carnegieXchange: School of Sport

Finding my passion for disability sports provision

After three years of studying his BA Sport Development, student Thomas Cullen reflects on his time at Leeds Beckett, finding a passion for disability sport provision, and getting the right work/life balance.

Outdoor running track

I was born and bred in a town called Chester-Le-Street in the North East of England. It’s a medium-sized town but as the home of Durham County Cricket Club, the one thing it does have is a lot of sporting opportunities. Having played for a number of local cricket and football clubs in the town, I have been lucky to be around sport for as long as I can remember.

There were two main reasons why I wanted to come to Leeds Beckett. Firstly, I wanted to move out from home. I absolutely love the North East but I also wanted to experience a different part of the UK and Leeds ticked many boxes for me. Secondly, the vibe I got from the course team, as well as the University itself, was exactly what I wanted. I think I went to four or five open days in total and Leeds Beckett was by far the best. It was an easy decision once I had been for a look round.

One of the best things about my course has been the opportunities to work with partners and get a taste of what it’s like to work in the sector. In my first two years, I completed two placements with Leeds Rhinos Foundation and during one placement I did some Rugby League coaching in a disability day care centre. After being there for five minutes, it was clear to see the enjoyment that playing sport gave the clients. I wanted to focus my dissertation on the improvement of disability sport provision as a form of gratitude to the people I have worked with to try and give them more opportunities to play sport.  

I still coach both football and cricket at my local club in Chester-Le-Street and have also done some Rugby League coaching with the Leeds Rhinos. These times are a welcome break to switch off from my studies and relax. I have always made sure I have had a balance between work and social time. I seem to get the best results when I break the day up rather than studying all day without any rest. I am a person who likes structure so I know in my head if I am coaching for two hours at a point in the day then I can either start work earlier or finish later. It is something I try to stay calm about as it helps me focus on the task ahead.

Covid-19 aside, my university experience has been absolutely fantastic. The number of external opportunities and partners the course has is unbelievable and the help I have been given from every member of the team has helped to shape me into a better overall student on the course. I have met some great people that I will keep in touch with for a long time and the opportunities I have been given will definitely help me for my future employment. I could not recommend both Leeds Beckett and the Sport Development course team highly enough.

Once I have finished my studies, I am going to return to the North East. Leeds is a fantastic place but there is no place like home. I have applied for a few jobs in the Sport and Community Development sector, and I have received positive feedback from potential employers so hopefully something will be offered to me. After I graduate if I do not get a role in my preferred sector then I would like to get a job in a related field that can give me vital experience so that when the perfect job becomes available I have all the relevant capabilities to apply and be successful.

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