Academic to officiate at World Indoor Athletics

A senior lecturer in the department of Sport and Physical Activity will officiate at the World Indoor Athletics Championship this weekend.

Dean Williams, Senior Lecturer in Physical Education, has been appointed as a Chief Judge at the Championships in Birmingham.

He said: “I am delighted to be selected as a Chief Judge for the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham, particularly so as this is my second World Indoor Championships.

“I have been very fortunate to officiate at world level in several major competitions in recent years. It is always a fantastic experience working with the world’s best athletes in the electric atmosphere of a full stadium.”

Dean lectures on the PE and School Sport degree at Edge Hill University.

“My students are usually inquisitive about what I do and I have done some talks with groups about officiating procedures, behind the scenes of major competitions and why and how we generally do things at world level events, so it can be an education for them also,” he added.

“I often put on an officiating course for the students, which helps when they are organising competitions themselves in their careers following graduation. Some have even gone on to officiate at local club level, which is great to see.”

Dean officiated at the World Athletics Championships in London last summer, where he was referee for Combined Events. This involved having overall responsibility for the Women’s Heptathlon and the Men’s Decathlon events.

In 2012, Dean was Field Referee at both the Olympic and Paralympic Games in London. He went on to be Field Referee at the European Team Championships in 2013, a judge at the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and, as a European International Technical Official (ITO), officiating at meetings around Europe.

Last year, Dean was invited to be a member of the Technical Advisory Group of the sport’s National governing body, UK Athletics.

The Technical Advisory Group, amongst its wide remit, is responsible for reviewing the technical needs of competition in the United Kingdom, overseeing the provision for the training, education and technical development of officials,  reviewing the need for technical rule changes in relation to domestic and international rules and receiving and considering applications for UK Records.

Find out more about studying Physical Education and School Sport here.

University partners with sport sector’s chartered professional body

Edge Hill is one of only 12 UK universities to be part of a pilot scheme with CIMPSA, the professional development body for the UK’s sport and physical activity sector.

This initial two-year scheme will develop employability-focused endorsement and recognition pathways for relevant study programmes, and universities participating in the pilot will be recognised as official CIMSPA higher education partners.

The goal of the pilot scheme is to finalise a full endorsement and recognition process for UK sport and physical activity related degree programmes. Once this is in place, qualifying CIMSPA HE partners will be offered priority access to CIMSPA approved provider status and students’ future graduate employability prospects will be considerably enhanced having successfully completed a CIMSPA endorsed programme.

Andy Smith

Andy Smith

Andy Smith, Professor of Sport and Physical Activity at Edge Hill said: “It’s fantastic to be among just 12 universities nationally as part of this pilot scheme, which will give our students a wide range of employability opportunities, including working to a set of professional standards to prepare them for the world of work and access to graduate employers. It will undoubtedly help us to build upon the significant gains we have seen in graduate employability in sport and physical activity recently and enable our students to remain very competitive in the job market.”

Sports Development, Management and Coaching programmes at Edge Hill will be the first to benefit from the CIMSPA partnership, and it is hoped that eventually all of the University’s Sport and Physical Activity courses will be CIMSPA-accredited.

The university sports service, Edge Hill Sport, has also recently signed up as an Employer Partner of CIMSPA.

Paul Greenwood, Head of Sports Services said: “It is very exciting that as an Employer Partner of CIMSPA Edge Hill is at the forefront of helping to shape the professional standards of the sport and physical activity sector. This will benefit both current and future staff employed in the Sports Centre by clearly outlining the skills and knowledge required for the different roles, offering access to accredited professional development and helping to develop their career pathways. We are also looking forward to working alongside our academic colleagues in facilitating Edge Hill students in developing their employability skills.”

Cyclist who battled back after a life-threatening accident wins Edge Hill scholarship

James Thompson was a national level cyclist, before a serious crash in 2014 left him unable to walk, talk or eat. Two years later, he completed an Ironman challenge, one of the toughest sporting events in the world. His courage, resilience and determination to use his experiences to inspire others have been recognised with an Edge Hill Excellence Scholarship.

“I suffered a severe brain injury in the accident and was in a coma for two weeks,” recalled James, a first year Sport and Exercise Science student. “When I woke up I was paralysed down my right side and doctors told me it was unlikely I would return to a normal life.”

