Sport internships

Thanks to Edge Hill’s Student Opportunity Fund, and the dedication of staff in the Department of Sport and Physical Activity, 4 students recently undertook work placements to build their experience and boost their employability. Real-world experience is at the core of the Department, and no matter what course you study, you’ll be sure to have opportunities to build your skills, confidence and professional network. Senior Lecturer Dr Greg Doncaster was instrumental in setting up the career-enhancing internships for students, and tells us why it’s so important for students to get involved with work experience throughout their degree.

Funding from the Student Opportunity Fund allowed us to bring our plans of offering a suite of employability activities for students to life. The first thing we did was run a virtual careers event, with a range of employers giving talks about the opportunities they have on offer and how students and graduates can get involved. This gave students a lot to think about and opened their eyes to the type of organisations they might like to work for. Following on from this, four organisations agreed to offer work placement opportunities to second or third year students. We wanted to give our students a realistic experience of recruitment, so we devised a competitive application and interview process, inviting them to showcase their skills with examples when applying for the internships. From this, we selected four students to partake in the internships, and at the end of their internships they presented to a  panel of tutors and employers to reflect on their experiences.”

Dr Greg Doncaster

Our 4 student interns tell us all about their experience, and the huge benefits from having taken part in the opportunity.

Final year student Sophie Warden completed her internship with Rugby League Cares, helping to organise and launch a brand new charity initiative called Beyond the Sidelines. She was, and continues to be, instrumental in designing and delivering focus group style workshops with the partners and families of professional rugby players, to find out about their experiences of supporting their athlete partners through difficult times. Sophie’s research showed a clear need for mental health and wellbeing support for both athletes and their families, to ensure that families have the help they need to support the players through tough times.

“This was an incredibly rewarding opportunity for me to be a part of, and gathering feedback and evidence to support the launch of the charity was so interesting. Talking one to one with people about how we could help them, and knowing that my research was going to make a difference, was a great feeling. Working on the launch of Beyond the Sidelines gave me the opportunity to build on professional skills including public speaking, analytical skills, confidence, and how to balance competing priorities. I developed a much greater ‘sense of self’ during this internship, and built professional contacts that will serve me in my graduate career. I’m staying at Edge Hill to complete a Masters next year, but this internship has shown me how much I enjoy research, and now I have experience of that in a practical setting – giving me loads to think about for my career plans.”

Image of Sophie Warden
Sophie Warden

Sophie has gone on to achieve success in applying for MSc Sport, Physical Activity and Mental Health here at Edge Hill, putting her experience and skills to good use in her application. She has a word of advice for new Edge Hill students who may be considering applying for internships like hers.

“Don’t let feelings of nerves put you off from applying. Apply anyway. If it’s meant to be, it will be. Being a little bit nervous isn’t a good enough reason not to push yourself and go for it – you will only get out of an opportunity what you put in.”

Sophie Warden, final year student

Second year student Saffron Quinlan completed her internship with Everton in the Community (EitC), providing activities and support for the residents of care homes around Goodison Park’s ‘blue mile’. Care home residents suffered immensely during the COVID-19 lockdowns, as their usual activities were halted and residents weren’t allowed close contact with others. Saffron spent her time interviewing residents and creating new and innovative ideas to support them, both virtually and in person.

“I knew that it must have been really hard for care home residents during lockdown, but having interviewed them first-hand as part of my internship, it really hit home how isolating and lonely it had been for them. They really look forward to their EitC activities and get to know the volunteers on a personal level, so it was important that we continued to deliver remotely as much as possible. Once the lockdown was lifted, I organised a suite of activities for residents, including a sit-down cheerleading class to help their wellbeing and get them moving. I also arranged a doorstep music performance for the shielding residents who weren’t able to have any visitors, and this really brightened their day. Other activities that I ran included crafting pride flags for pride month, and a virtual bingo session. I loved the whole experience and found it so rewarding, and I was able to report back to EitC with recommendations of new activities to take forward with the residents.”

Taking part in this internship was a huge achievement for Saffron, who previously struggled with her confidence, and she’s been able to reflect on the wealth of skills she has gained.

“There are so many transferable skills I built during my internship. Using my initiative, organisation, planning, communication, leadership… The most important one for me was confidence. It was the main thing I wanted to get out of it, and I definitely did. I feel like this opportunity will open many doors for me, because I have real-world experience of putting these skills into practice. I’ve also learned from the experience that I definitely want a career in a community-based role. Helping people and making a difference is what drives me, and now that I’ve got contacts at EitC, I plan to stay involved with them throughout my degree.

“My advice to other students would be to get involved as early as possible with the opportunities available to you, and try to make the most of your summer before coming to University, to build your confidence a little. It will help you so much.”

Saffron Quinlan, second year student

Second year student Lucy Mills completed her internship across two organisations, working with West Lancashire Sports Partnership to produce materials for teachers, parents and children, as well as working with an App called ‘MiMove’ that aims to track physical activity and how the user feels during their activity. Working across two different organisations meant that Lucy was really able to put her time management and organisation skills to the test, and she was able to create links between the two organisations by the end of the internship – something she can be really proud of.

“Taking part in this internship has enhanced my employability and I feel much more confident about applying for graduate jobs when the time comes. I’ve gained experience in lots of areas, including IT and design skills, critical thinking, and research. All of these skills are desirable no matter what job I decide to do, and now I have interesting examples of using them in the real world to help me stand out from the crowd. I got a lot of recognition for linking the two organisations together to see how they can work together going forward. It’s only a start, but to say in a job application or PGCE interview that I have worked with 2 big partners in a sports setting will certainly show that I have the ability to liaise, progress and develop new ideas in the physical activity industry.

My advice to students thinking of taking on a Sport internship, I would say go for it! Placements and internships can really give you an insight of what working in the sports sector is like, and you’ll build on skills that provide you with so much confidence when applying for jobs. It’s important to stand out – and don’t be afraid to ask the department about possible opportunities, as it all contributes towards making yourself a better person.”

Lucy Mills, second year student

Final year student Emma Clausen completed her internship with Wigan Athletic Football Club, where she focused on creating a GPS database that would provide visual reports to inform future practice at the club.

“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 the application, 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 itself 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.

The thing I loved most about doing this internship is that it allowed me to link the theoretical 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!”

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