Sponsored feature, Words by Fay Millar

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Photo by Mark Shearman, 2016

With Great Britain still basking in the glow of glory from the Rio Olympics there has never been a better time to follow a sports-based career.

A sport science degree can give you key skills to get ahead in the competitive sports industry, whether you are a future Olympian, a keen scientist, a budding sports coach or an enthusiastic trainee sports therapist.

Athlete Stephanie Twell, 27, has just returned from competing at the Rio Olympics. Steph, a mid-distance runner in the 3000m, 5000m and cross country, who gained a <a href="http://www.stmarys.ac.uk/undergraduate/strength-and-conditioning-science/" target="_blank">BSc in Strength and Conditioning</a> at <a href="http://www.stmarys.ac.uk/" target="_blank">St Mary’s University</a>, Twickenham, talks about her plans for the future and gives her thoughts on why studying sport science can provide you with fantastic opportunities.

Photo by Mark Shearman

<h3>It can help your training</h3>

If you’re already a sporting enthusiast or an aspiring athlete, then a degree in sport science can take your training and professionalism to the next level. A <a href="http://www.stmarys.ac.uk/undergraduate/sport-science/" target="_blank">sport science degree</a> takes a multi-disciplinary approach, covering everything from strength and conditioning training and physiotherapy, to sports psychology and nutrition.

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Steph says: “I chose my degree because I was already an athlete but it has also made me well-rounded. Rather than being a by-product of coaching I can now integrate what I have learned into my own programme.

“It’s more than just turning up for training and being in the right shape at the right time. All these different things work together to prevent injury or to help you come back from injury quicker. We had lectures delivered by professional physios and nutritionists who are at the top of their game and I have been able to integrate that into my own professional life.”

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<h3>You could even make it to the Olympics</h3>

Not everyone who studies for a sports science degree is a future Olympian but St Mary’s has a reputation as a sporting centre of excellence and has produced some world class athletes, including gold medallist Mo Farah, through its Endurance and Performance Coaching Centre.

Steph competed at the Rio Olympics and describes the experience of racing at that level as the “pinnacle” of an athletics career.

She says: “I think it was a natural progression for me to aim towards that and I have worked so hard to get there. It was a really great experience to represent Team GB.

“Rio was a vibrant city and it was a surreal experience to be there. It is quite hard to describe but being around so many athletes from around the world is quite incredible. It’s a very good experience to know you are up against the best professional athletes in the world.

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Steph believes the Olympics not only raises the profile of sport but that the athletes can inspire people to take up sport and get more active.

“I think we always need aspirational role models and people might think they will never be an Olympic athlete but they have to start somewhere and it starts by getting active. It’s about encouraging children and looking after your own health, I do think that’s a huge message and inspiration,” she says.

“Every Olympian is committed and dedicated and if that can inspire people then that’s great.”

<h3>A lifelong career</h3>

If you’re into your fitness and want to take that into your career, then studying for a degree in sport science can give you the start you need. The degree teaches you how science can be applied to create enhanced sports performance and equips you with many skills which are attractive to employers.

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The degree can lead to roles as an elite coach, sports scientist and researcher, personal trainer, fitness centre manager, a sport development officer or a secondary school teacher to name just a few.

Steph, who became the youngest member of the World Cross Country team in 2005 and went on to become three times European Junior Cross Country Champion, says: “I am very interested in athleticism for health in adults and children and I have experience in it given the exposure my sport has given me.

“Movement is so important and enabling them to use their body and have lifelong health goals. I am involved with coaching as well currently and it is certainly something to consider down the line.”

To find out more about St Mary’s sports degrees and programmes visit their next open day, book now:<a href="http://www.stmarys.ac.uk/the-place-to-be/" target="_blank">www.stmarys.ac.uk/the-place-to-be/</a>