James refused to accept this and strived to get better, setting himself physical, mental and social goals. Within two years of the accident, he had completed Ironman Wales – consisting of a 3.6km swim, 180km bike ride and 42km run – and also achieved three A-Levels. On top of this, he was made Head Boy of his school, became an ambassador for Lance Armstrong’s charity, Livestrong, raised funds for the Walton Centre, where he undertook his rehabilitation, and remained a devoted father to his daughter, Anna.

“I think after nearly losing everything in a moment, it made me realise every moment matters,” said James. “I try to fill as much of my time with things as I can so that if tomorrow never came I would know I’ve done all I can to be happy. I get bored pretty easily too which means I don’t stop!”

Through his work with Livestrong, James gives frequent talks to inspire people who are facing cancer or other trauma, and was selected to travel to Austin, Texas to talk about his experiences.

Mr Ridway, James’ teacher at Deyes High School, said:

“It is testament to his character that he has managed to achieve such amazing progress in his recovery. You would not know what he’s been through if you were to meet him today. His fitness is exceptional, and he is articulate and thoughtful.”

James added:

“I was made up to receive the scholarship. It means that I can keep entering new events to push myself and inspire others.”

Click here for more information about studying for a degree in Sport and Exercise Science.

New research explores links between probiotics and gut function during a marathon

Trials conducted at Edge Hill University may ultimately determine whether using probiotic supplements can improve the nutritional intake of athletes during marathon running.

The study is part of an ongoing collaboration between Edge Hill and the internationally renowned Sports Nutrition Research Group at Liverpool John Moores University. Edge Hill’s Dr Andy Sparks, who facilitated the University’s partnership with the group, is working on the project alongside LJMU researchers Jamie Pugh and Professor Graeme Close.

Dr Sparks said: “Running just one marathon, or in fact any prolonged running bouts can damage the permeability of your gut. There’s some evidence that ingesting probiotics may improve general wellbeing but more importantly gut function. We are trying to determine if this can reduce the damage during running, because that might lead to increased fuel intake, which could prove very useful indeed for runners.”

The trial took the form of a track marathon, which saw a broad cross-section of runners take to Edge Hill University’s international competition standard running track for the 105-lap race, which was funded by Aliment Nutrition, and supported by Science in Sport and Contest Sports Network Ltd.

The 26 athletes who took part underwent a 28 day supplementation period. Half of the athletes took a probiotic and the other half were given a placebo. The athletes then consumed a standardised breakfast before the race started. The 18-strong research team took blood and muscle samples before and after the race to test metabolic function and stress.

Dr Sparks said: “We look forward to analysing the results of the blood and muscle samples, so that we can determine the effects of the probiotic supplement and hopefully move on to further stages of this novel applied research. We hope to show that using probiotics can limit gut damage caused by running and therefore have a positive effect on running performance.”

Academic works with leading charity to raise the profile of sexual abuse in sport

An academic from Edge Hill University has collaborated with a national charity to develop training to raise awareness of child abuse within sport.

Dr Mike Hartill, Reader in the Sociology of Sport and part of the current FA inquiry into non-recent allegations of sex abuse in football, has teamed up with the National Working Group on Child Sexual Exploitation (NWG) to develop a one day course designed to provide a greater comprehension into the issue of child sexual exploitation (CSE) in sport.

The CPD accredited course, which draws upon Mike’s research with ‘survivors’ of CSE in sport, will explain why and how child protection in sport has developed since the 1990s, including developments in policy that have been put in place to safeguard children. It is aimed at anyone working in sport who wants to broaden their understanding of CSE in sport but will also be of benefit to those with responsibility for children and young people’s welfare in other sectors.

Mike has arranged for a member of the NWG to visit Edge Hill in November to speak to students about CSE in sport and discuss the opportunities of working in this field.

The NWG is a charitable organisation formed as a UK network of over 14,000 practitioners who distribute information to professionals working on the issue of CSE within the UK.

The training course will take place on Wednesday 11th October at the NWG in Derby. Find out more here.

Coaching students experience US elite sport environment

A group of Edge Hill BA (Hons) Sports Coaching and Development students visited a prestigious US University to experience coaching in elite sport.

During the week-long visit to Indiana State University (ISU), ten first and second year students took part in a range of activities to enhance their employability and academic prospects.

