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Sandy Willmott, Associate Professor in Sports Science

Lincoln City Academy have formed a mutually beneficial work relationship with the University of Lincoln, which will see the Club continuing to give students the opportunity to work within the Academy, supported closely by Manager Jordan McCann and the team of full-time staff.

Sandy Willmott, who is an Associate Professor in Sports Science at the University of Lincoln, explained how the relationship between the Club and University first came about.

Over the past couple of seasons, since Director of Football Jez George arrived, we’ve been very fortunate in being able to build some sustainable links between the School of Sport and Exercise Science and the Club.

"We think there’s a way to provide pathways to careers in sport through opportunities working with the Academy and the Emerging Talent Programme. The Academy for example has been a really useful location for this, as it’s somewhere our students can go and build experience, explore and learn from their mistakes along the way, whilst also getting expert mentoring from the Academy staff.

New Head of Sports Science and Medicine for the Academy, Kieran Walker, attended the University of Lincoln and gained experience during his studies with the Football Club, which he said were a pivotal part in his development.

I got in touch with the Club during my second year of University and wanted to gain some experience alongside my studies. I worked as an assistant Sports Scientist for two years and learnt so much from Mike Hine and Luke Jelly, giving me some unbelievable opportunities along the way.

Sandy confirmed how valuable the experience is for the students, but also added how it can benefit the Club going forward.

“Gaining experience alongside your studies is absolutely vital for many reasons. Sport and Exercise Science is a popular degree subject so what stands out is the proactive work you have done externally to complement your studies.”

“A student can take on as much responsibility as they feel comfortable with. Hopefully, we can start to get them involved early in their studies, allowing them to get to know the staff and develop trust both ways. We need to ensure it’s not just a one-way benefit for the students, as the Club have to make sure they’re putting good quality Sports Science in place.”

“At Academy level we’re able to offer internships in Sports Science/Strength & Conditioning, Sports Therapy, Performance Analysis and Coaching. We have students up at the Academy focusing on all of those areas, with some individuals subsequently being given the opportunity to work with the first team. The primary route is through the Academy internships and it is a provision we’re continually looking to improve in terms of both the benefits for students and the quality contribution they can make towards the Academy.”

Academy Manager Jordan McCann also spoke about the relationship going forward, and is excited to provide these opportunities for the people of Lincolnshire.

 We are delighted to partner with UOL to continue providing professional development opportunities for young people throughout Lincolnshire. Education is a core part of our Academy vision so to work closely with such an outstanding institution at the forefront of research and development will have numerous mutual benefits for both the University and the Academy moving forwards

Sandy also highlighted the chance our Academy players will get going forward, by using the Universities facilities for testing and performance.

 “I think the combination of theory and applying that knowledge is crucial. Establishing good habits is incredibly beneficial, especially for someone who is an active athlete and working around schedules to train. We’re hoping to bring Academy players into the University to see and use our facilities first-hand.”

“The exposure to both partners is key. For students taking Undergraduate degrees there is no substitute for hands on experience. Equally we want to open up the eyes of local youngsters to what Sports Science can offer and to the diversity of the University’s teaching in this area: in addition to Sport and Exercise Science we deliver Sports Sociology, Development, Therapy and Coaching – as well as Physical Education and Health and Exercise Science – within our portfolio of courses.”