5. Starting To Get Serious

My placement year had come to an end and I had learnt a lot at J M Architects. I had been told I should get back in touch with them towards the end of my university year. It was my plan to return to J M Architects once I’d finished my degree.

I was back at Coventry university again and it was like starting university for a third time. The hardest part was living with freshers again, I definitely felt that this time there was a significant age gap between myself and the freshers and I had no desire to go out with them every night of the week as I had done in my previous years.

After applying to Coventry University and enquiring about sports scholarships, I had been accepted on to their sports scholarship program. This was to prove hugely influential in my physical development as an athlete. Now, not only did I have some financial support, which was very welcome in what is a very expensive sport, I also had a team of coaches and therapists that I could utilise.

For the first time I now had a personal training programme. This programme consisted of three coached weight training sessions a week, one club training session and two cardio sessions. The cardio sessions were very tough. In order to get the court space I needed I had to be at the university gym at 6:30 in the morning.

I have always been more of a morning person, but waking up most days sore and tired gave me my first taste of the sort of dedication that would be needed in order for me to become a Paralympic athlete. But I was under no illusion at that point in time that’s all it was, a taste. Early nights became the norm for me and I am sure to the annoyance of most of the freshers, I was asking them on a regular basis to keep the noise down!

My studies were still my priority, and the end goal was to return to the architectural firm that I had been with during my industrial placement year. Sport was still secondary at this stage, although growing by the day. I would get antsy if I hadn’t been to the gym. Increasingly, I would find myself thinking about rugby, competing and ultimately winning!

As a GB development team we had been getting together once a month, working towards our first tournament that would take place in Prague. Full selection had not taken place yet and there were still places up for grabs for the team that would travel to the Czech Republic.

Training at camps was pretty intense. It was very different to club training because the overall standard was much higher, everyone was pushing each other, and there was a sense of expectation that we put on each other.

In wheelchair rugby we have a squad of 12, only 4 players from each team can be on court together at one time, we call these lineups. As a team, we spent time developing certain players in lineups so that they had chemistry together before the competition. I was under no illusion at this point that I was not good enough to be in the main lineups. I was working really hard and trying to improve my game, but I knew even if I was selected my court time would be limited. There was still some doubt in my mind about whether i would make the team.