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Sport scholarship event highlights support for students

Two days before the University’s first refereeing scholar, Matthew Carley, took charge of the 2021 Rugby Championship clash between South Africa and New Zealand, its next potential crop of sports scholars was given a wealth of information and insights into how they could be supported to follow in his footsteps.

The University’s sports scholarships help talented athletes, officials and aspiring coaches achieve their goals across a wide range of sports, and scholars are able to combine this bespoke support with any degree programme.

At an ‘all scholars welcome’ event at Oxstalls campus, students interested in applying for the scholarship heard from university staff who run some of the different aspects of the programme – Abbie Sadler (coaching), Claire Tracey (strength and conditioning) and Chris White (referees and officials). The trio also act as mentors for the scholars, along with Cheryl Vinson, the UniSport Scholarship coordinator.

Matt Tansley, the University’s new Director of Sport, and Dr Kiara Lewis, Head of School for Sport and Exercise, then welcomed the audience, before former international rugby referee Chris White hosted a Q&A with three former and current scholars.

First up was BSc Physical Education and Coaching graduate Lauren Kianchhr, an international Boccia referee and Boccia England Performance Coach, who is working with eight national athletes on a one-to-one basis, including Great Britain’s most successful Boccia Paralympian, Tokyo 2021 gold medal winner David Smith.

Lauren is now studying a Master’s in Professional Practice in Sports Coaching and is currently in Dubai umpiring at the Asian and Oceanic Region Championships before heading to Seville to coach at the European Championships.

Chris also interviewed rising judo star Chloe Robyns-Landricombe, a second-year physiotherapy degree student who recently achieved success at the World Cup in Bosnia and will soon be heading to the Continental Open in Malaga. Her goal is to qualify for the Commonwealth Games taking place in Birmingham next summer.

As the only university in the UK offering an officiating scholarship alongside studying for a degree, some of the world’s top referees have reaped the benefits of the programme, including Christophe Ridley, who attended the Oxstalls event before his Gallagher Premiership Rugby appointment between Leicester and Saracens.

Christophe combined a BSc Sports Coaching degree with his scholarship, having seen his burgeoning rugby career ended prematurely by injury at the age of 18. His advice to the potential new scholar recruits: “Be curious, ask questions; surround yourself with experts in a range of different fields; and be balanced in all parts of your student life.”

As a TASS Delivery Site (Sport England’s Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme), with accredited practitioners in place to help support TASS athletes in their dual career, the University is an officially recognised place for developing talent.

It also holds TASS Dual Career Accreditation, which acknowledges an enhanced level of academic flexibility and understanding within an institution, allowing talented athletes to balance their studies with a busy sporting schedule.

Sports scholars receive different services depending on their pathway, but all receive support with nutrition, psychology, CPD and fitness.

Director of Sport Matt Tansley said: “This programme is incredibly important to us. As a sports scholar at the University of Gloucestershire, students will be working with some of the best practitioners, coaches and mentors, and whether they’re at the start of the journey, or already working or performing alongside the elite, we’re looking forward to supporting them and celebrating their success.”