It’s never an easy process choosing which university to attend, and I’m still not sure whether basing your decision mostly around sports helps ease the process or makes it harder. While it helps to narrow down the options, it also adds another element which has to be factored into all decisions. Thinking back to January 2013, I was in Cyprus half way through another professional volleyball season and trying to figure out what I wanted to do the following year when my contract was up. I always knew I wanted to complete a Master’s degree when I finished playing abroad and with the financial crisis crippling Cyprus, that option was becoming ever more appealing.
I knew that I wanted to find a university that offered a sports based business Master’s, had a volleyball programme which would enable me to continue playing at a good level, offered sports scholarships
and had a team which was ready to be successful. After considering all of the options, Bournemouth University became the obvious choice. BU offered a Sports Management MSc
, had a volleyball programme which allowed for training up to 7 times a week with 2 matches per week, had a team full of current international players and was also based close to the beach. Additionally, my beach volleyball coach was based in Bournemouth which enabled me to continue to train for beach volleyball throughout the year.The sports scholarship that I received from BU has been vital in enabling me to continue playing volleyball at an elite level. I was fortunate to be offered both the financial scholarship, which allowed me to claim money towards volleyball activities, and the EXCEL scholarship, which provided me with gym membership, chiropractic appointments, weekly massage treatment and strength and conditioning sessions. Having access to these services is invaluable to any athlete training and competing on a regular basis to ensure their body can handle the physical demand full time training requires.
I had a very successful first year at Bournemouth; the university indoor team won the league, the National Cup and came 3rd in the BUCS Championship. The scholarship also enabled me to have a successful beach volleyball season. Due to the funding cuts by UK Sport, Great British beach volleyball athletes now have to self-fund all training and competitions. With the uni giving me the scholarship, it meant that I was able to go to California for 6 weeks throughout the summer for various training camps. I competed both domestically and internationally, having success at both levels. Domestically, I was the overall tour champion for the Volleyball England Beach Tour. Internationally, I competed in my first FIVB World Tour Grand Slam event and was part of the England team that won the 1st round of Olympic Qualifiers for Rio 2016. I was also very honoured to have won the Bournemouth University Sportsman of the Year award for 2013/14. I was fortunate to get selected again to receive a scholarship for my 2nd year. This will enable me to attend warm weather training camps before the 3rd round of Olympic qualifiers in May and compete in various European and World Tour events.
None of this would have been possible without the support of both the scholarship and sportBU staff who provide help and assistance with both my degree and sporting ambitions. The close relationship sportBU has with me and other athletes is pretty unique to Bournemouth and really helps provide all that is needed to combine studying and competing at the highest level in sport.
By Phil Smith
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