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Mitch Smith (Sport and Health Science BSc and Masters)

Strength and Conditioning Coach for English Institute of Sport

I’ve always been competitive and into sport. I get a real kick out of helping people improve and reach their goals – it’s very rewarding.

I made up my mind early what I wanted to do. I did work experience with Bath Rugby when I finished school and fell in love with the high performance environment.

I work with British Skeleton athletes as well as with development athletes from GB hockey and with England women’s rugby players (the current Rugby World Cup champions).

Skeleton is the sport where you head down a frozen track on what looks like a tea tray head first – it’s not for the faint-hearted! It’s mentally challenging– there’s lots of pressure and it’s all over in less than a minute. The sprint start is really important and it’s my role to make our start world-class.

Before university I went travelling and caught an infection which led to me having to have open heart surgery.  I had to have a year out and went from being really fit to almost housebound: even walking upstairs made me tired. I set up a local magazine funded by advertising which kept me sane during that year when I couldn’t do sport and taught me a lot.

I really enjoyed my degree at Exeter. It was a strength and conditioning module in the 2nd year of my course that spurred me on to get into this area. I was then able to tailor my degree including my dissertation to strength and conditioning rather than going down another route. An employability module in my 3rd year put me in touch with Exeter City FC: I did my 40 hours volunteering with them and then they kept me on.

I stayed to do a Masters as the way elite sport is moving it’s a real plus to have one. I worked with Hockey Wales and as I handed in my dissertation started working with GB rowing which I continued up until the Rio Olympics.

If you want to get into this field you need to work out what separates you from other candidates – it’s a very competitive market so be persistent and put yourself in a position where you can stand out. Volunteer to get experience but make sure if you do unpaid work you get some mentoring and a development plan in place: you don’t want to be filling water bottles for a year.

I really enjoy what I’m doing and want to stay in this role until the Winter Olympics in February 2018 in South Korea. My long term aspiration is to lead the strength and conditioning programme for a particular sport.