Ben Christie graduated from St Mary’s in 2018. We caught up with him in December 2019, to talk to him about his role as a lead Strength and Conditioning coach at the Tottenham Hotspur Football Club Academy, and to ask him about his time at Uni.
What made you choose St Mary’s?
I was studying Sport Science at college and doing quite well, once I had worked in the fitness industry. I started looking to university to see how I could set myself apart. St Mary’s was recommended to me and was the only university I applied for, because of its reputation in the industry. Looking at the prospectus and the website, I just knew I had to apply
How did you find your time at St Mary’s?
I felt the lecturers would allow you to learn at your own pace and they were very supportive. The programme was broken down really well and I never felt under too much pressure. Whoever was leading the lecture always knew your name, they weren’t afraid to tell you where you might be going wrong. The facilities were great.
Even though I was used to commercial gyms, coming into the PEC (Performance Education Centre) was a real change, whilst it still has your bench press and squat racks, there is a very different feel to it. It felt like you were actually there to make a difference, like you knew the reason you were there, rather than just being there because you feel like you have to be.
What advice would you give to someone looking at applying to university now?
Take your time, it can be a big change that can be challenging. It is a new environment and you may only be surrounded by a few people in your halls to start with, so give it time. Get involved, don’t be afraid to introduce yourself. It will settle down and you’ll find the enjoyment from your course and your peers.
You do have to be dedicated to get the rewards, so look for work experience along the way. It’ll give you a chance to put everything into practice rather than finishing your degree and forgetting most of what you have learnt along the way. My lecturers also really helped me with my CV and how to structure it, how it is done in the industry, stuff you wouldn't expect.
Can you tell us about your career since leaving University?
My first role during university was at Rosslyn Park Rugby Club, working two nights a week and going to games on Saturdays. This was my first real experience of strength and conditioning or sport science outside of St Mary’s. I was quite lucky to be working under a guy that was new to heading up the programme so he put a lot of faith in me as an intern.
After this, I moved to Crystal Palace Football Club and Brentford Football Club. On my way to support the academy at Crystal Palace, the first team coach rang me to say the intern hadn’t turned up and asked if I want to help them out – because of that experience I ended up working with the first team for a year. This was alongside my final year, then I graduated and went to Tottenham.
Here, I’m no longer just a fly on the wall. I know what strength and conditioning is and what it means at an elite level. I was able to coach and start using newer technologies. After a year I moved into my current role as a lead S&C coach for the Tottenham Academy Under 16s to Under 9s. I have had to raise my standards, and there’s a lot weighing on my shoulders. Outside of studying, this has to be the most challenging role I have ever done.