on the scheme, Luke Pollard who is a Guide for the Paratriathlon Programme is also a member of the scheme and at the time of writing was currently based full time in Loughborough supporting Para Tri’s leading visually impaired athlete Dave Ellis in his dreams to be a Paralympic Champion.

Kat Rye – Physiotherapist in the Army

Kat, who joined the Army after finishing Uni, had been a hockey player originally before starting Triathlon training well into her Army career. Kat has risen quickly through the Age Group ranks to gain a Long Distance Pro License. In 2019, her first pro season, Kat finished 16th at the World 70.3 and won the ETU Middle Distance Champs. As a member of the Army Elite Athlete Programme Kat also benefits from support via the Talented Athlete Support Scheme (TASS) – this provides multi-disciplinary sports science/sports medicine support to it’s athletes.

Variety and Personal Development

In all three Armed Services the options regards different careers is huge with each Service offering applicants over 100 different roles to choose from.

All Armed Services take their staffs personal development very seriously. There is significant opportunity to develop yourself in all manner of ways – be that adventure training, management training, developing an expertise in a particular trade, learning sports coaching awards, higher education, etc.

Sponsorship and Bursaries

Sponsorship through A levels or University is available in all three Services and if a career in the Military is a serious consideration for you at 16 or 18 this could be a real option for you. Being sponsored through School and/or Uni can make a huge difference to your financial position, however, gaining sponsorship is very competitive and will require you committing to the relevant Service for a certain period post sponsorship. The sponsorship and bursary programmes are very varied and should be thoroughly researched if this of interest to you.

Find out more

The following links will take you through to the relevant Service website – all websites have many further links that you can follow that will you allow you to find out all the information you need.




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