Case study

Cycling to success: starting a degree in the pandemic

Cycling scholar, Dan Cooper, explains how the University's sports scholarship scheme helped him continue his journey as an elite athlete whilst supporting his study for a Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation degree.

Childhood passion to champion

I am studying an undergraduate degree in Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation. My sports scholarship is for cycling, my focused discipline is track sprint. I have been riding a bike ever since I can remember and started competing in local competitions at the age of eight. When I was 14, I started taking cycling more seriously as I started to see my potential, which then led to me receiving an invitation to join the Great British Cycling Team.

I represented my country as a youth and junior cyclist for the following four years competing at the World Championships and European Championships in 2018 and 2019. I also became National Junior Sprint Champion in 2019, beating all my competition in straight races. It was such an amazing experience competing at these events.

Support through the unexpected

When I started at University, I had no idea what to expect due to the constantly changing circumstances with the pandemic, but everything was so well organised and they had adapted everything really well to ensure no one was going to miss out on learning experiences.

Within the first couple of days, there were online MS Teams meetings with the sport scholarship and performance staff where they introduced themselves and informed us all of the opportunities available throughout the year. This introduction and getting to know the staff made me more excited for the journey ahead. I felt confident in the support that I had from such a great team.

Dan Cooper wearing cycling gear, riding a bike.

The Sport Scholarship Scheme was the biggest attraction for me to choose my current course, this is because the University has been awarded the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS) dual-career accreditation.

Daniel Cooper
Cycling Scholar

Finding the right balance at Derby

I would highly recommend the University of Derby to other elite athletes. The University has so much to offer you in supporting you through your sport and studies. In the past, I have sometimes struggled to get the balance but at Derby, I have been able to fully commit sufficient time to train while ensuring my grades are as good as they can be. The staff are there to support you at any time you need; whether it’s sport or study-related, they will do whatever they can to help. 

Working better, together

The training environment is amazing, I have met new people who do the same sport as me that I did not know before, and it is great working with them to better yourself as an athlete and as a person. The same goes for the staff; they take their experiences to help drive you to push yourself to become the best version of yourself. 

A cyclist rides a bike against a pink and purple background.

Scholarship perks 

There are many different benefits of being a sport scholar-athlete. The financial support is a huge help as a student, and there is a 15% reduction on all student halls along with a certain amount of money deducted off tuition fees, depending on what level of scholarship you are granted. Some of the services offered through the sport scholarship scheme include physiotherapy, gym coaching, wellbeing and psychological support and much more. All of these services are easily accessed just by sending a message to arrange a time and date. 

In the sports centre there is a large gym and a performance suite. The gym contains a variety of different equipment for everyone’s needs, and the membership is free as a sport scholar-athlete. As a sports scholar, you also have access to the performance suite. This gym is full of elite performance equipment, for many sports.

Aiming for gold

My sporting goals for the future are to compete at the BUCS and to win gold for the University of Derby in track sprinting. This is a goal I wish to achieve in the next couple of years. Another sporting goal is to compete in as many elite competitions as I can by getting invited to represent my country again wearing the Union Jack flag on my kit. 

My career goal is to complete my course at the University and follow it up with a Master's degree. Once I have completed university I want to help athletes get back to full fitness after suffering injuries, as quickly as possible while ensuring no lasting effects which will impair their future success.

Student on a bike in the performance suite at the Sports Centre.

Our Performance Sport programmes

We run a sector-leading performance programme for badminton, basketball, volleyball, football and cycling.

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