One of the first lectures back after the summer break brought exciting news of a trip to St George’s Park, the home of England football. We were told that the trip would give us the opportunity to explore the world of sports science in all of its forms. As well as this we would spend two nights at a hotel in Burton on Trent, near to the St George’s site. This added to the excitement as it gave us the opportunity and time to bond further as a group and let our hair down before dissertations begin. As the lectures continued and the plans were starting to come together the excitement grew. This was heightened when our lecturer announced that the University would help to fund the trip. This meant that for two nights’ accommodation, travel and the days’ workshop we would only pay £60 each!!!
The time had come, it was time to go. Everyone was very much looking forward to the experience; however, we were not looking forward to the four hour mini bus journey. But we found ways to entertain ourselves on the journey up and created a ‘Sport and Exercise Science (SES) on tour’ playlist on Spotify. Everyone could add to the playlist and their song would be played at some point. This along with multiple service station stops meant that we got through the journey, arriving at the hotel and then finding Burton’s finest Wetherspoons to have some much needed food.
The next morning was an early wake up call to ensure we made it to St George’s Park on time. We made it on time and once we found the correct part of the MASSIVE complex, we met our workshop leaders who would guide us through the day. They worked for a company called Game Changer Performance which helps injured players, normally from lower league clubs which don’t have the ability to concentrate on rehabilitating injured players. Our day started with a strength and conditioning session in which we learned the tests they use to profile players when they arrive. It was interesting to see how they use the force plates to identify muscle imbalances, as just before the trip we had all done a practical exam using force plates as well as other pieces of equipment to identify muscle imbalances. We were then tasked to make a training session to fix imbalances from previous data. We were also shown a new piece of equipment called the ‘Nordboard’, used to assess hamstring strength and to identify imbalances that could lead to injury.
During lunch none other than Gareth Southgate himself was stood in the canteen. Unfortunately, he was working, and we were not allowed to ask for autographs or anything. But this brief encounter did prove to us all the we really were at the home of English football and reminded us of the calibre of athletes that use the facilities.
After lunch we had a GPS workshop to demonstrate how it can be used in a training session and the types of data it gathers. For some of us this is the first time we have seen and used a GPS system. It was really interesting to learn that the system can detect things such as collisions, distance covered, peak velocity and amount of runs performed in different speed zones. We did a simple speed and agility session which had some competition involved which added another element to the activity and one which we all really enjoyed.
The next session of the day was the most eagerly awaited, hydrotherapy. Something none of us had ever done or seen before. After we got changed into some swimwear we walked into the facility. It looked like the most scientific spa you had ever been in! In the room was a pool with a moveable floor to adjust water depth, this is used for functional movements and fitness as it is big enough to run and swim in. The next pool was basically a hot tub set at around 30 degrees surrounded almost all the way around by a cold pool set around 10 degrees. This was used for contrasting temperature therapy or ice bathing as it is most commonly known. The third was a small pool with a treadmill floor, this was the underwater treadmill, once lowed the cameras could be used to asses gate and performance. This pool even had jets to add further resistance to the running, it was great fun. The group was split in half, one half started in the immersion pools and the other in the larger pool to do some functional movement treatment. We then swapped so that everyone got to do everything. To finish the session off everyone went over to the underwater treadmill and a few people got to have a go.
The final part of the day was in the human physiology lab, we looked around the lab and saw all the equipment and asked questions about it. We examined our GPS data from earlier and discussed what it meant and how it can be used in practice. After this we had a short debrief from the day and given the opportunity to ask questions about the real world of sports science. We all found this very useful.
Afterwards we all headed back to the hotel, everyone was very tired but we all agreed it was very informative and well worth the journey. We headed out for food and then watched the football. The couple days we had away enabled us to get closer as a group and learn completely new things. We had all gained some new information. It also helped to focus us and gave the group an idea of what life as a practicing sport and exercise scientist could be like. This was brilliant because the dissertation work load was about to increase but is made easier by the motivation the trip had given us. Myself and the whole group would like to thank the team at Game Changer Performance for the day and experience they provided, also the University for part funding the trip which enabled all of us to attend. Finally, but by no means least, we would like to thank all the lecturers who came with us and helped to make the whole experience very enjoyable. A special thanks has to go out to lecturer Caroline Westwood who organised the whole trip.
I would recommend the trip to any student who would like to experience sports science at a high level. It really helps you to focus on disciplines you really enjoy or even discover new aspects of sports science.
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