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Students ‘try’ hard at rugby club

Performance analyst intern Andy Turnbull and chairman of Houghton Rugby Club John Simpson

Sports students from Sunderland College are tackling work experience head on thanks to a partnership with a Wearside rugby club.

The college has joined forces with Houghton Rugby Club to help develop students’ skills and knowledge in a practical sports environment.

Keen rugby player and coach Andy Turnbull, who is studying a Foundation Degree in Exercise, Health and Fitness at Sunderland College, is completing a one-year internship with the club.

The 26-year-old, who has been playing rugby for the past eight years, has been appointed as the club’s first performance analyst through the joint scheme.

Andy decided to return to full-time education to pursue his ambition of launching a career in the sports industry after working in the civil service for three years.

He said: “I was made redundant from my role as a tax credit advisor a couple of years ago and after doing some agency work, I decided the time was right to study a sports degree.

“I’ve always had a passion for rugby and as well as playing, I’ve also coached young players since 2011. Performance analysis is something I’ve always been interested in as it can massively influence how a team improves their performance.”

Andy began his role at Houghton Rugby Club, which plays in the Durham Northumberland Division 2, at the start of the season and his appointment has been welcomed by the players and coaching staff.

He added: “As a performance analyst, I film the matches, edit the footage and then go through the clips with the coach and assistant coach to see how particular aspects of the play could be improved – such as the line out or defence.

“My video editing skills have progressed since beginning the internship, and the players have responded really well. Watching the footage back has motivated the players because they can see what areas they need to focus on improving and they have already made positive changes to their performance.”

Andy, from Ashbrooke in Sunderland, hopes to work as a professional rugby performance analyst after completing his degree and is already in talks with Newcastle Falcons about gaining further experience in this area.

He said: “I’m really enjoying the internship at the club as it’s giving me the chance to develop my skills and knowledge in performance analysis. I’m very grateful to Houghton Rugby Club for giving me this opportunity and I’m sure this experience will help me when I start applying for jobs once I graduate.”

The partnership between the two organisations has also seen Level 3 Diploma in Sports Massage students carry out regular treatment sessions with the club’s rugby players.

As part of the practical element of their programme, the students have been offering deep tissue massages to injured players since the course was launched last September.

John Simpson, Houghton Rugby Club’s chairman, said: “The club is a firm believer in supporting students by offering internships and work experience opportunities. This ensures students are given first-hand experience of working in their chosen field, while the club also benefits from receiving additional skill sets.

“Having built up our relationship with the college over the past year, the partnership is working very well and we are planning to expand this by offering Sunderland College students further work experience opportunities at the club.”

Michele Di Mascio, curriculum leader for sport at the college, added: “We are very keen to work with community organisations to organise high quality and relevant work placements for our students. Andy and the sports massage students are benefitting greatly from their time spent at Houghton Rugby Club, and as well as improving their practical skills, it is also helping them prepare for their future careers. We are looking forward to working with the club on a long-term basis.”

For more information about the college’s sports courses, ring 0191 5116000, email info@sunderlandcollege.ac.uk or click here    



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