Sport and exercise course news

Abi Martin

Student wins Coach of the Year

Huge congratulations to Strength and Conditioning MSc student Abi Martin who has been awarded Coach of the Year at the England Rugby University Rugby Awards.

Abi graduated from our Sport and Exercise Science BSc(Hons) in 2020 and went straight on to the masters course opting to study part-time. She is also a rugby development intern for Sport Brighton alongside studying for her masters and admits, ‘it’s been a busy year’.

England Rugby logoShe was nominated for the award by Lucy Callingham, Sports Development Officer at Sport Brighton. Lucy’s glowing nomination included how Abi is “a committed, friendly, approachable coach who caters for a wide range of abilities to ensure everyone is involved, engaged and challenged”. You can watch an interview with Abi and see why she was such a worthy winner on the England Rugby website (scroll to 06.10).

Flo Pietzsch, Strength and Conditioning MSc course leader, said: “Abi came to us through our own BSc Sports and Exercise Science degree and immediately showed potential as a coach. Our unique module pedagogy for strength and conditioning coaches has clearly helped develop Abi’s understanding of coaching along with the personal and professional placement module which aims to provide significant experiences in coaching.

“Abi has worked extremely hard and has proven to be a very committed coach and we are all very excited for her future which no doubt will be very successful.”

Abi took some time out from her busy schedule to talk about her studies and coaching experience.

“I was vice-captain of the university rugby team in my second year and captain in my last which was made special with winning the league and promotion. Near the end of the season I broke my ankle pretty badly so started assisting with coaching to stay involved. I already had my England Rugby Coaching Award, but this was the first time I was putting it into practise!

“This season I was expecting to co-coach, however I ended up taking over the main role due to changes in training days. Originally, I found it quite daunting and outside my comfort zone with challenges like building rapport with and coaching new players, managing different playing abilities and large numbers of players.

“Throughout the season though I felt I grew more confident in my role and started to explore what kind of coach I wanted to be and figure out my philosophy. In terms of both personal and professional development, my coaching role has been the most valuable, as I’ve faced new challenges and gained lots of new skills that will benefit me going into future careers!

“Something that’s made my first season of coaching much easier and more enjoyable was working with our volunteer coach Dan. We bring different skills, experience and coaching styles to sessions which I hope benefits the players! Next season I’m looking forward to doing more coach development between ourselves as well as providing more experience for potential player-coaches.

“Rugby is a massive part of my life so it was really exciting when I found out I’d won the award! It means a lot being recognised for your contributions to the sport you love. It’s given me confidence and drive to pursue coaching more, especially as I start my Advanced Coaching Award with the Every Rose Scholarship next year.

“I think as a bigger picture its great to think that it reflects the women’s rugby programme at the University that is building and developing every year, especially with the help of volunteers like Dan and the committees past and present.

“The rugby development internship aims to grow and develop playing and CPD/qualification opportunities for students (and staff) at the University and in the wider community game. It has been challenging following the pandemic, but some of the more successful projects have been the pre-England Rugby Referee Award and a Friday Night lights festival for University and local club players, for which we secured RFU student union funding. It’s also been a great opportunity for networking with other University partner officers and RFU staff, including a trip to Worcester for the RFU SU conference followed by the BUCS men’s and women’s finals. The role will be open again for next year so I would encourage anyone interested to go for it!

As well as coaching and my internship, I’ve had strength and conditioning placements with Lewes Women FC and Alex Bliss (golf), and a support coach role for British Rowing. Having a range of placements/jobs has been so beneficial to my MSc as they all come with unique challenges and experiences. Though they weren’t all related to strength and conditioning or sport science, they’ve massively impacted my development and aided my MSc journey!

“The best thing about studying at the University of Brighton is the access to opportunities you’re given from everyone there. For me these have come from academic staff, Sport Brighton, club coaches and other students, and started from my very first year of being here. Having so much support and encouragement from everyone has given me so many experiences outside of everyday student life.”

Wishing you every success in the future Abi.

Kerry Burnett • July 8, 2022

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