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09 October 2020

Royal award for Hallam sports engineering expert who helped Team GB secure scores of Olympic medals

An internationally renowned Sheffield Hallam University sports engineer who helped Team GB secure dozens of Olympic medals and encouraged mass participation in sport and exercise has been awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE)

Press contact: Jo Beattie | j.beattie@shu.ac.uk

Prof Steve Haake

Professor Steve Haake, who was also the founding director of the University’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre, was awarded an OBE for services to higher education and sport in the Queen's Birthday Honours List announced this weekend.

Professor Haake has dedicated his 30-year career to establishing sports engineering as a global academic discipline. His contribution includes supporting elite athletes to improve performance, working with governing bodies including UK Sport and the International Tennis Federation as well as major sporting brands. Since 2008, his team has led the development of around 100 performance-analysis systems for the UK’s Olympic teams, supporting them to over 60 medals at London 2012 and Rio 2016.

In 2013 he was commissioned by UK Sport to audit the technological needs of UK Olympic sport and to write a 10-year strategy around management information systems and performance analysis.

Professor Haake is also passionate about using sports engineering techniques in a healthcare setting to support the public to lead healthier, more active lives. His outstanding contribution to the field of sport and health led to his appointment as the founding director of Sheffield Hallam University’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC).

The multi-million pound Centre, which opened at the start of 2020 as the centrepiece of the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park, is dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of the population through innovations that help people move.

"Shocked, amazed and then thrilled"

Professor Haake said: “I was shocked, amazed and then thrilled when I was told about this award. No-one works alone and the award tells you that I’ve worked with some fantastic people over the last thirty years. They know who they are – I wouldn’t have got this without them.”

Following his work to found the AWRC, the Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, Dan Jarvis MP, asked Steve in 2019 to lead the regional Active Travel Advisory Board and work alongside British Paralympian and Active Travel Commissioner, Dame Sarah Storey.

Professor Haake’s leadership and input was influential in the creation of the Sheffield City Region’s Active Travel Implementation Plan, which sets out how, by 2040, a fully connected network of walking and cycling routes will link the region.

Dame Storey said: “Steve provides energy, empathy and vision to all of our work, always delivering above and beyond and playing a pivotal role in supporting myself and Mayor Dan Jarvis to make informed decisions with a clear evidence base.

“Whether it is research, including the extensive work he produced to support the creation of the active travel programme, the development of articles and other evidence-based documents or speaking to the media, Steve is reliable, approachable and always extremely well prepared.”

Professor Haake also led one of the largest pieces of independent research into the impact of physical activity in the world in association with global physical activity movement, parkrun. The research explored the impact of parkrun on health and wellbeing for participants and volunteers - resulting in 6,000 responses from the UK and Ireland. Of those surveyed, 91% reported a sense of personal achievement after participating in parkrun, with 84% of volunteers reporting an improvement to their happiness.

Professor Haake was also instrumental in setting up a junior parkun on the site of the AWRC – advising the site’s architects to include a route in the final designs. This junior parkrun is now in place, offering young people from a deprived area of Sheffield access to a free and organised healthy activity every weekend.

Professor Sally Shearer, who is Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust’s Executive Director for Nursing and Quality and a visiting professor at Sheffield Hallam is also being awarded an OBE.

Sally, who has worked in the NHS for 40 years, became a visiting professor at the University in 2019 to help educate the next generation of nurses going into the profession as well as share good practice and to champion improvements to children’s nursing across the country.

Professor Sally Shearer OBE said: “I am stunned and absolutely over the moon! It was a complete shock to learn that I have been chosen to receive an OBE. I am deeply honoured that my career has been recognised in this way as nursing means so much to me. I am so very proud that this has been awarded during the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, how fabulous is that!”

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