From Beijing to Stoke:  How Staffordshire University and Stoke City FC are changing the face of Chinese football

As the European Football Championships enter the knock-out stages a unique football programme starts in Stoke-on-Trent.  Sixty coaches from across China have arrived in the City to start a 12-week football coaching programme delivered by Staffordshire University and Stoke City FC. The coaches arrive in the UK across China, from Beijing to Shanghai, from Xiamen to Tibet.

Chinese Soccer Coaching

The coaches will learn all aspects of practical football coaching including undertaking several coaching qualifications during their stay.  The aspects delivered by University and the Football club will include lessons in coaching, physiology, psychology, nutrition as well as practical classes in using GPS technology to monitor player work rates.


The coaching programme is prestigious being funded by the Chinese Government.  The University/SCFC partnership is one of only three organisations in the UK that was approved by the Chinese Government, the other two being at Loughborough and Bournemouth.


This programme builds on the Universities growing profile and reputation in Asia.  Head of International recruitment at the University Dr Lisa Blenkinsop commented “The International Office is keen to develop Staffordshire’s presence in China, particularly around Sports and Exercise, and we hope this is the start of a long-term relationship with the Chinese Government and SCFC. The selection of Staffordshire University as a host institution for the Chinese football coaches underlines the excellent opportunities – facilities and teaching expertise – available at Staffordshire University to potential Chinese students.”


The coaches will be staying in University state-of-the-art accommodation on its Leek Road campus which underwent a £3.5million refurbishment last year and they will be having lessons and practical classes at both Stoke City training ground and at the University.

As Dr Jacky Forsyth who is leading the academic aspects of the project for the University points out that this is important for growing links with China.  Dr Forsyth says “the investment in football in China at the moment is incredible.  Its promotion and development is a key part of Chinese government policy with billions being invested in the next 20 years at all levels from grass roots to elite.  The programme being delivered by the University and Stoke City is important in developing the skills needed to improve football coaching in China.

Angela Smith from Stoke City FC adds “The Football club has very strong links already with China already, in particular with work we do with our coaches based at Western International School in Shanghai so we are used to delivering football coaching in the global marketplace.  This programme will further raise the profile of Stoke City in South East Asia.  It is also great to work with the Staffordshire University on this project, further supporting our partnership.”

The presence of so many coaches from across China completing such a high profile government-backed programme in Stoke-on-Trent also has economic benefits for the City.  Acting Dean of Business and Law at Staffordshire University Dr Peter Jones states “One of the key outcomes of the city being European City of Sport is economic.  By welcoming the coaches to the city and delivering a great programme we will further build the City’s business relationships with China and this will have economic benefits to the people of the City.”


Follow the Summer of Sport and the European Football Championships at #StaffsSquad @staffsUni. 

For more details of the wide range of sport related undergraduate and postgraduate degrees on offer at Staffordshire University check out our webpages at the School of Psychology, Sport and Exercise. We are a leading UK University for Sport degrees in the heart of England, we produce Internationally recognized research which is driving knowledge in this area forward and we work with leading national sporting teams.

Details of the new Soccer Coaching and Performance degree at Staffordshire University can be obtained from

Psychology and Sport and Exercise degrees at Staffordshire continue to rise up the league table for a third year in a row

Both Psychology and Sport and Exercise degrees at Staffordshire University have moved up the 2017 Guardian League Table for the third consecutive year running, demonstrating that Staffordshire offers some of the highest ranked Psychology and Sport degrees in modern Universities in the UK.

Psychology rose two places to 47th firmly securing their place in the top 50th and being in the top 10 of new (post -1992) universities.  Similarly, Sport and Exercise rose 8 places to rank 13th overall in the UK.

The Guardian University Guide rates the quality of student experience rather than just research outputs, therefore it is a measure of how good the learning experience is.  It uses a range of different measures in calculating table position, but is focused towards student satisfaction, teaching and employability.

Judy David Head of undergraduate Psychology comments “this shows we continue to have some of the best Psychology degrees in the UK for a new (post 1992) University.  This rise illustrates what a great degree our students get whilst studying at Staffordshire.

