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The Corporation

Posted: 05/09/16

Giving students sporting chance of career success

Young people aspiring for careers in sport or health and wellbeing are benefitting from an exciting new pathway to employment.

  • Mark Lynk (right) puts football academy trialists (from left) Kirtis Chadburn, Macauley Short, Will Parker and Jordan Annable through their paces.
  • Dan Richards (right) with basketball academy hopefuls (from left) Arran Lamont, Nathan Halstead and Ben Morrison in the college‚Äôs sports hall.
  • Members of the volunteering and leadership academy will be tasked with getting the college more active by delivering physical activities to fellow students.
  • Students on the volunteering and leadership academy will be taught to deliver physical activities in schools.
  • Academy of Sport students will combine practical sessions with academic and vocational study.

West Nottinghamshire College has revamped its entire sporting curriculum to give students a springboard to the job of their dreams.

Starting this month, students on sport, public services and A-Level courses will get hands-on experience of the sports industry alongside CV-enhancing volunteering opportunities.

Meanwhile, elite footballers and basketball players will have the chance to compete in national leagues and international cup competitions, as the college aims to put itself on the ‘sporting map’.

It comes after the college forged links with Mansfield Town FC’s Football in the Community (FITC) scheme, Mansfield Town Ladies FC, Mansfield Giants basketball club and Sport Nottinghamshire to create the Academy of Sport – a pioneering approach to training the next generation of talent.

Comprising of individual football, basketball, and volunteering and leadership academies, the Academy of Sport gives students a platform to pursue their passion for sport and physical activity while taking strides towards the world of work.

The football and basketball academies equip students with a comprehensive understanding of all aspects of the games – and the qualifications to achieve their career goals.

They are headed-up by Mark Lynk and Dan Richards respectively – long-serving coaches at Mansfield Town FITC and Mansfield Giants – to give students expert tuition and access to in-depth knowledge.

Footballers will receive nine hours’ coaching each week and basketball players 12 hours. They will also work with a strength and conditioning coach on a personalised training, development and nutrition programme.

Meanwhile, students will join other FITC and Giants coaches in providing sessions for schoolchildren – which will give them the skills to work in a real-life environment.

The partnership with Mansfield Town Ladies will initially see students coach its female players. From September 2017 it will also provide opportunities to represent the academy in regional and national competitions outside of their studies. 

Those signing-up to the volunteering and leadership academy, run in partnership with Sport Nottinghamshire, will have regular, mentored work placements delivering sports and physical activities in schools – boosting their CVs and impressing would-be employers. They will also be tasked with getting the college more active by delivering sessions to fellow students.

The college and sporting body have joined forces to teach the NVQ Level 3 Diploma in Supporting the Delivery of Physical Education and School Sport, combining practical experience with a recognised qualification.

Alongside the all-important preparation for employment, the academy also allows students to harness their competitive instincts.

Those that make ‘Team West Notts’ will compete in the British College Sports’ league and cup competitions, which could also involve international fixtures.

The college will field two football teams in the English Colleges Football Association (ECFA) league, and a basketball team in the Association of Colleges’ invitation-only Academy Basketball League (ABL). Their first teams will be coached by Mark and Dan respectively.

By testing themselves against high-level opposition, it is hoped students make long-standing links for a career in sport – while also enabling star players to showcase their talent to non-league and professional clubs.

The Academy of Sport is open to anybody enrolling onto a sport or public services course, from level one to foundation degree, or an A-level programme.

Students have access to some of the best facilities in the region including a state-of-the-art £2.5million sports hall boasting sports science laboratory, classrooms and modern changing facilities.

A flood-lit 3G astro-pitch designed to FA competition standards is also set to open at the college’s Derby Road campus as part of the £6.5million university centre development nearing completion.

The college’s head of sport, public services and higher education, Julian Smith, said: “We’ve made some radical changes to our sports curriculum and are incredibly excited about the opportunities this will offer young people in Mansfield and Ashfield.

“The sport and physical activity industry in the UK is absolutely huge, with a vast range of occupations, from fitness instructor and personal trainer, to sports therapist, coach and PE teacher.

“There has also been a major boom in the wider health and wellbeing sector – so when you consider roles such as physiotherapist, nutritionist, dietician and occupational health practitioner, it shows the full scale of employment options out there.

