When I first started my degree as an English student, I thought that balancing student life with the athlete life of a swimmer was going to be tough. But coming to the end of my time here at the University of Plymouth, I can easily say it has been the best three years of my life, and I owe a great part of that to the Sporting Excellence Scholarship programme.
Of course, financially, the scholarship’s funding has helped me a great deal, especially as swimming becomes a more and more expensive sport to be a part of. It’s allowed me to compete more often around the country (and world!) and it also ensures that my athlete lifestyle is as professional as it can be, helping me cover the costs of equipment, supplements and other training requirements.
With training twice a day and often having to go away for competitions and training camps, there have been numerous occasions when my training and competition schedule has clashed with lectures, seminars and assignment deadlines. However, the scholarship has been incredible at helping me to ensure that neither my degree nor my swimming have had to suffer because of this! For example, at the beginning of 2017 I went away to Belgium for a month’s training camp, meaning that I was missing a huge chunk of term. The Sporting Excellence team sat down with me beforehand and helped me plan the month ahead so that I wouldn’t fall behind, as well as organising meetings with my course leaders to make them aware of the situation. I was sent notes by lecturers, I was able to Skype call my tutors and I even wrote and submitted a first class piece of coursework whilst I was out there! On a similar occasion, two of my coursework deadlines clashed with the European Championships, as well as the build-up to this important competition. The scholarship team were happy to write me a letter of support enabling me to apply for an extension. This way I was able to perform at my best for my country and write my best piece of work. I was even able to make my first senior international final!
The scholarship has also provided me with resources and aids that have helped enhance both my training and my performances at competitions. Through them, I was put into contact with students carrying out research in athlete nutrition as part of their degree, and they were able to analyse my diet and advise me on how I could improve it. Nutrition is such a huge part of what I do so it was great to have such detailed and thorough feedback. The scholarship also provided me with free sports psychology and physio sessions on campus. I cannot emphasise how much both of these helped me throughout my time here in Plymouth. Feeling confident and strong both mentally and physically is so important to an athlete, and with the support of the scholarship programme, I truly did.