Academies provide the Wright stuff for sporting students

Wright Sports Academies offer a choice of full-time qualifications in football, golf and fitness  through their partnerships with Mandeville School
Wright Sports Academies offer a choice of full-time qualifications in football, golf and fitness through their partnerships with Mandeville School

One wants to be a fitness trainer in America, another is thinking of applying to Loughborough University to do a sports degree, a third has just made his debut for Aylesbury United FC and one more is on the verge of breaking onto the European Golf Tour.

These are four of the 110 sports-mad young people currently doing their 16-19 education at the Wright Sports Academies. The majority of these students are based at Mandeville School, with smaller groups based at Burnham United FC, and from September, Chesham United FC. The academy is currently recruiting for next September’s intake.

“Students come to the academy to continue their education,” says academy director, Ben Williams. “To play, and learn about their chosen sport with a view to going into further education or getting a related job, if that’s what they want.”

The two-year academy courses are a mixture of vocational and academic study and sports training with students specialising in football, golf or fitness. They take specific industry recognised qualifications in their chosen sport, such as FA Level 1 Award in football coaching or Level 2 Gym Instruction.

The students also take the BTEC national certificate in sport, which is a post 16 qualification initially designed by the FA to meet the educational needs of teenagers taken on by professional football clubs. An overall distinction is equivalent to two As at A Level. The BTEC Extended Diploma is worth between 80 and 320 UCAS points.

On top of that, the academy students also train under professional coaches and instructors and take their own coaching, first aid and injury management qualifications.

The footballers play for the academy in the English Colleges League. Last year, the team reached the last eight of 600 teams in the U18s National Colleges Cup.

The golfers receive weekly coaching sessions at Edelesborough Golf Club. Those specialising in fitness, train and learn at the Nuffield Health fitness and wellbeing centre on Fairford Leys.

To be offered a place on the course, students must satisfy the entry requirements, which include a character reference from a PE teacher and a personal interview.

Williams adds: “Prospective students must show an interest in all aspects of sport, a passion for their chosen sport and, ideally, a minimum of four GCSEs at C or above.

“If a person’s passion is in a particular sport and they can go and get an education in that sport and then go on to get a job using those qualifications. If there’d have 
been something like this when I was a kid, I’d have 
been in there straight away.”

Aylesbury-based Shannon Taylor, who is in her first year at the academy, wants to be a fitness trainer. She said: “The course looked interesting. I’ve always been interested in dance and fitness, and already I’ve started learning about exercise to music. The people who run the course are very helpful, give you lots of different ideas and don’t put you under pressure.”

Shannon is not yet sure if she wants to work in a gym or train people in their home. One thing she would like to do is work as a fitness trainer in the USA. “It’s very lively over there,” she says. “Lots of work going for personal trainers.”

The next open day for football, golf and fitness is on April 23 at the Ludwig Guttmann Centre between 6-7pm. There’s also an open trial at Mandeville School on April 8.

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