Women in Sport

Following the success of This Girl Can week, this page celebrates the achievements of sportswomen at the University of Exeter. We are proud to support our female scholars and High Performance athletes, and hope that they are an inspiration to active women everywhere, as well as our current and future students.

‌‌Shannon, originally from Washington DC, completed her undergraduate degree at Pennsylvania State University in the United States and moved to Exeter to complete a postgraduate course in Education as well as becoming player-coach for the student Lacrosse Team.

Before arriving in Exeter Shannon had never previously been overseas, but spotted an advert looking for American student-athlete graduates to study abroad. This opportunity was of great interest, as in the US only undergraduates are allowed to play sport for their university, which is not the case in the UK. Coming to Exeter has allowed Shannon to play the sport she loves to a high level, to study at a leading Global 100 University, and to coach and lead a focus sport at The Times and Sunday Times Sports University of the Year 2016.

As a player-coach, Shannon has a unique eye on what’s going on during the match, as her experience of playing Lacrosse gives her a better insight into the game. She also works closely with the club captains to ensure the players are fully prepared for games.

“I actually really enjoy it because it’s easier for me to feel and see what’s going on, and it’s nice during practices to just step off for a second, take a look and see what’s going on, so I can contribute that way. Sometimes when you’re in the mix of it, you can’t really see what’s happening, but as I’m an attacker it’s easy to step off and watch the defence. I make a practice plan, and the captains are really helpful as well; we always have a meeting after game days, so every Thursday we get the team together and talk about strengths and what we can work on for next time to set up playing the following week. So I’m adjusting the plays, whereas the captains do more of team morale.” 

Shannon is impressed with the sports facilities and the support here at Exeter and is keen to continue and improve the incredible reputation that the University of Exeter has for sport. She appreciates the need to balance sport with her studies, and has noticed a key difference between the US and the UK in this area: 

“It is very different, because in the States you would never miss a practice, whereas over here people may leave practice early for a lecture. In the States, they schedule lectures around your practice and training. So that is the biggest difference, because the priority here is on academics.”

Having a positive impact through her coaching is very important to Shannon, and she feels she will bring something new to the club.

“I’m trying to bring that intense morale to the girls, and get them excited to compete. Once we’re on the field it’s intense, but sometimes it’s hard to get everyone ‘up’ for early morning trainings, which is understandable.”

Shannon is really enjoying her life at Exeter and is interested in learning more about life in Britain. However, she admits that it has taken some time to get used to the different words and phrases - as well as the British sense of humour!

“I  had no idea what a flapjack was before I came here. We don’t have them in the States so I’d never tried one, never heard of it. It’s also ‘training’ rather than ‘practice’; it’s a ‘pitch’ rather than a ‘field’. First of all when people were saying ‘the pitch’, I was wondering where and what is that? I’m trying to catch up on the slang but a lot of the time I’m sitting there in confusion. I don’t understand sarcasm, but I’m slowly starting to catch on - I know they’re probably joking, but at the time everyone seems so serious…!”

Lacrosse is one of nine focus sports at the University, and Exeter ranked 3rd for Lacrosse in the UK British Universities and Colleges Sport Rankings for 2014/2015, with club members achieving National and International recognition.

The University of Exeter Sports Scholarship Scheme is one of the most prestigious in the UK, helping the best student athletes reach their full potential. The scheme provides a comprehensive support package and is tailored to suit the needs of each individual athlete. Many of our graduating scholars have progressed to a professional level in their chosen sport and represented their respective countries on the global stage.

Sports Scholarships are available to the most outstanding student athletes who show evidence of achievement at national or international level, primarily awarded to those competing in our Focus Sports.

While studying for a degree in Business and Spanish, Kathryn also plays Hockey for the University of Exeter, the Exeter National League Club (ISCA) and England and Great Britain Under-21s.

“There is no time to waste!  My programme for England is a day a week for three weeks, then a week off. Most of it is up at Lilleshall, near Birmingham, so it’s quite a lot of travel, but it’s worth it. Obviously I miss training down here a bit, and I’ve got to balance not doing too much - my coach is always having a go at me for over-training! In Exeter I play for the National League side, ISCA, so I play for them on a Saturday and the University on a Wednesday with England stuff in-between.”

Academic work is fitted in around Hockey and Kathryn appreciates the university set-up which allows her to balance both sides of her life.

“Everyone in the High Performance Programme has an adviser – they help you with timetable clashes or any problems you have. The Business School is really understanding, and luckily most of my lectures are recorded so if I miss them I can watch them online.”

Kathryn was recently delighted to learn that she had been selected for the Great Britain Under-21 squad, which will see her fly to America for a tour in January 2016 with her teammate Meg Crowson, another Hockey scholar at Exeter. Kathryn can’t speak highly enough of Exeter University, and despite aiming to progress her Hockey as far as it will go, she is very aware of the need to plan for a career. As a final year student, she’s now interviewing for jobs in finance and banking.

“I’ve had to re-work all my modules so I don’t have any January exams, but they’re pretty supportive of it at the University. I’m good at managing stress – I just get my head down and get through the work. I don’t panic about it, I just get stuck in. I like the fact Exeter is an academic university as well as a sporting university so you get the balance of both, and the Business School is really highly rated. I love it here!”

Never missing an opportunity to improve in all parts of her life, Kathryn Lane is clearly a name to watch for the future.

