UCLan students train elite international sports team

4 November 2019

Hands-on role for students as they prepare the Serbian Rugby League squad for vital World Cup qualifiers

Students from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) have had a hands-on role in preparing a group of elite rugby players ahead of the biggest matches in their history.

A handful of students travelled down to Wigan Warriors’ Robin Park Arena to help the Serbia Rugby League side in their preparations for the remaining World Cup Qualifiers against Scotland and Greece.  

Serbia, managed by UCLan Sports Coaching & Performance lecturer Stuart Wilkinson, is just one win away from qualifying for the 2021 World Cup, for the first time in their history.

Stuart asked students to help with a variety of roles including sports therapy, coaching and performance analysis as they based their training camp in Wigan for the build up to their game against a strong Scotland side.

“This was a great opportunity to get some students involved, we’ve even got some ex-students that have turned up to get a closer look at what international sport looks like. It’s not something you’d see all the time,” he said.

“This is where we have one up on other universities in delivering sport, we have this applied philosophy of opening doors for students and giving them a chance to have a look at what professional and international sport looks like.”

Sports coaching and performance student James McGown was asked to help watch over training and see how an international rugby team prepares in the build up to games, and he believes being able to see his lecturers away from the classroom and in a professional working environment is one of the most valuable experiences he’s had at UCLan so far.

He said: “Students who are helping out are in different years at UCLan, they’re all at different stages of their future coaching careers so it’s great for them to see how league players are trained and what environment they work in. Preparing for a World Cup isn’t something you get to see every day so for them guys it’s a really good experience.

“To see our tutors out on the field, not to just sitting and listening in the classroom, but to see them live in action is great. It’s really good they’re still in the industry so we can see them put everything into practice.”

Billy Tunstall, another of Stuart’s students, had even more responsibility placed on his shoulders when asked to research Serbia’s remaining opponents, before they even touched base at the training camp.

“Stuart asked me to do a little bit of work for him over the last couple of weeks, looking at what Scotland do, looking at their players and the spending the rest of the week filming his team,” he said.

“Between all the lecturers and the students you’ve got a really good relationship, I think we have that trust. We trust them to give us the right education and they reward us back with opportunities like this.”

Despite defeat against Scotland, Serbia have one more game against Greece for the chance to make sporting history for the country in Belgrade on 9 November 2019.