We put the student experience at the heart of what we do, which is why all our Psychology degrees are rated in the top 10% in the UK for student satisfaction.  I’m really proud of what our team have achieved on behalf of our students, and proud of our students too.”

James Capper, Head of undergraduate Sport and Exercise adds “For Sport and Exercise this is excellent news and is testament to the innovative teaching, real world placements and exceptional student support we offer here at staffs.”

Head of the School of Psychology, Sport and Exercise Dr Peter Jones adds “these results demonstrate that what our academic, technical and support teams provide for the student experience is magnificent.  When you add this to the great research and academic enterprise we deliver it makes a fabulous first class student experience.  I’m really lucky to work with some brilliant people who are innovating and pioneering in their approach to producing high caliber graduates.”

Staffordshire University has invested over £30 million pound in the Science centre in 2014, the home of Psychology. In the last two years it has spent two million pounds on upgrading its sport laboratories and facilities.  Staffordshire University is currently transforming its Stoke campus with a £40 million development.


For more information on the range of Psychology and Sport and Exercise degrees at Staffordshire University then check out our website, read the news from the School on our In-Psych or SENSE blogs, and follow us on Twitter @StaffsPsych and @StaffsSpEx  for the latest news

.the guardian

Science centre

Entrepreneurial skills benefitting Sports Therapist

Twelve months on from graduating in June 2015 Sports Therapy graduates Natalie Jones, Sophie Minor and Kate Highy are all reaping the benefit of the entrepreneurial, business and transferable skills at the heart of its programme design.  On completing their studies all three of these graduates took the first brave steps into the world of work by setting up their own sports therapy businesses.  In a competitive market, all three have successful developed their business drawing upon the skills and knowledge gained throughout their studies to ensure they have been able to survive the initial challenges that all new businesses face in its first year and have now begun to establish a strong reputation for their practice.


Reflecting back on their studies Sophie stated “The business proposal assessment we had to complete has helped me massively in setting up my “Sophie Minor Sports Injury and Rehabilitation Clinic” based in Blythe Bridge.  I’ve been able to use the materials acquired in the module and my 3-year plan in almost identical to that which I submitted for my assessment, allowing me to put my knowledge into practice”.


Adding further to this Natalie stated that “Having to complete the work placement module really helped to confirm to me which path of sports therapy I wanted to follow, and gave me a really insight into how to effectively use my time during appointment,Natalie Jones clinic logo and being able to develop communication skills with patients.  From this module it became an easy decision to base my “Natalie’s Sports Therapy and Massage”  business out of LS Health Club in Stafford.  I know love being in a working environment that I feel comfortable in and having a positive impact on people’s lives”.



All three of these graduates have utilised the increasing importance of online and social media marketing of their businesses and describe the importance the role of this in generating the initial client base.  Natalie said “A lot of behind the scenes work is needed to simply get clients through the door such as advertising, of which word of mouth is highly underrated. It’s also become abundantly clear to never stop studying or stop learning about lesser known conditions.” While Sophie added “The hardest thing was drawing people’s attention to my business to allow my reputation to build; therefore i put on a new offer each month to gain this attention. This has worked really well and I now notice that Sophie Minor Clinic Room Sophie Minor private practiceword of mouth is the best form of advertisement which has brought many people into my clinic.”




To illustrate the impact that Staffs students are now having further afield than Staffordshire, Kate Highy has successfully overseen the growth of her own Sports Therapy business in Windsor.  Similar to Natalie and Sophie, Kate has shown how the development of her understanding of the role that social media can play in driving new businesses by using her Kate Highy Sports TherapistKate Highy in practice Facebook page to promote her practice and drive new custom.  Kate said “It’s been great being able to set up my business and make an income to fit around my life.  The hardest part was having belief in myself and being brave enough to make the first steps, but the confidence I gained from being out on placement during my course, and gaining that understanding of the financial aspects of running a business helped give me that confidence.  Now each time my client leaves feeling improved from before their treatment just boosts my confidence further”.Kate Highy Logo






The Sports Therapy course at Staffordshire University was ranked 1st place in the UK when rated against the National Student Survey 2015-16 with 100% Overall student satisfaction and recently ranked 13th in the 2017 Guardian League Table for sports courses.   To find out more about our Sports Therapy course click here.

