FEATURE1 January 2010

Double Lives – Rachel Cope

Researchers reveal how their out-of-hours pursuits impact on the 9 to 5. This month, Rachel Cope, who’s regional director at Cello MRUK, and also coaches young rowers

Tell us about your day job
I head up the North of England research team at Cello MRUK Research. Along with the team I design and implement social research primarily for public sector clients. My work involves a lot of client liaison as well as project and people management.

Tell us about your other life
I coach at the Grange School Rowing Club in Cheshire. I got involved when I stopped rowing myself due to injury. The club was just starting up and they were looking for help to get things off the ground. I’ve mainly coached girls in the past but this year I’m coaching a group of nine boys, which is a new challenge.

Which came first?
The rowing – although only just, as I got talked into it in my final year at university. I started coaching about five years later.

How do you fit the two around each other?
They fit fine as coaching tends to be an evening or weekend activity, although occasionally I tend to find myself thinking about one while doing the other.

Are you ever tempted to go and coach rowers full time?
Sometimes – particularly when the sun’s shining on a lovely summer’s day (not that there are many of those) – but then I’m almost sure it wouldn’t be as rewarding if it wasn’t a voluntary activity.

What does rowing offer you that research doesn’t?
Lots of fresh air. I don’t think I’ll ever have a need to spend a night under canvas as part of my research career, although never say never.

What does research offer you that rowing doesn’t?
Variety. I work in so many different sectors, with such a range of clients and on so many different types of project. You never quite know what the next project will bring. Now we’re part of the Cello group I work more frequently with others in the group to offer a broader range
of services beyond research, which also makes the job more interesting.

What does research teach you that you can use as a rowing coach?
Sports psychology really interests me and I’ve used some of my research skills to develop questionnaires to assess rowers’ mental abilities and get their feedback on progress.

It’s important to learn from others and pass on what you know. The Cello Group has formed an academy to bring together organisations from within the group to share ideas and develop management skills. It’s particularly rewarding to see someone have the confidence to try a new skill and develop – whether it’s as a researcher or a rower.

What does your being a rowing coach teach you as a researcher?
Because you’re working with young people, you have to think around a problem and consider how you’re going to get a point across. It’s a really useful tool for a researcher to be able to tackle a problem from a different angle.

Time management and planning skills are also really handy. There are always training sessions to plan and crews to organise. Unexpected things can come up, so you need to have a back up plan.

What do your research colleagues say when you tell them about your other life?
I’ve been involved in a range of sports over the years, so I don’t think they’re particularly surprised. I hope to get some of them to give it a go one day – it’s a great team-building activity.

What do your rowing trainees say when you tell them you’re really a researcher?
There’s such a variety of people at the club from so many different backgrounds that it’s really no surprise. In fact, I’m not sure they even remember I have a non-rowing job.

If you had to give up one of your two lives… which would it be??
Do I have to?

Do you have an interesting out of hours pursuit? Let us know about it – send an email to robertb@researchmagazine.co.uk