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Sam Bacon

Strength and Conditioning MSc

MSc Strength And Conditioning Sam BaconWhere are you from?

Empingham, Rutland, near Stamford/Peterborough/Nottingham

What undergraduate course did you study and where?

BSc Applied Sport and Exercise Science at Northumbria University

Why did you decide to study a masters?

I decided to study a masters due to the ever increasing competition within the sport science/strength and conditioning industry. It has allowed me to obtain a higher level of knowledge which will help me stand out when seeking employment.

Why did you choose Northumbria University? Why did you choose your specific course?

I chose Northumbria because I had had such a good experience on my undergraduate course. The quality of staff is outstanding and much higher than other universities (as said by friends from elsewhere). The location of the campus and city of Newcastle is also another reason I stayed on. I chose this course as I became very passionate about strength and conditioning (S&C) when completing a S&C module in the second year of my undergrad. For me the modules also looked a lot more applicable to me than on the same course at other universities.

What makes your specific course challenging/inspiring/different? How would you sum up the difference between Undergraduate and Postgraduate study?

The course is very challenging due to the high expectations and standards set by the staff. With regard to being inspired, you are constantly surrounded by individuals with a very high level of knowledge and experience within the industry. I was fortunate enough to receive guest lectures/practicals from some of the top coaches such as Duncan French, Nick Grantham, Joel Brannigan and Matt Wood. There is a distinct difference from undergraduate to postgraduate study at Northumbria. You are expected to carry out a lot more self directed study and show a lot more critical thinking within assessments.

What was it like studying at Northumbria? What are the different ways that you learn on your course?

The course includes multiple difference ways of learning such as lectures, seminars, practicals, self directed learning (e.g. videos to watch) and lots of reading! There is also a weekly seminar series where lecturers and practitioners from around the country come and present their research findings. Most of the assessments consisted of individual work with some group work throughout the year. Assessments range from written essays, literature reviews and lab reports to practical coaching assessments and case study presentations. The feedback I got on all assessments allowed me to improve on upcoming deadlines and develop my weaknesses.

How connected is your course with industry? Do you have the opportunity of placement, work on projects?

You are expected/encouraged to obtain applied roles in conjunction with your degree in order to practice implementing what you have learnt. One of the assessments consisted of presenting a case study of your applied practice which is very similar to what is expected when trying to achieve UKSCA accreditation. During the third semester you carry out your dissertation/thesis which you could tailor to encompass a topic which may be appealing to an organisation or club. The research done by the sport science department at Northumbria is of a very high standard, thus providing the opportunity to publish your research.  As I am a course representative, I have provided feedback from my cohort on the possibility of making the strength and conditioning internships with Team Northumbira exclusive to MSc students, which I believe is going ahead in September 2015. I personally have undertaken an assistant role in this department working with the Golf squad. This was an extremely valuable experience as I was completely new to coaching and was given full responsibility of programming and delivering sessions throughout the year.

What impressed you most about our academic staff?

The staff within the sport science department are outstanding due to their academic knowledge and applied experience. Staff also have a large amount of connections with different organisation and clubs around the country. Each staff member has distinct areas of interest which further improves the experience. The staff provide a wide range of expertise in many topics.

How accessible do you find our staff? Do you feel at ease?

All staff that teach on the course are very friendly and easy to talk to with an open door policy. They are more than happy to provide you with support where necessary.

As a postgraduate student, what aspects of university life are important to you?

For me, the most important aspects of university life have been the location of campus and the facilities available. Newcastle is a great city for students due to its nightlife and part-time job opportunities. The sport science/strength and conditioning facilities at Northumbria are very good and include a fully equipped S&C suite, 50m sprint track and laboratories. Biomechanics labs with 3D motion analysis, force plates and isokinetic dynamometer. Physiology labs with cycle ergs and douglas bags etc. Performance analysis suite. Environmental chamber and neuromuscular physiology lab. During my time at Northumbria I have been provided with the opportunity to conduct research using all the facilities and equipment available. For example my undergraduate dissertations was on neural adaptation to strength training, and I am currently studying possible neurological mechanisms of post-activation potentiation.

What doors do you think this course will open for you? How will your course help you achieve your career goals/give your career an edge?

I think completing this course will benefit me in the long run when applying for roles such as head strength and conditioning coach as it demonstrates a higher level of knowledge and critical thinking skills. Or when applying for jobs at high level organisations such as the English Institute of Sport. It has also helped prepare me for the possibility of undertaking a PhD in the future.

Have you changed as a person?

As a person I have gained a considerable amount of confidence due to the development of my knowledge and skills. In particular, my critical thinking skills have improved dramatically. This helps when identifying additional considerations when training athletes with special requirements and when reading academic literature (i.e. being able to identify limitations of the methods using within a research study).

How would you describe yourself in 3 words before coming to Northumbria? What are the 3 key skills and attributes you have gained since being here?

Committed, Quiet and Introverted. Skills Gained: Communication, Networking and Coaching. Attributes: Confidence, Passionate and Knowledgeable.

How would you describe Northumbria in 3 words?

Challenging, Inspiring and Enjoyable

Do you feel that your course has been a worthwhile investment in your future?

The course has definitely provided me with the knowledge to stand out within the industry and will benefit me throughout my career.

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