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Who am I and why did write this blog? 

I’ve recently become the course lead for our degree in Sport and Social Change and have found myself speaking with college and sixth form students regularly. Subsequently, I realised the number of degrees in sport has expanded significantly from when I chose a degree in the mid-2000s, which could seem overwhelming. Especially if you don’t have family members who have been to university, to get advice from. Therefore, in this first blog I will provide my first three tips for choosing the right sports degree for you.

Prior to looking at university degrees your choices of studying sport in further education might have been between A-Levels or BTEC. However, when you compare this to universities this choice expands at St Mary’s  we offer 15 undergraduate degrees in sport.

Firstly, it’s important you recognise I have a vested interest in you reading this blog, as a course lead I would love for you choose to study Sport and Social Change at St Mary’s. However, having worked in universities for the last ten years I’ve also seen a fair few students pick the wrong degrees which I always find saddening. This often  results of in one of the following:

  1. They realise in the first couple of weeks and change to a degree which suits them.
  2. They “tough out” three years of a degree they arere not passionate about and do enough to get by.
  3. They start a new course at the end of the first year.
  4. They leave university without a degree

It is important to recognise  most students who go to university finish their course, and likely pick the right degree for them at the time. Nonetheless, I wanted to see if I could make this choice easier for prospective students. Therefore, from my experience I have come up with nine tips for choosing your course. I’ll address three in each blog. These are:

  1. Follow your passion
  2. Know the differences between degrees
  3. Understand how the course fits your strengths
  4. Ask questions about links to industry
  5. Ask questions about the other opportunities offered in the programme
  6. Look at the modules in the programme and ask questions
  7. Ask questions about the course size and teaching patterns
  8. Be careful of well-meant but outdated advice
  9. Talk with staff on open day’s and get their contact details

View our sport degrees

1: Follow your passions 

When following your passions think about the following:

  • Are you interested because your own goals as a sportsperson and how will this translate when those goals change?
  • What aspects of sport could you talk/ read about for hours on end?
  • What parts of your previous education really caught your interests?

Being straight with you, you will enjoy specific modules on any university course more than others. However, I would argue what you are passionate about  isn’t always as obvious as you think. When I was eighteen I wanted to be an Olympic 800m runner so I was interested in physiology and psychology, but purely from the perspective what would benefit me as a sportsperson. As soon as I realised that I was not going to make an Olympic team my interest in the science of sport faded.

However, I always enjoyed the contemporary issues and modules, which explored social inequality I studied during PE at college, as well as the socio-critical elements of history at school. I really enjoyed learning about the troubles in the North of Ireland during the 19th and 20th century. But didn’t realise there were careers using sport to tackle social inequality and I could study this in my degree..

My advice would be to think about the conversations you have with your peers about sport and the media you consume.  Then consider what move you the most. If a blog on racism or sexism in sport would get your passion going, maybe Sport and Social Change is the course for you. Alternatively, if a conversation about the economics of sport lights a fire in you Sports Management might be right for you. On the other hand, if videos  discussing coaching strategies really get you excited then you might prefer our Chelsea FC Degree in Coaching and Development or Sports Coaching Science.

2: Know the difference between degrees and the pathways at the end of them

In a recent college and sixth form visits I’ve been asked some of the following questions:

  • Can I study Sports Rehab and become a PE Teacher?
  • Can I study Physical Education Sport and Youth Development and become a Physiotherapist?
  • What’s the difference between Sports Rehabilitation and Physiotherapy? 

Putting myself  in my shoes as a seventeen year old these actually seemed like really good questions. Even though the answers were obvious to me as a lecturer, a sixth former had no reason to know the answers. Giving the example of the difference between a physiotherapist and a sport rehabber, it’s important to realise a physio tends to work with the general population and services like the NHS where a Sports rehabber is more likely to work specifically in sports settings. 

In relation to becoming a PE teacher, studying a Physical Education undergraduate would be the best option. However, I guess my point here really is that you should spend the time researcher and finding out the difference between the programmes. For example, while Sports and Social Change and Physical Education, Sport and Youth Development  at St Mary’s share a module on disability sport. Students studying Sport and Social Change would put greater emphasis on community sport whereas Physical Education Sport and Youth Development would place their focus on school PE.

Annoyingly this isn’t that same at every university either, so for example while at St Mary’s Physical Education and Sports Coaching are separate degrees at some universities these are one programme. The difference being at St Mary’s Sport’s Coaching has a greater Skill Acquisition focus while Physical Education Sport and Youth Development places more emphasis on teaching strategies.

My advice would be turn up to an open day, attend multiple talks and talk to staff from multiple degrees. If you don’t like asking questions go with somebody who this will is a very good way to find out the differences.

Upcoming open days

3: Find how the course fits your strengths

This can mean a number of things:

  • Look at the types of assessments on the course
  • Look to see if you have experiences and can support you
  • Can you supplement your experience on the course with volunteering or employment?

Again, the first might seem obvious, but consider which types of assignments and subjects have suited you best at school before choosing a course. For example, if you enjoy biology and do well in exams then a course which is assessed this way might be for you. For example, Sometimes I speak to students who don’t realise there is considerable amounts of  physiology in degrees like Strength and Conditioning Science.  Having studied Drama at A-Level I found  coaching and teaching assessments played to my strengths, as did essays as they gave me time to make sense of my ideas. Therefore, I picked a course which had these. 

The next two are closely connected, but in my experience can really help somebody thrive at university. Being able to relate content to experience can be really helpful when you are learning. You may already be doing some sports coaching which will help you studying on a PE Teaching, Sports Coaching, or Football Coaching degree. Or if you are a gym instructor, or swimming teacher you might find multiple transferable skills other degrees such as PE teaching or strength and conditioning.

If you haven’t already finding part time employment related to your subject while you are at university could really help you. If you were interested in Sport and Social Change getting work as a sessional coach on programme like Premier League Kicks or volunteering with organisations like Snow Camp or Project Turnover could be really beneficial. However, don’t pigeonhole yourself to the sport you play, consider what is best for your situation.  Some sports such (e.g. Tennis) you might be able to coach all day Saturday and Sunday, while other sports (e.g. Football) are more likely to be a couple of hours a day. 

Either way this might be something to think about when choosing a degree or once you’ve chosen a degree.

Sport degrees at St Mary's

We offer a wide range of sport and health degree courses in areas such as physiotherapy, sport science, nutrition, physical education and sports coaching.

Many of the degrees are endorsed by national industry bodies, such as:

View our sport degrees