July 21, 2022, by brzbs1
Commonwealth Athlete in Focus: Jamie Barden
Jamie Barden will be heading to Birmingham this summer as part of Team England’s Rugby Sevens Commonwealth Games squad. A sport scholar at the University of Nottingham, Jamie has also been a big part of the University of Nottingham Men’s Rugby Union Club and their success this year. We spoke to Jamie about his time at university as well as the upcoming challenges ahead, and look forward to supporting him at the games.
Great to speak to you Jamie. Firstly, how did you get into the sport of Rugby?
I lived in London originally and then I moved school to a school called the Duke of Kent where I first started playing and was introduced to Rugby at the age of nine. Shortly after that I also joined Cranleigh Rugby Club and it was there that I really started enjoying it. It was at Cranleigh that I started training regularly and playing games at the weekend. When I left Duke of Kent, I then went to Cranleigh School which had an amazing rugby programme and the sport became a massive part of my life. A big thank you to one of my first coaches Gareth who introduced me to the sport, and my school coach Andy who showed me what was needed to step up in levels.
What was it about the sport that you particularly enjoyed?
I was a back luckily so I enjoyed getting the ball in space and trying to get round and past people. I also really enjoyed the physical aspect too – in Rugby you can have someone twice the size of you running at you, but you still have a chance of tackling them so I found that quite cool. Off the pitch, the camaraderie in the team environment with seeing your mates at the weekend to play matches and meet in the clubhouse was just really fun.
You mention playing as a back there, what position would you class yourself as now?
In the 15-man game I’ve predominantly been playing as a centre, and then in Rugby Sevens I’ve moved into the forwards as a hooker – mainly because I’m not quick enough! It’s obviously a little bit different in sevens because it’s only a three man scrum, however I really enjoy both games. I’ve hugely enjoyed playing 15-man rugby at the University Of Nottingham, but if I had to choose I would say sevens. I prefer having more space and less people trying to crash into you!
What was it that made you want to combine playing Rugby with your academics?
So when I left school I was offered a sevens contract. I finished my A-Levels and was straight into training the day after and I absolutely loved it. I really enjoyed the programme and they offered me two more years halfway through my first year which I thought hard about accepting. However, I decided to go to university because one of my team mates Harry Glover was at Newcastle University so I saw that it could be done (combining both aspects), so that was what I aspired to do – keep playing and study. The drive behind choosing to attend university was to have something else to focus on other than rugby, almost as a release from the sport. I’ve done academics all the way through to when I was eighteen and I really enjoyed learning new things, and with the support of my mum and dad they also saw I would have something to fall back on with a degree.
When it came to deciding on which university to attend, what was it about Nottingham that made you want to train, play and study here?
First and foremost it was the sport. You look at the Russell Group Universities and I learnt about Nottingham’s sports facilities and achievements in the BUCS tables, so deciding on where I could combine academics with sport – the University of Nottingham was the only university that I wanted to go to. I never actually visited but I spoke to some former students who had great things to say.
What is it that you are studying at the University of Nottingham?
I’m following my mum and dad in studying Law – both of them are lawyers so it was very creative for me to study Law too! It’s a subject that you never really learn about at school even though it’s fairly fundamental to how we live. As I started learning more about it and I actually looked at the profession, I started to find it really interesting.
My parents have always been supportive of all that I’ve done, taking me to training sessions and matches up and down the country so I’m very grateful. They’ve given me the platform to be where I am now.
What are your plans once you finish your degree at the university?
I haven’t really planned too much because of the nature of the sevens programme and its future. I definitely want to qualify as a lawyer and sit the LPC which takes a year, however they are fairly flexible and can be done part-time so I should be able to continue with my rugby too.
What are your current aims with your rugby career?
It’s quite hard to look too far ahead but with the sevens squad we’ve been playing World Series tournaments and have been fairly successful within that. Looking ahead I obviously have the Commonwealth Games with Team England and the Rugby Sevens World Cup. So, in the short term it’s pretty busy with big tournaments which is really exciting.
How does it feel to be selected for the Commonwealth Games?
With it being a home games in Birmingham it’s going to be really cool. You don’t really think about it too much because there has been so much in the lead-up to the games but the idea of playing in a Commonwealth Games is a massive honour. To represent your country at one of the biggest tournaments is definitely something that I’m hugely looking forward to! With the World Cup in South Africa shortly after it’s definitely going to be a busy summer!
What has your experience been like as part of the University of Nottingham Rugby Union Club?
I’ve loved every minute of it. I can’t say a bad word about the club – the culture is so good to be a part of. Paul (Westgate, Head Coach) is doing such a good job, winning the league and promotion, as well as a cup win. I think last year was a bit of a knock because that year’s team had a really good group and unfortunately Covid happened. However, this team led by Ben Sugars have been amazing and well drilled. First and foremost it’s a lot of friends playing together and having fun but the results have come and they’re willing to run through brick walls for you. I think even when people leave the university, the club is still a big part of people’s lives even if it’s just following results or coming down to watch matches and support.
As a sports scholar, how have you found the support from University of Nottingham Sport?
Well I had exams in the January period but I was travelling for international competition at the same time so I spoke to Phil Wood (Scholarships & Recruitment Manager) who spoke with the right people at the university so that I could sit the exams when possible for me, so the university have been really supportive in both aspects. Being in camp quite often, my tutor has been able to move certain things for me and the scholarship programme helps scholars achieve both academically and with our sports.
What would your advice be to someone thinking about studying and playing sport at the University Of Nottingham?
It’s been so enjoyable for me to be at the university. I’ve made lifelong friends at the university and within the rugby club because you get to know so many people. I’d first and foremost encourage going to university and getting a degree, but also putting yourself out there and joining sports clubs because it’s a great experience for me. I can’t speak highly enough of playing rugby at Nottingham.
We thank Jamie for his time and everyone at University of Nottingham Sport wishes him the very best of luck this summer.
You can find out more about University of Nottingham Sport at the 2022 Commonwealth Games and keep up to date with the #GreenandGold’s achievements by visiting our dedicated Commonwealth web page.
Find out more about performance sport and combining your studies with elite university sport at the University of Nottingham here.
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