April 6, 2022, by brzbs1

Scholar in Focus: Matthew Howell

Following some incredible success this year, we spoke to University of Nottingham’s sport scholar Matthew Howell. Matthew is a Taekwondo athlete who is in his first year at the university studying Electrical and Electronic Engineering, whilst combining his studies with the demands of being a top student athlete.

Having competed very well in BUCS tournaments this year, as well as continuing to perform successfully in international competition, it has been a brilliant first year for Matthew and we sat down to discuss this with him.


How did you get into the sport of Taekwondo?

So I got into Taekwondo through my dad just taking me along to take part at five years old. He took me because he says that I always used to do things with my feet like picking things up! One of my friends also went to Taekwondo sessions at my local school in Plymouth, and it just happened to be a very good club to be at. However I didn’t actually like going too much at first but my dad kept pushing me to improve, and once I got to more of the fighting and sparring side at around eight years old, I began to fall in love with it. Since then I’ve just been working really hard to continue to improve.


So it really began to take off when you starting competing it sounds like. What experiences have you had competing in Taekwondo?

After I was selected for the Junior World Championships, I was added to the GB Development Squad in 2020. That was a really good moment for me because it allowed me to train at the national centre and that really gave me the belief that I could compete at a high level. I was also selected to train with the seniors for a couple of weeks in the summer which was a really great experience.


It sounds like it’s been a good journey so far. With your dad getting you into the sport, have your parents and family been supportive along the way?

Absolutely, my family have been hugely supportive throughout, taking me to lots and lots of training sessions and competitions over the years. They have also supported me throughout my Taekwondo with the cost of travelling to all of the relevant events and training, and I can’t thank them enough for helping me so much. My family have enjoyed visiting me here in Nottingham and attending some of my competitions which has been really good for both me and them. My dad had never really done Taekwondo himself but he saw how passionate I was and I enjoyed it, but also how much I could learn by doing Taekwondo including discipline and a good work ethic.


When was it that you started to realise that you were improving yours skills to a very high level?

I think it was probably when I won the national championships in 2016 and was crowned the best in Britain for my age. That was when I realised that all of the hard work I’d put in had led to something with the standard I’d reached. Before then I’d never really thought about continuing to compete and pursuing the sport at such a high level, it was something that I just enjoyed doing.


You’re a first year here at the University of Nottingham, what was it that made you want to combine your Taekwondo with your studies?

Firstly, the University of Nottingham has so many good facilities for Taekwondo, as well as a really good Taekwondo club both inside and outside of the university. Being offered a sports scholarship further reinforced my desire to come here. As well as the sport, I’ve always been interested in things like maths and physics so to be studying Electrical and Electronic Engineering is also great for me.


What are your future goals, both here at the University of Nottingham and after you graduate too?

I just want to keep improving by training with the university teams and keep progressing like I have been this year. I’ve been able to perform really well at international level since I’ve been here in Nottingham I think that just shows the environment here is helping me to continue to keep getting better. My aspirations after I graduate are to be a part of the full time national team first and foremost, but my degree will provide me with something to fall back on too. As a Taekwondo athlete, there are many things that can go wrong such as injuries or just not performing, and it’s generally not a long career for many at the top in the sport, so to have my degree will be really helpful. I definitely want to go into a job within the engineering sector in the future.


Looking back at your first year here in BUCS competition, how has it gone so far?

So I’ve competed in all three BUCS Taekwondo competitions this year and each of them have gone really well for me and my teammates. I managed to finish first and win gold in every single event, which has been really good as it’s helped show the standard that I’m competing at. None of my fights have gone to the final round because of how well I’ve been performing so I’m really pleased with that.


How has the experience been this year to be a part of the Taekwondo club?

The university club team has been very good to be a part of. Everyone is really nice and welcoming, and everyone just loves the sport. It’s clear that we all just want the best for each other which is really nice. They’ve definitely helped me improve and it’s been a brilliant environment to be a part of.


Why should other look to take up the sport and join the Taekwondo club at the University Of Nottingham?

I just think that once you really get into the sport with good fundamentals, it’s something that you can really express yourself in. It’s like a game of chess whilst you are fighting and it’s not too dangerous either. There are rules to keep you safe and I’ve found that the sport is also really good for your mental health too because it’s a brilliant release. You can just forget your problems and focus on the task ahead, whilst also being a part of a brilliant team environment. The club is always welcoming new members regardless of experience so if you want to try Taekwondo, I would recommend just reaching out to the club on social media.


What’s it been like to be a sports scholar and manage the balance between academics and sport?

The university and scholar team have been really good offering useful workshops around many different things, including useful topics such as CV’s and future employment. I’ve found that as long as you stay disciplined the balance of university work and being an athlete isn’t too bad. You’ve just got to keep on top of things and I’m hoping that I can continue to do that as well as I have this year.

If you look back to when you were thinking about applying to the University of Nottingham, what advice would you give to yourself now having been here for a year?

I’d say that making sure you consider everything about the university, not just the course and the name, but to ensure its somewhere that you’ll enjoy. I wasn’t able to visit the university before I arrived because of Coronavirus but I attended some online sessions and they really cemented that I wanted to come and study here, and ultimately it’s been a very good year here.


We thank Matthew for his time in speaking to us, and we look forward to seeing his continued progression and success at the University of Nottingham, as well as in international Taekwondo competition. 


As well as a reputation for academic excellence, we have a history of sporting success and are passionate about supporting promising athletes during their time at the University of Nottingham. To find out more about our Sports Scholarships, please click here.

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