Sport Therapy Students Soft Tissue Masterclass From Dan Buchannon

Level 6 Sports Therapy students were given a soft tissue masterclass in myofascial “Rolfing” by Soft Tissue Therapist Dan Buchannon.  Dan, who has been a practising soft tissue therapist for 10 years having worked with an array of elite sports teams including Bracknell Bee’s Ice hockey, Reading FC, Ipswich Town FC, and most recently Derby County FC.

Dan provided students his experience and insight into the challenges facing new 20160314_140505graduates trying to break into professional sport, before passing on his knowledge of an emerging soft tissue technique known as “Rolfing”.  The technique was completely new to the students and helped enhance the skill set for these soon to be graduates.  The session included some unique methods of exposing the students to the realities of the myofascial matrix through the manual dissection and manipulation of raw meat tissue, before focusing on the application of techniques applicable to restoring ankle and hamstring function as well addressing postural faults in the torso and back.

The students excelled in their willingness to learn the skills and gain an appreciation of the treatment modality.  The students reported “Its been great to have someone like Dan who is currently working in elite sport come in to show us new areas in which the industry is working.  Seeing some the immediate effects and responses of the rolfing has been great too, and is something I definitely want to learn more about after today.”20160314_145119

Having just set up his own private practice (Go-Perform) in addition to his work with Derby County FC Dan finished the session with a Q&A about the important employability qualities within new graduates and discussed the importance for grauates to find their own niche area of expertise within the industry.  The students further commented “hearing from Dan about the importance of networking, and the ways he has gone about building a reputation both in sport and private practice has been priceless, and has been a real eye opener for myself with just 2 months to go before we graduate”.

Dan commented himself “It’s been a privilege coming in and sharing what I can to the students both in terms of new techniques and helping them understand what takes for them to make their own ambitions a reality. They’ve all taken on board everything I asked of them, and if they can show that same working ethos as graduates they every chance of succeeding in this industry.”

You can find out more about more about our Sport Therapy Course via our website or following us on twitter @SUSTclinic.

Professor Vish Unnithan assists in the development of Blackburn Rovers FC Academy

A group of Blackburn Rovers FC youngsters are being monitored as they progress from the Under-12 to Under-14 age groups, to ascertain the effects of the increased training load on the cardiac function of young players as a result of the introduction of the EPPP.

The players are being tested on a cycle ergometer exercise test three times from 2015 to 2017. During the test, measurements of the structure and function of the heart will be obtained Vish testing Blackburn academyusing echocardiography, as well as the aerobic fitness levels of the boys.

The second stage of this project was completed this year and the results are in the process of being analysed. The project was co-ordinated by Professor Vish Unnithan from the School of Sport and Exercise at Staffordshire University, who said: “The enthusiasm of the boys has been first class and the help of all the staff at Blackburn Rovers Academy, particularly Dr. Russ Wrigley, in helping to organise a complex project is very much appreciated by all the researchers. We are looking forward to coming back to the club in 2017 to complete the project.”

Find out more about Professor Vish Unnithan and his his research interests

Maria Sharapova – How does it come to this?

Maria Sharapova bravely faced the press on Monday 7th March 2016 and reported that she had failed a drugs test. The press expected her to be announcing her retirement at the age of 29 and a glittering career. In fact, she declared that she had failed a drugs test for meldonium on 26th January, following her match with Serena Williams at the Australian open.

All top sport people will be subjected to drug testing both in and out of competition. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) control the World’s drug testing by having sports governing bodies (in this case the International Tennis Federation) adhere to their testing policies and procedures. Every January WADA publish a list of banned substances. They also maintain a list of monitored substances. Meldonium (or as previously known mildronate) was on the monitored list but WADA decided to add it to the banned list from 1st January 2016. This will be because WADA have noticed increasing usage and determined that it has performance enhancing effects. It increases endurance capacity. Something which is clearly of benefit in tennis matches and training.

Sharapova claimed she had been taking the drug for 10 years for medicinal purposes. She admitted that she had received an e-mail from WADA on 22nd December informing her that the status of meldronium would be changed from 1st January. By her own admission, she ignored the e-mail. In fact, sports people and their support staff were notified as far back as September that meldronium was being added to the banned list.

