Lynsey Speirs and Heather Macrae are current recipients of Loughborough University Elite Athlete Doctoral Scholarship which provides budding researchers the opportunity to continue their studies alongside their sporting development. The scholarship provides eligible student athletes with a wealth of resources as well as financial support. We caught up with Lynsey and Heather to find out more.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Lynsey: I’m currently in the first year of my PhD programme with the Peter Harrison Centre looking at how to improve physical activity in spinal cord injured populations. Alongside this I play for the newly formed Loughborough Lightning Wheelchair Basketball team and the Loughborough University BUCS Wheelchair Basketball team. The Lightning squad have three on-court training sessions a week and two strength and conditioning sessions within Powerbase Gym and our BUCS team train twice a week.
Heather: I’m currently going into the second year of my PhD which focuses on fluid balance in able-bodied and para-athletes. I am currently a player-coach for the Loughborough University Lacrosse First Team. Similar to Lynsey, each week we have three pitch sessions and two S&C sessions in Powerbase.
How is your season going?
Heather: Lacrosse is a ‘winter sport’ so we have just finished our regular BUCS season (10-a-side) where we finished Top 8 in the country. We are now working towards the BUCS 6s tournament which takes on the new 6-a-side format. This should be really exciting!
Lynsey: It is going really well! Lightning are halfway through the regular season with 4 games remining and 5-0 currently topping the league. BUCS performed well reaching the semi-finals against a tough Cardiff opposition, we were unable to progress beyond this stage but feel very proud of our achievement.
How to you find balancing your sporting commitments with your PhD studies?
Lynsey: I’m really appreciative of the support I receive from my supervisors because they are understanding about my basketball schedule and have been accommodating in terms of arranging supervision and supporting me with meeting deadlines.
Heather: I’d agree with Lynsey, playing and coaching as a graduate student can be tricky at times but my supervisors have been very supportive. Cheesy as it is, I think we both enjoy our research as well as playing so it doesn’t feel like a chore.
Do you have any upcoming competitions?
Heather: I’ve been selected to represent Scotland in the annual Home Internationals which is taking place in Edinburgh in early April. Alongside this, I’ll be coaching the Scotland Juniors in the U19 tournament which should be a really fun event. I am also part of the World Cup Training Squad which is working towards the 2022 World Championships.
Lynsey: I’m aiming towards selection for Scotland at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games this summer where 3X3 Wheelchair Basketball will make its debut. I have been selected to represent Scotland at the qualifying tournament which will take place in Largs in April, so I am looking forward to Scotland camps in preparation for this.
How has the scholarship helped you?
Heather: Loughborough University has so much to offer and this scholarship allows me train and compete with and against some of the best players in the country in world-class facilities whilst completing a Doctoral Programme at a top university.
Lynsey: Previously when studying I have had to maintain employment to support myself but having this scholarship allows me to focus on my sport and academics and has really helped my work-life balance. Loughborough is a fantastic place to study and play sport. The packages of support available here in elite sport and particularly para sport are unrivalled and that’s why Loughborough attracts elite athlete students from all over the world.