What's up: Education and sports for people with disabilities

What's up: Education and sports for people with disabilities

In June, a scholarship opportunity for students with disabilities was announced as a result of the partnership between European University Sports Association (EUSA), European Universities Games Zagreb – Rijeka 2016 (EUG 2016), Cotrugli Business School (CBS), and European Paralympic Committee (EPC). This amazing opportunity has up to 20 full scholarships up for grabs, worth €10,000 each to study and gain an online MBA degree.

Since learning of this opportunity, the EUSA Student Commission wanted to get to know what it takes to be an elite disability athlete in Higher Education.

Cooperation between EPC, EUSA, CBS and EUG2015 enables MBA scholarships to students with disabilities

Michael Pope is currently studying Sport Studies at the University of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom, whilst also competing in shot put and discuss at an international level. Mike started competing in athletics in 2000 when he joined the Dwarf Sports Association, a British charity helping people suffering with dwarfism to compete on a level playing field at any age. Mike is incredibly talented; with one of his biggest achievements, claiming Gold at the 2013 World Dwarf Games for discuss and Silver for the shot put.

On a typical day Mike will have a gym based training session in the morning, followed by lectures or independent study time in the learning resource centre and a further track based training session in the evening. However, as a scholarship student Mike also has some further responsibilities. “As a scholarship student, I have to be a role model to others, attending events to help promote the program and also attending awards evenings.” However, things aren’t always as simple as a typical day. Mike’s competitions and training sessions sometimes clash with his course.

Michael - Mike Pope

“I’ve been lucky in the sense that the University is very supportive in what I do … There have been times when my studies and training commitments have clashed, and I’ve had to choose between them. At the end of the day my studies do come first as my degree will decide what I want to do in life after I’ve finished competing.” After University, Mike would like to take further qualifications to become a certified strength & conditioning coach, with the hope of working with other young athletes.

As a disability athlete, there have been many challenges and barriers that Mike has had to overcome. Juggling university work, social life, independence, training and competition schedules gives him a lot to manage on a daily basis. But to achieve this, the best advice he could give to other young disability athletes also looking to gain a degree is “to find the right balance for you which will work for both your academic and sporting life. Also, not to be scared of asking for help if you need it, as the worst thing for any student athlete or any student in fact, is to become so stressed that they just can’t handle the pressure.”

The online MBA is a leading example of an accessible and flexible learning opportunity for student athletes with a disability, so if you’d like to receive more information please head to www.cotrugli.org/eug2016.

EUSA and its Student Commission would like to extend their thanks to Mike Pope for giving us an insight into what is involved in being an elite disability athlete in Higher Education.

Are you a student with an opinion? We are looking for new contributors for our student column every month. Feel free to contact stc@eusa.eu to offer a piece or propose a topic.