Ben Bealey, BSc Sport and Exercise Sciences

Ben carried out an industrial placement as a Sport Scientist/Strength and Conditioning Assistant at Bradford Bulls as part of his Sport and Exercise Sciences degree.

About the University

Why did you choose the University of Leeds?

I chose Leeds as it was the most exciting course and university. I was sure that at Leeds I would learn more than enough for my career prospects, but also enjoy my time here.

What have been the highlights of your time at the University of Leeds?

Moving here for first year, as it was a whole new experience for me to live in the city, and was very exciting to explore Leeds as a uni and city. Also my final year has been great, returning from placement to my studies, and conducting my own research for the dissertation has been really enjoyable.

How have the facilities (libraries/labs etc.) helped you get the most out of your degree?

I have seen how the fundamental areas of sport science are tested and analysed. I could apply this to my placement and my future career. Being the number 1 sport science course for research, my skills in research have improved drastically, and use of the Universities materials such as books, libraries and papers has made learning much better.

Have you joined any student societies/sports clubs at the university? If so how has this enhanced your time at the University?

I joined the Rugby Club in first year which was great fun and I made some good friends there. I also joined breakdancing society to try something new, and performed in the annual dance show. I have also been a member of the sport science society and continue to get involved with socials and events. Societies are a great way to get involved in different activities but also make friends and have some fun at socials.

What key aspects of your experience of Leeds would you highlight to students thinking about coming do the same course?

Try something new! It’s a brilliant opportunity to push your comfort zone and get into new things. Also utilize the resources and facilities you’re given such as the labs, libraries and gym facilities as these can enhance your learning and satisfaction during your time here.

What are your ambitions for the future? Do you have specific career plans? Has the Faculty (careers centre/lecturers etc.) helped you with these goals in any way?

I have been working towards the strength and conditioning career pathway, and the Uni has been brilliant in guiding me towards my goals. The careers and placement staff supported me through the application phase, and made the link between my placement and the Uni. I am hoping to work in professional sport, but I am also hoping to have a varied career as I like to push my comfort zone and keep challenging myself. I think the sport science course and abundance of support has and will continue to help me pursue this.

About my Industrial Placement

Where did you do your placement year & what was your job role?

Bradford Bulls, Sport Scientist/Strength and Conditioning Assistant

Why did you decide to do a year in industry?

I wanted to increase my employability as I know how challenging it is to land a job in sport. I also wanted to refine my career path, as I wasn’t entirely sure which field I wanted to strive for. I also love learning and being a student, so the opportunity to extend my learning time and experiment in sport science was great.

Could you describe a typical day on your placement?

Early hours for preseason, start at 6am. Monitoring the players and setting up before training starts. Monitoring and collecting data throughout the day, alongside assisting in the gym and outdoor training sessions. Days were very varied, as there was rarely a consistent schedule due to preseason progression and competitive season matches.

What were your key responsibilities? How did these develop as your placement progressed?

Monitoring player wellness and training load. This was vital for coaching staff to see whether there were any serious personal or physical issues with the players, which I had to report. I created and analysed a training load database, which was used to monitor the amount of training the players were exposed to, and whether there were correlations with performance or injury. Any spikes or drops in training load I reported and discussed with coaches, so a plan of action could be implemented. This improved my excel and data analysis skills. Leading warm up, gym and conditioning sessions was a large part of my role, as we were short staffed so I had a lot of responsibility. Being thrown in the deep end has improved my knowledge and coaching ability massively. Player nutrition was my responsibility too, and I had to make and monitor supplements. General training assistance when needed, this was always enjoyable, and has improved my concentration and also enjoyment of the work.

We want other students at Leeds to know what an exciting opportunity the year in industry is. What was the real highlight for you?

The highlight for me was realizing how much I had taken on board and learnt from the experience. This was evident when I was called upon to lead sessions when we were short staffed. I think being given that responsibility was proof for me that I had become capable and good at the job, and was also rated enough by the other staff to pass on that responsibility, so to have that realization that you are a valued member of the team after a few months of learning was very satisfying. I also loved working with professional sport, and the intensity of the process always kept me on my toes, and I was never bored or fed up of the work. Going to live games and being immersed in the experience was what I’ve always wanted to be a part of, so to do it on a weekly basis for a whole season was amazing.

What aspects of your degree were relevant to your placement?

Basically all of the sport science content was used. My specific role relied a bit more on data analysis so the excel skills learnt in first year was useful. The physiological knowledge was also important for the gym and fitness training side of things. But I think mainly it’s the personal skills you develop through your studies that give you motivation and interest for the role that were vital. This is what made the year so enjoyable.

What opportunities has your industrial placement opened up to you?

I am still working part time with Bulls, which is great fun and my role has developed into more of a coach and leader. I have also kept in touch with former coaches who have asked me to work with them alongside completing a masters in strength and conditioning next year. I also have contacts in different countries, so the opportunity to gain some experience abroad may be possible, which I am hoping to do in future. I think due to the positive feedback from the coaches and other relevant contacts, my job prospects are much more achievable, whether it’s with the same people or different sports and clubs.

How can you envisage your year in industry being relevant to your career prospects in the future?

The all-round role I played in my placement leaves my career options open, which I’m excited about, as I want to work in different fields of sport. However the S&C side of things is something I am pursuing now, and I think the exposure to this during placement has increased my potential for a successful career in this field.

What advice would you offer to other students considering doing a year in industry?

Definitely do it! If you have a rough idea of what you want to do the placement can refine your career prospects. Employability will be enhanced whatever the placement. Make sure you do the placement in a place you will be happy living there, as a year is a long time to be somewhere, so make sure you’ll be happy with the location.

Student support is an important part of a successful placement. How did the university support you during your year in industry?

They push you to do it firstly, which gives good motivation to start looking at placements. When you sign on to the programme, the Uni then sends all of the applications and opportunities, so you won’t miss out on any placement opportunities. Regarding the application process, both the faculty and careers centre staff are excellent in developing interview skills and CV and cover letter quality. The supervisor is always available to help with any problems as well, such as with the report or Uni related issues whilst on placement.

What were the most enjoyable and most challenging aspects of your placement?

Enjoyable: games, leading sessions, and overall team atmosphere. Challenging: money as mine was unpaid so had to do a bit of work alongside it, responsibility as there was a lot of responsibility and pressure put on you to deliver.

Personally I think the networking aspect of the placement is what you benefit most from. Now that I have worked with a few coaches I have lots of opportunity to develop further towards a professional role. This is evident as the ex-coach at Bulls requested for me to work with him for another year whilst studying a masters in S&C, which I hope suggests I am a valuable asset to his work, and other clubs progress as a whole. I have also seen how different professionals work, so I have an idea of which methodology I preferred and agreed with, and how I can also use my own ideas to improve players’ performance.