For many years, Great Britain has been producing excellent disabled athletes. Amazingly, however, until only five years ago, there was no sports coaching degree course specialising in disability sports. Course leader, David Mycock, of the University of Worcester, spoke with Able Magazine to tell us more about this UK first.

The University of Worcester is a leading institution regarding inclusivity for disabled students. Mycock had a background in professional football and had worked already with several Paralympians at the university and helped to develop the BSC in Sports Coaching Science with Disability Sport.

The University of Worcester has a solid reputation for inclusivity. Is the course open for anyone, or aimed solely at disabled students? 

It’s is open to anybody, however, about 35-40% of the students do have some form of disability. It’s an interest for them as players, coaches and practitioners.

We are getting quite a lot of people who are wanting to study sports coaching science that are able bodied that want to develop their practices to become more inclusive in a wider range of sports.

We usually get about 35 people a year apply, of which we probably take between 15 and 20. They’re usually people who have a genuine interest, concern or a condition themselves and they want to develop an opportunity to widen their own career aspirations through a specific pathway in disability sport which nobody else can offer.

So, with that in mind, even somebody with experience as, say, a wheelchair racer, wouldn’t have a natural advantage over the other students? 

They wouldn’t be disadvantaged or advantaged. We pride ourselves on being inclusive, so we adapt resources: the classrooms are all accessible, we’ve got an arena that’s a purpose-built facility for wheelchair users. All the resources are adapted for different people with specific learning difficulties. We’ve put together a package of resources that will fit anybody, so they’re all accessible.

We’ve got something like 30% above the national average for people who attend university who have a disability. Because we’ve got this course we’ve got more inclusive facilities than most. We’re building an international centre for inclusive physical activity.

Can you outline the course content? 

It’s a three year Bachelor of Science degree, modular programme. Students do eight different topics each year; things like adapted physical activity, sport, entrepreneurship, the historical aspect, special educational needs and mainstream schools.

There is a really wide-reaching area between coaching and special education teaching.  So that’s what the course aims to fulfil. To enable people who wish to coach, develop their own business, maybe become entrepreneurial, understand the laws, legal framework, the national governing body’s position on coaching disability sports or get into design and technology.

It’s practical in nature because we want people to be able to go out into the field and develop the practices of schools, clubs, coaching and sport in general. It’s effective. Our students have got an 85% employability rate. They go into disability sports or special educational needs.

It’s a very wide syllabus. It sounds like it might otherwise have been launched as a Bachelor of Arts degree rather than as a Bachelor of Science degree…

Well, it’s got the sports coaching science with disability sport because we are trying to support students physiologically, psychologically, socially and technically. We’re trying to give a holistic level of care so our coaches can identify things that are physiological in nature or work on psychological skills: training with an athlete and things like that.

We’ve just revalidated the course so we’ve now got a wider array of disability specific modules. So, we look at autism and we look at mental health. It’s a mixture of how to coach people in different sports, looking at the different abilities and disabilities. There are some optional modules as well, so people can make that degree fit to their specific needs and interests.

You have to be able to sit in a chair, listen and understand. It’s got a 280 point UCAS tariff so you also have to have a certain amount of academic ability. That’s negotiable if you’ve got an accreditation for prior learning or something like that.
It’s a rare person that would be expert in all forms of disability. How does the course manage such a wide remit?

The first year is about the fundamental aspects of what are these conditions, what’s the terminology, what’s the current form, how has this evolved to become a stand-alone career?  The second year is a lot more applied, where we bring in special schools, our students work with a range of conditions, they can identify and try to specialise within one or two of the impairment groups and take it further through the governing bodies or by doing extra workshops.

We build in some of the governing body awards into the programme. They can get a general and disability awareness from the course but obviously there are elements that they can derive deeper understanding of through placement, voluntary activities and additional enrichment activities.

Will Norman is visually impaired. He’s played for England and Great Britain and obviously he works supporting some of the modules. We bring in guest lecturers so we’re really making it quite a rich experience.



The University of Worcester has also started to produce guides and materials to help promote inclusive teaching. Inclusive Lead for PE at Worcester, Rebecca Foster is the author of ‘The Busy Lecturers Guide’.

“The guide is a resource for any members of staff that might have students with additional needs. It’s a very quick user-friendly resource where they can get bite-sized information.

What is unique about the guide is that it gives staff advice about what they can do before the module, during and afterwards. It breaks it down for whatever stage lecturers come to know a particular student. It also includes video clips and top tips which are both useful, and quite humorous – just to engage people, regarding use of the correct terms or ‘what not to do’.

The plan is to put it out on social media to make it accessible to all. “

The University of Worcester has also started to promote next year’s European Congress of Adapted Physical Activity, (EUCAPA) which they’ll be hosting.

“We have three parts to it because we’re trying to hit as many delegates as possible, so we have a strand on adapted physical activity in sport, another one on education and another on health and rehabilitation. We’re hoping to attract a range of professionals and interested bodies to share their experience and listen to some of the keynote speakers we’ve got and we’re also hoping to attract disabled people to the conference which runs from 3 -5 July 2018.”