Athletes receive unique support on and off the track at Hartpury


The Athlete Performance Academy at Hartpury produced specialist training programmes to support track and field student athletes during lockdown as a result of Covid-19.

With sports facilities closed and social distancing rules in place, coaches from the Athlete Performance Academy provided students with remote training plans, dietary advice and motivational talks to enhance their physical and mental wellbeing.

The first track and field student athlete to return to competition, Ellie Wheeler-Smith, who is studying a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Sport and Exercise Science, finished as the fastest female athlete over 100 metres in a pilot event at Yate Athletics Club.

Justin Smith, Lead Performance Analyst at Hartpury, said: “When lockdown was introduced, we compiled a comprehensive remote training plan to help our students maintain their health and fitness while sports facilities were closed and they didn’t have usual access to their coaching teams.

“We’ve met over Zoom to discuss their achievements and progress in training, which helped to keep students feeling positive, motivated and focused for when lockdown measures were eventually eased and competition returned.

“Naturally, some student athletes have found the challenges posed by lockdown more difficult than others, but we’ve tried to do everything we can to put the right systems in place to support them on and off the track.”

Ellie, who was ranked third over 100 metres in the UK for her age group last year, said the support she had received had helped her to try and maintain a positive outlook during lockdown.

“Training during lockdown has made me extremely grateful for what I have,” she said. “My coach, Justin, was putting in an unbelievable amount of effort to ensure that I was keeping up my fitness, my sponsor enabled me to purchase new equipment, and most importantly I was healthy.”

The Athlete Performance Academy – one of 10 sports academies at Hartpury – provides students with access to an extensive range of dedicated services, including strength and conditioning, physiotherapy, nutrition, sports psychology and lifestyle management,  that have helped students to perform at the highest levels in athletics, swimming, skiing, Olympic weightlifting and sailing.

Hartpury’s new £8.8 million Sports Academy includes a including a biomechanics laboratory, a rehabilitation suite featuring an anti-gravity treadmill, and a human performance laboratory with an altitude chamber, and a sports hall.

Students also benefit from Hartpury’s partnerships with professional coaches, clubs, national governing bodies, and schools and universities to help them achieve their sporting ambitions.

Justin Smith, who also works as professional athletics coach outside Hartpury, said: “The support from the Athlete Performance Academy programme provides students with access to world-class facilities and a wide range of professional coaches working within the sports industry.

“The unique relationship between Hartpury and specialist sports coaches means student athletes can benefit from working with experts who have the experience and time to work on improving a specific element of a student’s chosen sport.”

Picture: A Hartpury student exercising on the anti-gravity treadmill within the Sports Academy

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