Hockey is one of nine focus sports at the University, which has a reputation for continued success in the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) competitions. The University of Exeter finished 6th overall in the 2014/15 BUCS Hockey rankings.

The University of Exeter Sports Scholarship Scheme is one of the most prestigious in the UK, helping the best student athletes reach their full potential. The scheme provides a comprehensive support package and is tailored to suit the needs of each individual athlete. Many of our graduating scholars have progressed to a professional level in their chosen sport and represented their respective countries on the global stage.

Sports Scholarships are available to the most outstanding student athletes who show evidence of achievement at national or international level, and are primarily awarded to those competing in our Focus Sports.

Prior to studying for a degree in Psychology with Sports Science at the University of Exeter, Alex had already played Golf to a high standard, competing for her home club (Bristol and Clifton) and for Gloucestershire County. Now in her final year, Alex has enjoyed considerable sporting achievements during her time at University, and says that coming to Exeter was a no-brainer.

“Once I’d been to St Luke’s and learnt about the degree programme, and met up with Craig Townsend (High Performance Manager) to talk about the golf set-up – which I knew was really good here – I didn’t want to go anywhere else.”

Alex feels that her game has really developed since joining the University, and her handicap has dropped from four to one. Being in the High Performance environment at Exeter has paid dividends, and Alex has a strong desire to keep improving.

“Since I’ve been here, things have gone well. We were the top points-scoring university for golf last year, and being a part of the team is great – it’s helped me a lot. I won the most recent BUCS competition, my first individual BUCS Gold. Last year three of us made it to BUCS finals, which was held up in Scotland – I came third and one of the other girls came second, and as a team we came second, losing out by just one shot. So we’re getting towards challenging for the big ones now, which is good.”

In 2014-15, Exeter became the first university to achieve over 200 points and was also ranked first in BUCS rankings. In the same year, the mixed second team won the BUCS Trophy and the mixed third team won the BUCS conference cup, with both teams also winning their respective leagues.

Training at such a high level requires a considerable time commitment - which often includes significant travel time, as Exeter’s greatest Golfing rival is the University of Stirling, in Scotland.

 “Our BUCS matches are on a Wednesday, so sometimes if we’re travelling we have to go up the night before.  I usually manage to balance my studies, but I have a scholar mentor who helps me to re-arrange things if I need to.”

After graduating, Alex intends to take a year out to concentrate on her Golf, but tries to remain level-headed when thinking about the future and whether or not she will try to make it on the professional stage.

“I might travel to Europe and play some of the European events, and just see how I get on. I don’t think I’d turn professional – it’s not the life for me. You have to be so good, and you live out of a suitcase. You go to a hotel room, the golf club, then back to the hotel room.”

A mature head on young shoulders, she’s honest with herself about why she plays the sport.

“I love Golf, but I love it because it’s my chosen sport – it’s not my job. If I made it my job I’d stop loving it. Although having said that, it’ll be interesting to take a year out and focus on it – because I’m going to treat it like it is my job for a year, and see how I get on.”

The University of Exeter has a proud Golfing tradition and is currently ranked first in the BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sport) Golf rankings 2014/15, having amassed more BUCS points in Golf last season than any UK institution previously.

‌Bethan Zeidler is a University of Exeter alumna who is making waves in Sprint Kayak, having previously been more likely to be spotted on the Netball court.

Having captained the University Netball team in her third year, Bethan applied to join the GB Canoeing talent identification scheme “Girls 4 Gold”, which aims to select those with the necessary physical and mental attributes to succeed in Canoeing and to make them into champions. Bethan won one of twelve places on the scheme and was chosen from over 700 applicants.

She had never canoed before, but was able to impress coaches over initial trial weekends and was put forward for a six-week assessment at Holme Pierrepont National Watersports Centre in Nottingham, where GB Canoeing is based. The trial process was incredibly testing and Bethan pays tribute to the High Performance sports set-up at Exeter which enabled her to thrive under pressure.

“Without Exeter I would not be where I am today, and without the lifestyle and mentality that I built up as a High Performance Programme (HPP) athlete I don't think I would have been mentally or physically prepared for the trials. Fitness played a massive part, and my Netball training and Strength and Conditioning (S&C) coaching enabled me to excel in this. During the six-week camp they tested our resilience, determination and mental toughness with three sessions a day out on the lake. They expected us to get back into the boat after falling into the freezing lake, day after day, never giving up. I think if I had not been involved in the High Performance environment at Exeter I would not have been mentally prepared - but due to early morning training, fitness testing and challenging sessions I was prepared in the best way possible.”

Bethan’s time at Exeter started with a mixture of Sport Science and Netball.

“I chose to apply to Exeter because at the time, Exeter was the top University in the country for Sport Science, and they had a very successful Netball team. It was mainly for the Netball really, but the Sport Science department was amazing. When I first arrived I was lucky enough to be picked for the Exeter University Netball Club (EUNC) 1st team, so from the start I was immersed in High Performance life, which was all very new to me. I loved the lifestyle and was privileged enough to stay in the first team and the HPP squad for my three years. The years I spent at Exeter were some of the best of my life – I will never forget my time there and was lucky enough to make friends for life.”

Having been a full-time Sprint Kayaker for 16 months now, Bethan’s long-term aims are clear.

“My goal is to make it into the Women's GB Sprint Kayak team, and then ultimately to represent GB in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.”