Sports people can face a ban from their sport for varying lengths of time depending on the drug and the circumstances. A four year ban is a possibility but her lawyers will argue that she was taking the drug legitimate for medical purposes. That should not wash. If that was the case then she should have submitted a Therapeutic Use Exemption Certificate (TUE). She should not be able to claim she didn’t know. That is not a legitimate defence. Her sponsors have suspended their support for her rapidly and now we wait for the ITF to make their decision.

WADA are potentially expecting a number of such cases. It is possible that a number of Ethiopian athletes have failed tests for meldronium recently, but these have yet to be publically confirmed.

Trevor Barter – Senior Lecturer, Sport & Exercise.  Click here to find out more about Trevor or our sport and exercise programme


Britain’s strongest man visits Sport and Exercise Science Laboratories

Eddie ‘The Beast’ Hall recently visited the Sport and Exercise Science Laboratories at Staffordshire University as part of a BBC 1 documentary that is to be aired in March 2016. Eddie, who hails from Stoke-on-Trent, has recently retained his title as Britain’s Strongest Man for the third consecutive year, finished 4th in the 2015 World’s   Strongest Man, and is currently the world record holder for the deadlift (lifting a staggering 463 kg to break the record!)

Sport and Exercise Science staff and students put Eddie through a series of physiological tests to ascertain what it takes to be one of the world’s strongest men. Eddie undertook tests to measure his resting metabolic rate, body composition, anaerobic capacity, muscular power, and muscular strength. Eddie’s results were astounding and nothing like those typically seen when students perform these tests as part of their Sport and Exercise Science degree here at Staffordshire University.

With a body mass of 174 kg, Eddie’s sheer size would not allow him to fit inside the Bod Pod for the assessment of body composition. Instead, Sport and Exercise Physiology Lecturer, Dr Jacky Forsyth was left with the arduous task of trying to measure Eddie’s body composition with a set of skinfold calipers.
Resting metabolic rate, which provides an estimate of how much energy Eddie’s body needs to sustain its basic functions to stay alive, was nearly double what is typically seen in a recreationally active male and female.
Eddie’s muscular strength and power were extremely high and easily surpassed what staff and students had seen during any previous sports science testing with athletes. What is even more astonishing is that these incredible results were achieved less thIMG_20160202_143053899an 3 days after Eddie’s victory at the British Strongest Man Championships. As Dr Dean Burt explains, “it can take up to 4 – 6 weeks to fully recover from a bout of strenuous exercise. Given the incredible amount of physical strain Eddie would have put his muscles through to win Britain’s Strongest Man, he would have arrived for testing in a heavily muscle damaged state whereby maximal strength and power might have been reduced by as much as 30 – 40%. It is not difficult to assume that the exceptional strength and power results Eddie achieved today are only a fraction of what he can actually produce”.

The gruelling afternoon of testing finished with a full-body massage from one of current undergraduate Sports Therapy students, and in fact, Eddie’s current sports therapist is Thomas Hatrick, a 2015 graduate of Sports Therapy from Staffordshire University.

On Eddie’s visit to the Sport and Exercise Science Laboratories, Dr Jacky Forsyth said that “the experience had provided the Sport and Exercise Science students, who assisted with the tests today, a really unique and fascinating insight into what it takes to become one of the world’s strongest men”.
Finally, Head of School, Dr Peter Jones, added that “we would like to thank Eddie for visiting the Sport and Exercise Science Laboratories and we very much look forward to supporting him in his future quest to become the World’s Strongest Man”.

Please click on the links for more information about similar sports science and sports therapy services we offer through the Peak Condition and Sports Therapy (SUST) clinics.

Team Staffs Elite’s Kate takes podium position in the national XC Championships

Sports Psychology Masters student and Team Staff Elite Scholarship athlete Kate Holt picked up a fantastic bronze medal finishing 3rd in the prestigious English National Cross Country Championships on the 27th February. In a tight and thrilling race all top three athletes finished within 4 seconds of each other. Kate’s performance is all the more impressive as she is in her first season as a senior athlete.

