Nino Severino: Welcoming a star of world rugby to Ipswich
In his latest column, Nino Severino welcomes one of the world’s best rugby players to the ground-breaking sports science Hub at the University of Suffolk.
The aim of The Hub at the University of Suffolk is to ensure that all athletes, rich or poor, can experience the best support possible as they develop, or prepare for competition.
We are attracting more and more teams, schools and academies, which is absolutely fantastic. It means the Hub team, headed by Dr Gavin Devereaux, have the opportunity of showing exactly how the latest advancements in sports science, strength and conditioning and high-level programme management can support performance.
Through my role as the director, I am continually working to bring the sporting community together, and integrating both male and females athletes, giving them the opportunity to experience each other’s sports, but more importantly identify the positives they can take from the very different cultures each sport will offer.
This week has been a very good week as we have managed to tick off quite a few objectives – attracting the world’s best athletes, supporting women in sport, and bringing the diversity of the sporting community together.
This was achieved by a visit to the Hub by one extraordinary athlete called Amy Wilson-Hardy, who hails from the world of women’s rugby and plays at the highest level, having represented Team GB at the Rio Olympics and England at the 2017 World Cup.
Through our association with ex-professional rugby player Wez Pooley, Amy was aware of one of the training systems the Hub is launching in the UK, and of course, as a world class athlete she was very interested in the opportunities that this development could offer.
I spoke with Wez in detail about Amy’s visit to the Hub, and to be honest, it’s not every day that you are opening the doors to such a high-level athlete.
So, it was very important we ensured that her experience was very positive, and that we also promoted the opportunities for women in sport, and all the benefits that this can offer.
The level of sports science technology at our unit on the marina is state of the art, but I also had to locate a field of play where this total thoroughbred of the rugby world could show off her skills of powerful movement and reaction!
That is where the network, and relationships we are building here in Ipswich is really paying dividends. I spoke to Lee O’Neil, Head of Ipswich Town’s Academy, and asked him if we could use the multi-million-pound training ground at Playford Road.
Without hesitation, he agreed that we could use their full-size pitch which is protected by the very impressive dome. For me, this was a dream come true – individuals from the sporting community coming together, with an open mindset to create opportunities for Ipswich.
Watching Amy at work was an utter privilege. She is a true world-class athlete, and strangely enough, meeting her made me think back to my time supporting Martyn Waghorn, the ex-Ipswich striker, who now plays for Derby County.
The reason I connected the two is because of their personalities and characters – both are very humble and respectful, and have an incredible gift for making those they meet feel special.
Amy took the time to talk to the whole Hub team, and clearly has a love for her sport.
She also plays for the England sevens side, and told me: “It’s such an adrenaline buzz for me, running with the ball in space is great fun and it’s something you just don’t get a lot of in 15s.
“Also, add that to playing in front of some fun crowds makes it a great experience.”
I asked her about her most memorable game, and she said: “At the Olympics in Rio in 2016, obviously we finished on a low but the first four games we played were some of the most enjoyable of my career.”
This was the first time I have been this close to women’s rugby, and I can, with absolute confidence, recommend it to any young girl who is looking for a sport to commit to.
Amy represented her sport in the most perfect way, showing how a life in rugby keeps you extremely fit and builds outstanding personality and character!
For more information about The Hub, contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org.