“The Academy of Sport is designed to get students job-ready by equipping them with the qualifications, skills and work experience to achieve their career ambitions.

“We’re thrilled to have some high-profile elite organisations on board and believe this is the ideal approach to education in the 21st century.”

Competition in national leagues and cups were expected to act as a “major draw” for those aspiring to break-into semi-professional football or professional basketball, insisted Mr Smith.

“Giving students a platform to compete at a high level is really important,” he said. “Our aim is to become firmly-established as Nottinghamshire’s number-one college for sport.”

“Honoured to be part of this”

Mark Lynk is futsal development officer at Mansfield Town FITC – the Stags’ community programme which coaches thousands of schoolchildren each year. He is a UEFA B licensed coach with more than 10 years’ experience in youth football development.

Mark said: “As a former West Notts student, I’m indebted to the college for giving me the opportunity to get into a career that I love – that’s why I want to give something back by nurturing current students.

“Coaching groups of children can feel quite scary at first, so this will enable students to be mentored and build-up their confidence until they eventually feel ready to lead their own sessions.

“This will give young people a taste of the coaching industry and, hopefully, some of them will go on to become future employees of Mansfield Town FITC, which will enable our own scheme to develop and grow.

“We’re proud to launch this new community activity in partnership with the college and everyone at the FITC team is really excited about it.”

Mark described the competitive element as “vitally important”, saying: “The standard we’ll be playing at will definitely attract students and, as first-team coach, I’m keen to establish the college’s identity as a fantastic footballing institution.”

Eighteen-year-old Will Parker, from Mansfield, joined the football academy to study the foundation degree in sport coaching and development.

He previously studied a BTEC Level 3 Sport Diploma at the Stags’ One Call Stadium – and insisted the Academy of Sport was the ideal next step towards becoming a football coach.

Will said: “It’s a great pathway into an industry I’ve always wanted to work in, and the facilities at West Notts are second-to-none. Working with football coaches will be invaluable because the more experience you get, the more confident you become.

“While the education-side was the main attraction, I’m also keen to represent the football team, which would be an added bonus.”

“This will benefit students massively”

Dan Richards is head coach at top-flight basketball outfit Mansfield Giants and a former professional player who has competed in 10 different countries. His coaching experience spans grass roots to senior level, and he has a keen interest in junior development.

Dan said: “The great thing about this is that the education always comes first – so if students aren’t up-to-date with their course work, they won’t take part in the basketball until they’ve caught up.

“Students will have a set number of hours working with our coaches in local schools, to put into practice everything they’ve learnt at college.

“There’s a lot of emphasis on qualifications these days but there’s nothing like practical, hands-on experience to give you an advantage in securing a job.

“This whole approach will benefit students massively.”

Success in the college basketball team could even see some make it as professional players with the Giants, insisted Dan.

“Students will be competing against some of the top sides in the country, which will really improve their game, so it’s definitely an achievable ambition,” he said.

“Sometimes, players leave the local area to progress their basketball careers, but now they can stay in Mansfield and Ashfield – because everything’s right here on their doorstep.”

West Notts student Ben Morrison enrolled onto the basketball academy for the final year of his BTEC Level 3 in Sport and Exercise Science course.

The 17-year-old, from Mansfield, represents the Giants’ at under-18’s national level and hopes to turn professional.

He said: “Competitive action is a big thing for most sports students. The increased time I’ll have for training and playing will help me become a better player – that’s really important for people wanting to play professionally.

“For those looking at other careers in sport, the college’s industry links will help them to excel.”

“Creative way to learn”

Pete Forster is sports development officer at Sport Nottinghamshire – one of 45 County Sports Partnerships in England working to increase participation in sport and physical activity. He has more than two decades’ coaching experience across a variety of sports.

Pete said: “We’ve worked with the college for a few years now, so this is a natural extension of that. We’re developing a project called ‘Start’, which fits in perfectly with the volunteering and leadership academy.

“Students will be able to create their own online CV and profile. It means employers can look at those, watch video clips of them in action, and see how they’re developing their skills.

“Some coaching and leadership workshops are quite regimented and traditional; we want to provide a more creative way for people to learn.

“As well as coaching, we’ll teach students about marketing and social media as a method of attracting people to their sessions, so we’re looking at a broader approach.

“We’re delighted to be a founding member of the Academy of Sport and look forward to developing the partnership further.”