Kate was understandably delighted with her performance, which follows her inclusion in the Great Edinburgh International races in January, when she represented England. Going into the race, Kate said “I was aiming for a top 10 position as I knew I was up against a strong field and it was a demanding course. I ran my own race, and didn’t believe a medal was mine until the last 400m when my coach shouted that I could.”

Several athletes were contesting the bronze medal position but her strength showed as she climbed the final hill and was able to pull away from the group.

Winning the bronze medal will certainly have given her confidence and sets her up well for the forthcoming track season, in what is Olympic year. Clearly a great talent, Kate is looking forward to racing over the 5,000m, a new distance for her, this summer for her club Stoke AC. After this performance a successful track season is certainly on the cards.

Kate is supported by Staffordshire University Team Staffs Elite Scholarship Programme. This provides a complete 360 degree support package to help elite sport people be their best. Team Staffs Elite Scholarships include strength and conditioning, performance testing, sports therapy and sport psychology and are open for application to any prospective and current Staffordshire University students who compete at county level or above. For more details check out our Team Staff Elite webpage.

For more details about our courses see:School of Psychology, Sport and Exercise  at Staffordshire University. We are a leading UK University for Sport degrees in the heart of England, we produce Internationally recognized research which is driving knowledge in this area forward and we work with leading national sport teams.

MSc Applied Sport and Exercise Psychology student wins BASES conference award

MSc Applied Sport and Exercise Psychology student Niall Falls in collaboration with Associate Professor of Applied Performance Psychology Dr Jamie Baker presented Nialls research investigating “Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing for Prospective Imagery in Golfers” at the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences Conference (BASES) Annual Conference in December 2015, and was awarded the Sportesse Sport and Exercise Science Award for the best free communication Psychology presentation at the meeting.

Niall states that “In my role as an NHS Psychiatrist has exposed me to the sharp end of working with troubled individuals; my own involvement in sport as competitor and coach meant that applying clinical skills in the sport and performance arena seemed a logical step. The distance learning course MSc Applied Sport and Exercise Psychology delivered by the Staffordshire University tested me intellectually, whilst clear goal setting and the quality of materials, support and supervision kept me engaged with the course throughout.”

The MSc thesis explored the use of Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing in prospective imagery in golfers. This trauma therapy has shown powerful effects in clinical use, and has the potential to be useful in sport. To test this, a single case design explored the effects and social validity of this intervention in four golfers experiencing troubling prospective imagery. All reported three EMDR sessions to be acceptable and helpful. Impact of negative imagery was reduced in three of the four, with associated benefits to cognitive and somatic anxiety in two. Niall added further that “The opportunity to present at a meeting of this calibre cannot be recommended highly enough, and for this work to be recognised through such a prestigious award was an immense honour.”

To find out more about our MSc programmes, please see our course page.

Growing your own: Former Staffordshire University Undergraduate Jamie Gillman talks of his journey to Master and now PhD

My interest in Sport Psychology came from studying both P.E and psychology at A-level in my local sixth form college.  It was from then that I decided to look for universities offering a degree in Sport Psychology as this was the combination of the two subjects I enjoyed the most.Jamie Gilman

After looking at a number of universities, Staffordshire University became my first choice as the University offered a BPS (British Psychological Society) accredited course and the department seemed well organised and friendly.

Throughout the three years of the degree I developed a real passion for the subject and it was clear towards the end of the third year I wanted to study further.  Staffordshire University offered a two year part-time MSc in Sport Psychology by distance learning – although I was only living a couple of mile ways from the University!  Therefore, having enjoyed my time as an undergraduate and with the department being so supportive, it was an easy decision to make. This worked out great for me as I was able to work a part-time job alongside my studying. During this time, as I was living locally, I was also able to get involved in a number of research projects around the University further developing my research knowledge and skills.

After finishing my Masters an opportunity came up to read for a PhD focused on a similar area to my MSc project and I was lucky enough to be offered the position.  My PhD is funded by the University from monies allocated form the last REF (Research Excellence Framework)  – This is a Government initiative that every six years evaluates and funds UK Universities research.

I find myself very fortunate to be working in such a fantastic department and excited for the PhD Journey!