My role as a pharmacist is not that different from volleyball team captain!

Lynne Beattie is captain of the British women’s volleyball team at London 2012. Ayshe Ismail finds out more about her role and her pharmacy background

By Ayshe Ismail

How is a pharmacist similar to an Olympic athlete? Your first thought might be they are not, but as Lynne Beattie, captain of Great Britain’s women’s indoor volleyball team, pointed out, both careers put her out in the community to promote good health to the public. “I am a people person, I love getting out into the community and both careers allow me to do that,” she said.

Apart from wanting to achieve success on court this summer, the “team GB” volleyball squad also wants to create a legacy for volleyball and for sport in the UK. “That involves us visiting schools and spreading the word about how important having an active lifestyle is, and that has a huge link with pharmacy,” Miss Beattie explained.

She added: “In pharmacy you are in constant contact with the public and you want the best health for them. One of the reasons I wanted to do pharmacy in the first place is because you have that rapport and contact with patients.”

Although Miss Beattie is currently a full-time athlete, she still considers herself a pharmacist and, ultimately, pharmacy will be the “career of my life”.

How it all started

  Born and raised in Glasgow, Miss Beattie started playing volleyball in secondary school aged 12 years. At 17 years, she underwent a week’s work experience at her local pharmacy in Eaglesham. She loved the experience and was inspired by the pharmacist working at the branch, who was “so enthusiastic”, and whom she credits as the main influence in her choice to apply to study pharmacy.

She obtained her degree at the University of Strathclyde in 2007 and completed her preregistration training at Boots. On qualifying, Miss Beattie worked two days a week as a community pharmacist in Doncaster. She trained with the GB women’s volleyball team, based in Sheffield, up to four days a week.

In 2009, after about six months, she realised that, in order to succeed in volleyball and play a part in the Olympic team, she would need to commit full-time to the sport. However, Miss Beattie knew she could “always go back to pharmacy and it is something that I do want to have a career in”.
Giving up her pharmacy career at that point was a sacrifice but the opportunities and experiences that arose, including playing at various sports venues in Asia, Europe and South America, have been amazing. “I don’t regret it,” she said.   

Challenges ahead

This is the first time that a British indoor volleyball team will compete at an Olympic Games. Miss Beattie explained that, having not competed in Olympic competitions and world championships previously, the team is currently ranked 69th in the world, but she believes this is unlikely to be a true reflection of the team’s ability on the international stage.

As the first game draws closer for team GB (28 July 2012) Miss Beattie said that she and her teammates are aware of the challenges ahead and that they believe they are prepared to take on the best teams in the world. According to Miss Beattie, training is going well and the team is achieving great results, having recently returned unbeaten from a 10-day tour of Finland in mid-June and beaten Peru (ranked 17th in the world). The team will be playing some of the strongest volleyball nations, having been grouped with Russia, Algeria, Italy, the Dominican Republic and Japan.

Miss Beattie hopes that she will have a chance to see some of the other sports during the games, although her schedule will be hectic since she is playing every other day and training on her days off.

Although the next one to two years of Miss Beattie’s life will revolve around volleyball, she  plans on returning to work as a community pharmacist and is “equally excited” about her future career as she is about competing at the Olympics. She believes that her roles as a pharmacist and as women’s volleyball team captain have helped one another. There are shared aspects, such as team work, which help her to learn more about herself as a professional. Her team mates regularly seek her advice on minor ailments — more than the doctor on the team — with the most recent example being during the tour of Finland, when the team suffered from a number of mosquito bites.

With the highlight of her volleyball career still to come in the next few weeks, pharmacy features highly on her achievements list, adding that “you cannot take away from the fact that I spent a long time at university to get a good degree” and that finally getting to “put all those years of hard work at university and my preregistration year into action as a pharmacist has to be the highlight”.

For those who have ever considered trying something unconventional with their career or pushing forward with hobbies outside pharmacy, Miss Beattie’s advice is that “you only live once so if you have an opportunity you should grab it with both hands”. 

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, July 2012;():DOI:10.1211/PJ.2012.11104021

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