Lecturer Dr Greg Doncaster, who organised the visit alongside Edge Hill’s International Office, said: “This highly successful visit gave students the chance to explore coaching practices on a global context, wider career opportunities and work collaboratively with international students studying in a similar field.”

The trip, which was made possible by Edge Hill University’s Student Opportunity Fund, saw students attend practical and classroom-based masterclasses with ISU academics, observe elite ISU teams in training, attend a regional baseball game, take part in a Q&A session with ISU’s American football team coaching staff and tour the Lucas Oil stadium in Indianapolis.

The students also volunteered at a Special Olympics event hosted by the state of Indiana, in collaboration with ISU, which gave them experience of coaching athletes with disabilities, an area covered in their degree course.

Greg Doncaster said: “The trip was such a success and the students were a credit to Edge Hill. Hopefully we can develop the partnership with ISU further, either through identifying research opportunities or maybe even further visits.”

Student Rik Southworth said: “The trip to ISU was eye opening and really helped to link together parts of my first year studies at Edge Hill. It also showed me the kinds of opportunities and jobs I can aim towards later on in my studies and after graduating.”

Earlier this year, the University launched the Student Opportunity Fund to enable students to take advantage of career enhancing and life changing opportunities. Find out more here

Find out more about studying Sports Coaching and Development here

Lecturer to treat world famous athletes at World Athletics Championships


Edge Hill Lecturer Ross Armstrong is set to treat some of the world’s greatest sports stars at London’s World Athletics Championships starting this week (4 July).

Ross, a Lecturer in Sports Therapy, is volunteering as a physiotherapist at London’s Olympic Park where top athletes such as Usain Bolt and Mo Farrah are set to compete.

The capital’s biggest sporting event since the 2012 Olympic Games, the ten-day athletics competition is set to attract almost 2000 athletes from over 200 countries. Ross said:

“I’m really looking forward to being right at the heart of the action and ready to respond to any athletes needing treatment before, after or during a session. It’s great because I’m likely to end up treating some of the top athletes as well as those visiting from smaller teams and countries.

“It can also be quite a tough role as a high level of diplomacy is required. You might have to advise an athlete that competing might cause them further or serious injury. Ultimately it’s up to the athletes if they take that advice, but the smaller teams of maybe only three of four athletes tend to be very grateful for your advice and treatment as they might not have access to physios at home.

“Then there’s the variety of treatments on offer from trauma management and first aid to therapy treatments such as massage and ice baths which are proving very popular at the moment.”


He added:

“I was last at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park during the Olympic Games and the atmosphere was fantastic. I love athletics and it’s great to be able to see world famous athletes, network and work in a team of physiotherapists making real-time decisions.”

Ross will spend one week at the tournament before returning to Edge Hill and continuing his latest research into whether physical screening programmes can predict injuries in athletes.

HEAR Ross being interviewed on BBC Radio Lancashire after returning from the games (1:39:40 mins in)

Waste no time in achieving your dreams, says Olympic swimmer at graduation ceremony

Francesca Halsall

Olympic swimmer Francesca Halsall gave Edge Hill Sport graduands some top tips from her career in elite sport at their graduation ceremony this morning.

Francesca, who herself was made an Honorary Doctor of Science at the ceremony, said that it’s never too early to start working towards a goal.

“Daily discipline and hard work are the only keys to success,” she said. “I’ve heard the words ‘on your marks’ followed by an electronic beep hundreds and hundreds of times and this procedure is an amazing antidote to procrastination. You have no reason to think, just act – do it now.”

Southport-born Francesca retired earlier this year from a career that saw her represent Great Britain in the Beijing, London and Rio Olympics and compete in many other international competitions, breaking records and bringing home 14 gold, 14 silver and nine bronze medals from World, European and Commonwealth championships. She is now a businesswoman, having opened a new coffee shop in the heart of Altrincham, a shared venture with two other Olympians, Jess Varnish and Liam Phillips.

She encouraged those entering careers in elite sport to show emotion, rather than repress it, saying: “It’s ok to show emotion, just not to your competitors. I’ve bawled my eyes out on national television which wasn’t my finest moment but learning to vent to the right people at the right time made me stronger and bottling things up is never a good option.”

