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Having mentored over a dozen early career practitioners through the transition from graduate to full practitioner registration with the UK Sport and Exercise Nutrition Register (SENR), I have seen firsthand how mentorship and supervision supports the future growth of not only individual practitioners, but the profession as a whole. Mentoring and supervision raises standards of practice, and I strongly recommend anyone interested in developing a career in sport nutrition to seek out mentorship or supervision. 

The path to success is more well-trodden now than when I entered the field over 25 years ago. There are many more roles out there, but it remains a competitive environment, and elite and professional sport can be tricky landscapes to navigate, especially for newly qualified practitioners working independently. 

This blog explores the benefits of mentorship and supervision for sports nutritionists and provides practical tips on how to set up an effective experience. 

Mentorship - a professional requirement to practice? 

I believe as the field of sport nutrition practice expands, mentorship and supervision should become central to effective and safe practice. Everyone coming through the ranks, regardless of education and training background, needs help to bridge the gap between theoretical learning and the application to practice. Mentorship and supervision can ensure this happens. 

The SENR embraces registrants from mixed professional backgrounds and training — principally those from nutrition, dietetics, and sport science. All practitioners, regardless of their background, are required to exhibit a core set of professional competences defined by the SENR, which demonstrate you can apply nutritional science to help support the health and performance of athletes. 

Practitioners coming from a dietetic background, such as my own, will have experienced and benefited from supervision within clinical contexts but not necessarily sport, while registrants from other backgrounds may not have had the opportunity for supervision or mentorship at all during their education and training. 

Through the SENR, practitioners going into the world of applied sport nutrition will enter the profession as a Graduate Registrant and develop competency through practice during the early post-registration years. Practitioners are encouraged to engage in continual professional development to advance practice and deliver better outcomes for their athletes whilst working towards achieving Full Practitioner Registration status. This is awarded following candidates submitting comprehensive evidence to demonstrate their ability to meet all the competency statements, allowing them to practice as a Registered Sport and Exercise Nutritionist. This life-long learning is central to achieving professional success, with mentoring and supervision deemed effective professional development experiences to enhance and expand your career success. 

The value of supervision for sports nutritionists

Supervision should be viewed as essential throughout the professional career of a practitioner, even for those deemed expert in the field. But this is especially true in the early stages of your sport nutrition career when you are looking to put your academic learning into practice. 

Supervision and mentorship are often used interchangeably to describe approaches to developing practice, but they have a different emphasis. Mentoring may take a less formal approach and be seen simply as a passing along of what has been learned from the more experienced to junior practitioner. Supervision can be considered as a more structured and formal process of professional support and learning undertaken through a range of activities that enable the practitioner to further develop their knowledge and competence, assume responsibility for practice, and enhance athlete care. 

The objectives of supervision are three-fold, these being 'normative' (case management and quality control issues); 'restorative' (encouraging emotional experiencing and processing); and 'formative' (maintaining and facilitating the supervisee's competence, capability, and general functioning). Given the high-pressure environments of elite and professional sport, effective supervision ensures practitioners consider their personal wellbeing alongside their professional development. In other words, effective supervision has the potential to positively impact job satisfaction and wellbeing. 

But unless you work in one of the UK Sport Institutes or a professional sport team with a large budget, you are unlikely to have access to on-the-job mentorship or supervision. Furthermore, up until now Graduate SENR practitioners in their transition to Full Practitioner Registration have not had the option of a structured quality assured programme to provide technical supervision. While this is due to change with the introduction of a programme at Leeds Beckett University, historically, this gap has led to an emerging private market of mentoring and training that lacks quality control. 

What should you look for in effective mentorship and supervision?

  • be a competent and experienced Sport and Exercise Nutrition practitioner 
  • have knowledge of different learning styles and adapt to these accordingly to suit you
  • recognise their own scope of practice and limitations in mentorship and supervision
  • demonstrate good communication and active listening skills
  • be actively engaged in their own mentorship and supervision
  • maintain confidentiality and be culturally competent
  • facilitate open and transparent dialogue 
  • respectfully challenge your perspectives and practice
  • support you in identifying your learning needs and practice gaps
  • support the ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the process

What do you need to demonstrate to get the most out of mentorship or supervision?

Your experience, approach to practice, personality, and professional development needs are different, meaning every mentorship or supervision relationship will be unique. To benefit optimally from the time and finance you invest in the process, I recommend:

  • establishing an agreement with clear goals and timeframe for the process
  • devoting sufficient time to it
  • valuing the time of your mentor or supervisor
  • being open to receiving feedback and constructive criticism
  • taking ownership/leadership in the mentorship or supervision relationship
  • engaging in the development of your reflective practice skills 
  • using recording documentation and feedback to guide the process

Supporting the process

To ensure an effective experience, I recommend creating a formal agreement to guide the process. Such an agreement should highlight:

  • the purpose of mentorship or supervision 
  • the structure it will take
  • when and where it will occur 
  • feedback and documentation required
  • confidentiality terms
  • when it will end

At the end of the process both parties should have benefited from the process. You should have enhanced professional skills, gained in confidence, and expanded your professional network. At the same time, mentors and supervisors often report great satisfaction in guiding the career path of others and enhanced accountability in their own roles as a result of engaging in mentorship or supervision. 

What is GetPro Professional doing to support early career sport nutritionists?

GetPro Professional has partnered with Leeds Beckett University to sponsor their Advanced Certificate in Sport and Exercise Nutrition Practice. This is a purposely designed validated CPD programme that aims to provide Graduate Practitioners of the SENR with the guidance, environment and opportunities that will facilitate the development of the competencies expected for Full Practitioner Registration with SENR. This mentoring and supervision programme provides the opportunity for early career practitioners to engage in a challenging and supportive programme with expert practitioners, each with over 25 years of experience in service delivery across Olympic, professional and grassroots sport.

Through mentoring and effective supervision, Graduate Practitioners will be encouraged and facilitated to develop their practice in line with the SENR Competency Framework by supporting enhanced development of the core skills and knowledge required to be able to operate safely and effectively as a Full Practitioner Registrant of SENR. This will act as a supportive bridge for the journey to full registration and an opportunity for them to develop their own toolkit for practice development. Alongside increased quality in athlete care, the programme aims to promote increased innovation, confidence, and leadership potential in early-career sport nutritionists. 

GetPRO Professional is proud to sponsor the Leeds Beckett mentorship and supervision programme as part of its commitment to developing career opportunities for sport nutritionists, complementing the online resource hub and the Grassroots Sports Nutrition Grant Programme. Our sponsorship of this programme will cover the majority of the course fee for each student. 

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Coming soon Mentorship Programme

GetPRO Professional is proud to be the exclusive sponsor of The Leeds Beckett University programme: Mentoring and Supervision for Applied Sport and Exercise Nutrition Practice.

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Please read the following notice

This information is intended for Health and/or Nutrition Professionals working within the field of sport and performance nutrition, including sports nutritionists, dietitians, sports scientists, coaches, athletic trainers and others who have professional training in nutrition and human physiology.

Disclaimer: This information is intended for Health and/or Nutrition Professionals working within the field of sport and performance nutrition, including sports nutritionists, dietitians, sports scientists, coaches, athletic trainers and others who have professional training in nutrition and human physiology.