By *Lee Pridmore
I will start my guest column with a big thank-you to key members of the club including Keith Loring, Don Amott, Paul Coxon, Cassy Carruthers, John McGrath and Pablo Mills. All have played an important role in the development of our (University of Derby) partnership with the club.
Personally, I started discussing ideas with Keith during the summer to explore how we could work together to mutual advantage. I am pleased to say that as I write on this November evening tremendous progress has been made since those sunnier summer climes.
Without question Keith, Don and Cassy have enhanced the student experience by lending their expertise to assessing final year student presentations studying on our BA (Hons) Sport Management programme. Students were tasked with developing the clubs brand and separately, how they would make the club more inclusive. The ideas have been fed back to the club with the best ones likely to be implemented. Examples include the need for greater visibility of the ‘club brand’ at the ground, red and black seating and for the club webpage to move up the Google search results rankings. On inclusion, students talked about promoting the Kick It Out campaign more around the club, a wheelchair accessible bar and the use of rainbow laces in players boots to promote the campaign against homophobia in football. In addition to this, students will be writing guest columns for the matchday programme in the coming weeks to showcase their excellent work.
We are also working with the club in developing internship opportunities for students particularly around the media and marketing areas. For example, two students, Jack Lawrence and Andrew Duncan went on the team coach to Trafford and did a great job in keeping the community up-to-date on the tremendous win via the club twitter account.
Not only have the club officials supported learning activities they have also provided ‘prizes’ to incentivise our students in their efforts. For example, tickets to a red carpet Great Gatsby screening and invitations to the club meal in December. Personally, I see these events as important in students social and cultural development and in particular, learning how to dress and act in novel environments.
On the performance side, John and Pablo have been coaching the University teams, whilst the club trains on our fantastic 3G pitch on a Thursday evening. John also delivered a sport coaching Masterclass to our students studying on the BSc (Hons) Sport and Exercise Science, BSc (Hons) Performance Analysis and Coaching Science, BSc (Hons) Physical Activity, Nutrition and Health and Strength, Conditioning with Rehabilitation programmes.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the excellent team we have here at the University that provide us with support and a degree of freedom to explore working with external partners such as the club. My thanks go to Ceri Heldreich (technical support), Kulsoom Rehman (senior lecturer in education and member of the race equality group) and Dr Andy Hooton (head of sport, outdoor and exercise science).
I know there are many more people working behind the scenes at both the club and the University putting in tremendous efforts in supporting developments (to many to mention here) so my sincere apologies to those I have missed out. We look forward to developing the relationship with the club in the coming weeks and months ahead. Come on Sports and good luck with the match today!
*Lee Pridmore (below) is a Senior Lecturer in Sport Management and Development at the University of Derby in the College of Life and Natural Science.