Dr John Cater, Vice-Chancellor at Edge Hill University said: “In January Francesca announced her retirement. She moved back to the North West, having spent the best part of a decade with the Great Britain elite squad at Loughborough, joining her partner, Jon Wilkin, who many of you will know as the captain of St. Helens RLFC. She has brought back with her 14 gold, 14 silver and nine bronze medals from World, European and Commonwealth championships and has been, without doubt, the pre-eminent female swimmer of the past decade. It is a privilege to welcome her back home.”

Karate champion praises supportive University environment

One of the world’s top young karate competitors graduated from Edge Hill University today with a degree in BA (Hons) Sports Development and Management.

Natalie Payne, 21 from Manchester, took up the sport at eight years old and is currently ranked fifth in the world at junior level and seventh in the world at senior level.

In 2011 Natalie and her fellow England teammates made history by becoming the first female English Junior Kata team to medal at a European Championship and she has gone on to achieve a number of gold medals since.

Natalie said:

“Edge Hill lecturers have been more than supportive of my sport. At first this was something I was nervous about as travelling for competitions requires taking time off, however staff allowed me to be flexible and are always interested to hear how I’ve done, and asking when my next competition is.”

Whilst studying at Edge Hill, she was awarded a Sports Scholarship which she used to help fund her participation in European and World Championships.

She said:

“Being awarded the scholarship has helped me more than you could know. Because karate is not yet a funded sport all expenses have to be paid for by either me or my parents, so the scholarship enabled me to keep studying and training without having to work, so I could focus on both.”

This year has seen Natalie compete in the European under 21 championships where she achieved fifth place for England. She currently holds silver British and English titles, and last year gained gold in both. She also recently travelled to Spain to compete for England and achieved a PB (personal best) in the senior category. She is currently working towards the Team GB selections next year.

Natalie also gives up her spare time to coach children with disabilities, and upon graduating she hopes to enter full-time employment within elite sport or disability sport.


Sexual abuse victims given a voice thanks to unique University project

Victims of sexual abuse and exploitation in sport are being given a voice thanks to a unique project created and co-led by Edge Hill University.

The brainchild of Dr Mike Hartill, Reader in the sociology of sport, who is part of the current FA inquiry into non-recent allegations of sex abuse in football, the VOICE project records the stories of victims to ensure their experiences are heard.

With partners across eight European countries, VOICE has collected abuse stories from victims across all sports including high-profile professional athletes such as Spain’s Olympic gymnast Gloria Viseras, who is also on the steering committee of VOICE.

Mike said: “I’ve spent many years researching and sharing knowledge around sexual abuse and exploitation in sport but I’ve always felt the voices of victims were missing.

“There has been much policy development in sport since the early 2000s but the voices of victims and survivors have rarely been part of those developments.

“Many professional sports organisations have abuse policies but there is an absence of victims’ voices. We need to hear much more about the realities of abuse and ensure victims’ stories are not whitewashed from the picture.

“Lots of sports organisations across Europe are hearing these stories for the first time and they make such a big impact. Hearing the voices of survivors has such a powerful effect on people and is more likely to inform and change the way they think and tackle abuse.”

Interviewing victims and recording their stories, anonymously if preferred, is the first stage of the project which is ongoing.

Stage two begins this month with a national forum (15th June) which will see survivors, including one of the first victims of the convicted child sex offender and football scout Barry Bennell, address sports organisations including Premier League Football clubs and governing bodies.

Ian Ackley, who says Bennell raped him more than 100 times between the ages of 10 and 14, will speak about his abuse in the hope the organisations can learn from his and other survivor’s experiences.

The forum is organised by Dr Hartill and the National Working Group on Child Sexual Exploitation (NWG Network). The CEO of NWG is Sheila Taylor MBE who is a member of the project’s steering committee and an inspirational figure in this field.

Senior officials from Sport England, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Child Protection in Sport Unit will be among the delegates.

Mike added: “Our aim is to collect up to 10 survivor interviews from each country, then share this archive with key sports organisations so that developments in policy, education and practice are informed by these experiences.

“Countries such as Hungary, Slovenia, Belgium and Spain have given very little coverage to victims so we hope the project will spearhead changes where child protection in sport is an emerging area.

“The final stage of the project will see us create, promote and distribute educational material across Europe to share knowledge and promote change.”

Voices for Truth and Dignity is funded by the European Commission (Erasmus+) and is co-led with Cologne Sports University. Partners include six European universities, NWG Network (UK), the European Paralympic Committee and European Gay and Lesbian Sports Federation.