Mike Whittingham OBE, Director of High Performance at the sportscotland Institute of Sport (SiS) is stepping down at the end of March after almost 40 years working in sport.
A highly-respect sports administrator, Whittingham has worked with SiS since its inception in 1998, driving an ambitious vision for high-performance sport. He is stepping down as SiS, which supports around 650 athletes annually in 25 Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth sports, prepares to celebrate its 25th anniversary.
Earlier in his career Mike helped develop the Athlete Services programme – a precursor to the UK Sport World Class Programme – that provided much-needed support to all the leading track and field athletes at the time. He was appointed Executive Director of SiS in 2006 and became Director of High performance at sportscotland in 2008 when the two organisations merged. Since then, his professionalism, resilience and motivation has helped deliver an undoubted legacy of success.
Whittingham said: “I have always said that athletes win medals, but it is systems that help win them consistently. Over the past 25 years we have evolved and created a strong, effective and collaborative system of key partners. In the early days all high-performance programmes were housed within the SIS. Now in 2023, Scotland is a recognised major contributor to the world-class National Lottery-funded high-performance system.
“It has been a dynamic journey which has created a positive culture, attitude and mind-set, underpinned by my fundamental belief in a growth mindset and my most recent vision of high challenge, high support and high integrity. Together we have continued to have a major influence across the whole of our sporting system.
“It goes without saying that it has been a fantastic period for Scottish sport. It has been an exciting, challenging journey and I am privileged to have worked with such a great high-performance family.
"Our partners UK Sport, the British Olympic Association and British Paralympic Association, all the home countries, Scottish Governing Bodies of Sport and of course Commonwealth Games Scotland, have been a pleasure to work with.”
Chair of sportscotland, Mel Young, said: “I would like to thank Mike for his service and commitment over the years and to congratulate him on the success that he has overseen and wish him all the best for the future. He has played a significant and key part in Scotland’s world-class system.”
During Mike’s time working in high-performance, athletes selected to compete for Team Scotland or Team GB/Paralympics GB delivered a series of 11 best-ever results at major Games. The number of Scottish athletes selected for world-class programmes now stands at a record high of 15%.
Under his leadership, Mission 2021 was formed where the London 2012 Olympic Games and Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games were used as catalysts to accelerate a new way of thinking and self-belief amongst athletes, coaches and high-performance staff. The athlete-centred and coach-led Mission 2021 programme ensured that financial investment and support services were targeted to ensure athletes and their coaches received additional support as they aspired to win on the world stage. The sportscotland Athlete Personal Award (SAPA) programme was also introduced.
Mike can look back on a long and very successful career, mainly in education, leisure and sport. He achieved his first International for GB & NI in athletics in 1973 – sadly his father (a former 400m international and Blackheath Harrier) had died suddenly a year earlier and never saw or witnessed his son’s achievements. Early on Mike volunteered for various roles both at home and overseas working across the sporting spectrum.
Although Mike will still be offering his advice and experience in targeted ways, he leaves behind a career where he has held a variety of positions and achieved a great deal whether as athlete, national coach, personal coach, volunteer, consultant, and executive director.