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Sport and Wigan athletic football club An exciting working partnership

At Edge Hill University, staff members from across the institution have built strong working partnerships that we are really proud of. Relationships with employers and industry professionals allow us to offer unique, real-world experiences for our students – as well as sharing best practice and knowledge from an academic perspective. In our Department of Sport and Physical Activity, teaching staff have built up positive, long-lasting relationships with leading sports organisations and clubs.

We are particularly proud to tell you about our 14-year working relationship with Wigan Athletic Football Club, which has resulted in some fantastic opportunities for students, graduates and the club itself. Dr Mark Partington, Senior Lecturer in Sports Coaching, has been instrumental in working with Wigan Athletic FC over the years to support the Academy with research that informs their day-to-day working practices.

This successful partnership has resulted in a range of opportunities for students across the Sport and Physical Activity department. Our students have undertaken work placements and summer internships in a variety of roles at the club, and have had a fantastic experience. BSc (Hons) Sports Science student Emma Clausen tells us all about her recently completed internship with the club, and how it has boosted her employability and confidence.

“The internship with Wigan Athletic caught my eye when it was advertised on our department’s Employability page – and my Personal Tutor also encouraged me to apply. I completed, and then took part in an interview, like I would do for a real graduate job, so this was a good practice run for me. I was successful and was offered the internship.

The internship at Wigan Athletic focused on creating a GPS database that would provide visual reports to inform future practice at the club. This involved carrying out a literature review, and putting forward my recommendations on the best approaches. I also got involved at a more practical level, collecting GPS data from players during pre-season activities.

knowledge from my degree to real-world situations. I’ve built my technical skills in Excel and PowerBi, and key skills including communication and confidence. Applied sport is a competitive job market, and I am so grateful to now have this experience to talk about on my CV and at interviews. I’ve built connections with coaches at the club, and this has led to the offer of another internship working with their Under-18 squad next year – I’m really excited about that”

Emma Clausen, final year student.

Those who are thinking about studying on one of our Sport and Physical Activity programmes will have plenty of opportunities to get involved with clubs like Wigan Athletic – whether you are interested in coaching, performance analysis, strength and conditioning, wellbeing or sports therapy support for players.

Another great success born out of our partnership work with Wigan Athletic FC is that a number of Edge Hill alumni now work full-time for Wigan Athletic Football Club’s Academy. Their graduate roles include Coach, Strength and Conditioning, Sports Therapist and Performance Analyst. Two of our alumni, Rik and Kieran, tell us all about their roles at Wigan Athletic and how their degree set them up for success.

Rik Southworth graduated from Edge Hill in 2016, having studied a degree in Sports Coaching and Development. He is currently the Youth Development Phase Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Academy at Wigan Athletic FC. Rik tells us about his involvement with the club during his studies, and how this helped set him up for success.

Dr Mark Partington with alumni Rik Southworth and student Emma Clausen

“I really wanted to gain specific knowledge and experience in strength and conditioning, so one of my lecturers encouraged me to get involved with the Academy at Wigan Athletic.

This experience taught me so many transferable skills that are crucial in elite sport settings – communication, time management, and an understanding of the micro-political elements of working in such a high-pressure environment. My academic development came on leaps and bounds too, as I learned specialist knowledge about GPS monitoring systems and how to coach elite athletes in areas like sprint mechanics, change of direction and Olympic weightlifting. I felt so welcomed by the team at Wigan Athletic, and really enjoyed my time as an intern there. So much so, that I was encouraged to apply for a permanent graduate role there when I finished my degree – and I was accepted.”

Rik Southworth, Edge Hill graduate.

Rik has some words of advice and encouragement for our current students, as well as those thinking of studying here at Edge Hill.

“The experience you will gain from working with an Academy such as Wigan Athletic is invaluable. Learning from elite coaches can help you to bridge the gap between theory and practice, and clubs always look for real-world experience for their graduate roles. Wigan Athletic treat all student interns with respect, and provide all the support they need to grow during their experience. If you have the opportunity to get involved – take it”

Rik Southworth helping a club member with training on exercise bike

Kieran Driscoll is another Edge Hill alumnus who has found success in his graduate career with Wigan Athletic Football Club. Having taken the initiative to volunteer with a local football club to build up some experience, Kieran’s potential was recognised by his tutors and Mark Partington encouraged him to apply for a part-time coaching role with Wigan Athletic alongside his studies.

“Getting involved with Wigan Athletic during my degree gave me fantastic experience in how to plan, deliver and evaluate coaching sessions with elite young footballers. Having this experience on my CV when I graduated really helped me to stand out when applying for roles, and luckily I’ve been able to stay at Wigan and progress to the role of Lead Coach for under-18s. My biggest achievement so far is seeing the team I coached win the Professional Development League in 2021.

The top 3 skills I gained from my experience with Wigan Athletic FC during my degree were communication, organisation and self-confidence. I’m now in a role I love, providing the best education for young aspiring footballers looking to progress in their professional career.”

Kieran Driscoll, Edge Hill graduate

Kieran has some words of advice to offer current and soon-to-be students on how to make the best of the opportunities available to you, and why you should get involved with academies like Wigan.

“There has never been a better time to be involved with academy football and there are more opportunities than ever before. Any students who aspire to work within the football industry will gain so much from getting involved with Wigan Athletic. You’ll work alongside excellent staff in a positive and creative environment, and my biggest piece of advice to anyone who takes the opportunity would be to give your best to the experience and show the highest levels of commitment and application you can.”

Headshot of Kieran Driscoll

The success of this working relationship continues to benefit Edge Hill students, staff, and staff at Wigan Athletic FC, and we are looking forward to continuing our working partnership and celebrating achievements together.

“As an academic in sport coaching, it’s important for me to continue coaching on a practical level. My continued involvement as a part-time coach in the Youth Development Phase at Wigan Athletic, alongside my teaching role at Edge Hill, allows me to find this balance perfectly.

Wigan Athletic Football Club have been excellent in helping Edge Hill to provide a number of opportunities for our Sport and Physical Activity students to build experience in a professional football club on their work placement module.”

Dr Mark Partington
Gregor Rioch, Academy Manager at Wigan Athletic Football Club

“The partnership we have with Edge Hill University, facilitated by Dr Mark Partington, has been excellent over my 8 years as Academy Manager. Edge Hill students who work with us on their placements are a great support to our staff, and they are always very positive to take the opportunity for hands on experience. Watching their confidence and skills grow whilst they learn on the job is rewarding for our staff, and the students have a big impact in the areas they work on as well.

As well as this, the research and expertise that Mark has in sport coaching really helps us underpin our working practice, and by sharing his knowledge and best practice with us, it allows us to keep up to date with the academic developments in the sector.

Wigan Athletic Football Club are looking forward to continuing our working relationship with Edge Hill University for years to come.”

Gregor Rioch, Academy Manager at Wigan Athletic Football Club.

May 13, 2022