Richard Thomas

Richard Thomas

Richard Thomas BSc Sport Therapy – From Gardening to groins!

I still find it hard at times to believe that I have completed a degree in Sports Therapy having left full-time education many moons ago. I was always quite a good student and had hopes of becoming a vet! I was also quite sporty playing rugby for Whitland and Carmarthen district and even participated in athletics, where as a 15-year-old I came 2nd in Wales in the 1500m. However, I lacked the discipline needed to train to progress further and became disinterested with school and education and after completing my A levels I joined the rat race in a succession of jobs ranging from working in Mc Donald’s to a hospital laundry to a mobile phone shop! I eventually became a self-employed gardener and settled down with a wife and three sons.

I initially enjoyed working in the outdoors and the work kept me fit but fast forward a few seasons of working in the harsh Welsh climate and the difficult process of a marriage break up, I began to reconsider my future.

After much consideration I decided to return to full-time education by enrolling on a new course offered by The University of Wales Trinity Saint David in Carmarthen – right on my doorstep! A degree in Sport Therapy. It was through word of mouth I heard about the course and after enquiring further and talking to the course director Kate Evans and Senior Lecturer Dave Gardner I discovered it was the only Sports Therapy degree in Wales accredited by the Society of Sports Therapy.

I wanted to make sure that if I was to invest three years of my life, where I would have to sacrifice time and money and juggle being a full-time father, a part-time gardener and a full-time student I would be suitably qualified after graduating to begin practicing immediately without having to gain further qualifications. I knew that with the challenges ahead I would have to feel very passionate about the course if I was to sacrifice so much. I was happy to hear that after the first year we would be suitably qualified to begin practicing sports massage on our own clients and therefore make some money while we studied.

Kate was passionate about the degree and I was happy knowing that there would be lots of practical aspects to the course. If I’m honest I wasn’t prepared for the academic writing and researching that was necessary – I had been out of education for some time and it was a challenge to write academic essays again – a real shock to the system! I also found the acquisition of modern technology skills – PowerPoint presentations and statistical data analysis programmes quite daunting, however the University helped by providing study skill sessions that allowed me to gain valuable 1-1 tuition and I was brought up to speed in no time.

The course was intense! The second year I found particularly challenging, however the theory was counterbalanced with some excellent hands on opportunities. I worked with the University’s rugby, football, netball, le cross and hockey teams providing pitch side first aid. I was fortunate to work with the Swedish national rugby team when they visited Carmarthen Athletic and Nantgaredig rugby teams. I gained valuable experience supporting the medical team, assisting with taping and strapping, pitch-side first aid, soft tissue treatments and delivery of rehabilitation programmes for a full season to Carmarthen Quins Rugby team and later worked with Whitland Rugby team.

I have worked with the Newport Gwent Dragon’s regional rugby team where course director Kate Evans is head of rehabilitation. It was amazing to work with someone of Kate’s calibre – someone who has two MSc's and a BSc along with almost 15 years’ experience working in professional and semi-professional rugby union. Her depth of knowledge and passion for the profession filtered into us as students and she challenged us both personally and professionally, clearly wanting her fledgling first year Sport Therapy graduates to succeed and follow in her footsteps! Although it may be some time before I consider a PhD as she is currently undertaking!

Other hands on opportunities offered to us were working with the Wales under 20s rugby squad – providing soft tissue therapy; working with Swansea City football team and the Bristol City football team to undertake hamstring testing; working with the Cardiff Devils during their pre-season; providing sports massage at events such as Swansea Triathlon,

The 'Daffodil ride' and The 'Invncbl' assault course races. The University has forged links with Prince’s Gate Water and we were lucky enough to accompany them on their charity bike ride from London to Cardiff – providing logistical assistance as well as sports massage and we even got to accompany them on the ride from Narberth to Bordeaux during the 2016 UEFA European Championship. After completing the course, we accompanied Kate to work with the four regional Irish Rugby sides to complete some more hip and groin screening.

All these practical experiences led to us developing and refining our skills and increasing our confidence in preparation for working as independent graduate therapists in our own right.

Having graduated this year, I am currently working with Whitland rugby team, an FAW women’s age grade team, the Llanelli district under 15s rugby squad, the Gower College Swansea Rugby team as well as working out of the University’s teaching clinic as a private sports therapist. My future plans are to possibly complete a masters or even a PGCE which would allow me to teach.

I also have ambitions of working with a southern hemisphere professional rugby team. Wherever I do work I will always remember my time in Trinity fondly where the staff were always approachable and were always on hand to answer your questions or help with work. I have also made lifelong friendships with my fellow class students. We were the first year to graduate from Trinity with a BSc Sport Therapy degree …

I have no doubt that countless students will follow in our footsteps and enter a profession that is as rewarding as it is challenging.