"I don’t think it is discussed enough but one of the biggest strengths and learning tools on the MBA is your classmates."

My name is Tom Sadler and I am the Head of Performance Basketball at the University of Essex. I am a graduate of The Essex MBA.

man in basketball court inside sports arena watching game which he is coaching

Tell us about yourself

I was offered the opportunity to study at Essex by the previous head coach who is a dear friend and mentor of mine. He wanted me to come and play on the basketball team, not realising at the time how old I was, and how beat up my body was from years of playing professionally!

This opportunity came at a time in my life when I noticed a big shift in my mind-set. In 2016 my dad sadly passed away. His passing made me look at my own life and eventually I realised that I was just going through the motions with my current job and wasn’t truly happy. I wasn’t really challenged mentally and felt like there was more I could be doing with my life to impact and help others on a bigger scale. It is like the saying, 'you have to help yourself before you can help others'. So I knew I needed to look at ways I could be challenged to force me out of my comfort zone and develop skills and values that would allow for lifelong personal and professional success – The Essex MBA was perfect! 

At the time I was also in the early stages of creating my own coaching company. I believed that this course would help me gain the knowledge of the latest business practices that would benefit my coaching company. But actually, it became something so much better, more than I could have ever imagined. Make no mistake about it though I was terrified at the challenge which was bearing down on me. But I’ve never been someone to shy away from a challenge!

Tell us about your MBA experience

I loved my time on the MBA, and I know it’s different for everyone, but I achieved so much personal growth during my time on the course. Each of the modules were informative, and challenging and really well delivered and structured throughout, combining a number of different teaching methods from group work to presentations, simulations and discussions meaning every week there was something new, fresh and engaging. I took an open-minded approach to each module that allowed me to learn, taking so many nuggets of information and skills that I have carried over into my career and life. 

Returning to the classroom was an adjustment at the beginning, but it felt no different than going to a 9-to-5 job. I certainly think for our cohort it became more of a business hub. We were encouraged to design our own room layout, have discussions and share ideas and challenge perspectives constantly.

I think the key for anyone on the course is personal organisation. I decided to take on the course full-time, alongside launching my own business. I structured my time day by day and I found this was the best way to manage my work-life balance.

I don’t think it is discussed enough but one of the biggest strengths and learning tools on the MBA is your classmates. The amount you learn from the people on the course is invaluable. This allows you to build a strong network of highly skilled, knowledgeable people who can always be there to offer their advice or support. Two years after graduating we still have a group chat that allows us to stay in contact and communicate constantly. We built great relationships and bonds while experiencing the weekly challenges and built a real support network that still stands today.

How did the MBA impact your career?

At the time the plan was to grow my coaching business, but it became something bigger that allowed me the opportunity to do what I’m doing now here at Essex as the Head of Basketball.

The MBA has had an enormous impact on my career and has given me confidence in my own abilities as a leader along with the skills and knowledge to deal with issues and adapt to the changing business world we are in today. It also encouraged me to continue to learn and keep up to speed with new and evolving techniques within business and in the basketball world, allowing me to be a lifelong learner.

My role is to lead and serve the players within the Basketball Scholarship programme and pathways. It is a demanding role that involves being able to wear a number of hats, but I love and enjoy the challenges that it brings. I work very closely with the Business Development Manager at Essex Sport to promote the programme. I am also responsible for building a team culture where people feel valued and create a high-performance environment where each player and staff member can perform to the best ability and reach both their full playing and working potential.

We have many students from a variety of courses who provide unique skills that not only enhance what we do, but provides them with real work experience. We work closely with the School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences and the Human Performance Unit, which allows us to utilise cutting edge sports science techniques and methods to ensure the highest quality of sports science and medicine services and technical support to our athletes.

I co-ordinate visits to the University by teams, academies and schools, as well as oversee the recruitment of players eligible and worthy of our University scholarships.

Managing relationships is key component of this role, especially with organisations like our governing body, Basketball England, sponsors, internal and external stakeholders and the local community. I am also responsible for budget management and other administrative functions. No two days are the same!

Would you recommend the MBA? If so, why?

I would highly recommend the MBA as it can help with your career advancement, allow you to meet people and help you learn about a number of areas within the business world and industries. It can also help increase your earning potential.