Justin Smith

Profession:
Performance Analyst and Team Manager for Hartpury Rugby Academy

What I do

I’m currently a postgraduate student at Hartpury, studying for my Masters in Coaching Science. Alongside this I am the performance analyst and team manager of Hartpury Rugby Academy working with the top College and University Centre teams and Hartpury RFC. I’m also currently coaching at Gloucester Athletics, where I train athletes from 13 up to senior level.

My Hartpury journey

My journey started when I moved over from South Africa to study here in the UK and I came to Hartpury as I wanted to focus on my career as well as taking part in sport. Whilst studying for my BSc Sports Coaching I also played rugby and continued my sprinting at Gloucester Athletics Club. The degree enabled me to develop my view of coaching beyond fitness towards developing athletes as individuals both on and off the field. With these skills I was able to coach in America, at Gloucester Athletics Club, then at Hartpury Rugby Academy as an intern during my third year.

I jumped at the chance to work as a Team Manager for the Saturday and then when the Performance Analyst job became available I was offered that too and finished my degree working in both roles and gaining priceless experience. I got the chance to and stay on with the Rugby Academy while studying my MSc Coaching Science degree part time at Hartpury. This gave me a great chance to take everything I learnt and to actually put it into practice.

With the contacts I gathered through Hartpury I ended up being approached by Proview Analysis to work with the University of Calgary Dinos women’s rugby team to provide remote performance analysis. I was able to offer them my support and helped guide them to their first ever Canada West Championships.

How Hartpury helped me to where I am now

Hartpury has helped me to grow as an individual both as a coach and person. I’ve enjoyed working in the academy with some of the best coaches and learning from their vast knowledge, especially in rugby. I have also had opportunities to work with Gloucester Rugby and build contacts with other clubs, and to go and see how England Rugby train. All this has come from being involved in Hartpury and being able to put myself out there. Working day-to-day with teams at varying levels of development helped me learn to adapt to an ever-changing coaching environment. It has allowed me to find out about myself as a person and a coach and, most importantly, to learn from my mistakes.

Hartpury have given me a valuable experience in both performance analysis and now coaching as I help the strength and conditioning coaches with speed work for the both the boys and girls first teams. This is giving me the chance to really apply my knowledge of athletics into rugby and adding diversity to my coaching. I’ve also been able to apply what I’ve learnt at Hartpury in a different environment at Gloucester Athletics Club and help the young talented athletes, which offers a host of new challenges.

My plans for the future

Going from undergraduate to postgraduate study and working as a coach shows how the opportunities at Hartpury are endless and has allowed me to create a career, which hopefully will take me on an exciting journey in the future.

My career ambitions are to someday have the opportunity to get involved with England Athletics or run an elite athletic program at a university either here in the UK or USA. On the other hand, having the opportunity to work with a professional rugby team like Gloucester Rugby and to take what I’ve learnt from Hartpury into those environments would be an exciting prospect.

What makes studying sport at Hartpury special

Everything is on your doorstep at Hartpury, from the facilities to the environment everything feels world class. You have this feeling of wanting to develop yourself and others around you, pushing yourself to be better academically and practically. Hartpury has an elite sporting environment so from the moment you step on the campus you get every opportunity to go on and achieve your dreams either as an athlete or coach.

You get to experience what it takes to be the best and how working together, learning together, failing and succeeding together as a team. Everyone buys into the culture and ethos and this is great encouragement when you are pursuing goals. The lecturers, coaching staff, support staff, and everyone at Hartpury are willing to go that extra mile and that makes it special – you really get the feeling that you’re part of a family. You always get the support you need in order to maximise your potential, build important relationships and work towards your personal goals.

My advice to future students and graduates

Through my many experiences one thing I learnt during my travels in America has stuck with me, which is when someone said: “People say opportunities come once in a lifetime, but actually opportunities come to those who are willing to go out, find them and work for them.”

It’s not easy but if you’re willing to work hard, manage your time and strive for your goals then anything is possible. Hartpury will offer you endless opportunities you just need to be willing to seize them and work to achieve them. My advice would be to make the most of your time here as Hartpury will guide you, teach you and inspire you.