THE HEAD of strength and conditioning at Hartpury University is supporting the next generation of sports players and coaches after a successful career spent in the upper echelons of professional rugby.
After graduating from Hartpury (BSc Sports Coaching) in 2005, Lee Douglas’ coaching career got under way with an internship the following summer when he went to work with academy rugby players at nearby Worcester Warriors.
By the end of that summer, Warriors had seen enough to make his employment permanent and he went on to spend five rewarding years at Worcester, gradually moving up from the academy to working with the club’s senior squad.
He then had a spell with Edinburgh Rugby in Scotland before securing his first head of department role with Bristol, where he was to stay for a further three years.
“My next role was with the England Women’s 7s squad, which was at the time they first became fully professional,” said Douglas.
“In my time with them we managed to secure qualification for the Rio Olympics, as a big part of Team GB, so that was pretty cool.
“Then I took the opportunity to move to Canada for three-and-a-half years, when I worked with the national Men’s 7s squad, before finding myself back here at Hartpury.
“Now I’m responsible for overseeing strength and conditioning (S&C) within all of our sports academies. That includes ten academies across both the college and the university.
“I’ve still got my own specialisation in rugby, so I keep a day-to-day personal involvement with our Championship team, Hartpury University RFC.
“I’m also responsible for ensuring we’ve got the proper alignment within our S&C coaching across all of our rugby teams and age grades. I also provide support to the other academies as well.
“On top of that, I also manage the Athlete Performance Academy, which encompasses a number of sports which fall outside of the established high-performance groups.
“Typically these are individual sports and we’ve a big range including martial arts, swimming, rock climbing, track, cycling, badminton and fencing. We’ve also got a young cricketer who plays for Gloucestershire.
“It’s an academy that we really want to grow, but we absolutely have to ensure it’s truly beneficial for the athletes involved. We actually don’t coach the individual sports but rather provide a support service to the athletes.
“This means we give them strength and conditioning support, physiotherapy, nutrition guidance, sports psychology and lifestyle management.
“At the same time – as with all academy athletes – we have to ensure they’re staying on top of their academic workload, through our status as a Talented Athlete Centre through the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS).
“Some of these athletes are travelling internationally for competition and training, so we have a responsibility to make sure they don’t fall behind in other areas.”
Douglas, who also has an MSc in Physiology, is passionate about enabling students to maximise their opportunities to excel within Hartpury’s extensive range of world-class sports facilities.
Hartpury’s new £8.8m Sports Academy includes a including a biomechanics laboratory, a rehabilitation suite featuring an anti-gravity treadmill and a human performance laboratory with an altitude chamber and a sports hall.
“I’ve been very lucky to have worked with some amazing athletes and coaches, such as people who have won World Cups and been on British Lions tours,” said Douglas.
“Having graduated from Hartpury and been away for a number of years, it’s good to be here and have the opportunity to give something back.
“There are so many students from Hartpury who have gone on to have great careers as athletes and coaches, including from the cohort of which I was part, so you’re conscious when you’re talking to these groups that among them could be ‘the next big thing’.”