The next generation of sports stars studying at Heriot-Watt University are set to benefit from the experience of two high-level coaches who have joined Oriam, Scotland’s Sports Performance Centre.
Three-time Commonwealth Games medallist in squash, Donna Lobban, and UEFA A licensed football coach, Olabanji Koya, are helping lead a new sport scholarship programme. Their appointments reaffirm Heriot-Watt’s growing stature as an elite sporting university.
Launched earlier this year in partnership between the University and Oriam, the Club Performance Scholarships allow students to manage their time between studying for an academic degree while being equipped with all the tools necessary to advance in either football or squash, including fitness testing, physiotherapy, strength & conditioning, and recovery strategies.
The appointment of Donna and Olabanji speaks to our ambitions of attracting the best sporting talent to Oriam and Heriot-Watt University. Oriam is already home to many professional sporting teams, and students who come here will have access to the best training facilities and expert insight, giving them the opportunity to succeed.
Donna joins Oriam as its head coach for squash having made her Commonwealth Games debut in Dehli in 2010 where she won the bronze medal in the women’s doubles for Australia. This was followed with a gold medal in the mixed doubles and a further bronze medal in the women’s doubles in the 2018 Games held on the Gold Coast.
She has competed as a professional squash player for the last 17 years and says her experience and undiminished passion for the sport will help players studying in Scotland achieve their goals.
Donna said: “I love the idea of passing on the knowledge I have gained over the years to younger players.
“That’s what really appealed to me about joining Oriam and being part of this fantastic scholarship programme. As a professional athlete, I know what it is like to get the best out of a young player. You need access to strength and conditioning support, physio support, hydro-therapy for recovery; a suite of specialist support. This can be really expensive and hard to access, so if you’re looking to study and be an athlete at the same time then our scholarships are ideal.
“We already have a lot of high level squash players here, and there really is no better place to be than Oriam and Heriot-Watt University for any young person with ambitions to do well in a sport.”
Oriam offers a yearly sports scholarship programme, designed to embed a high performance training environment into a sports scholars weekly schedule from its base at Heriot-Watt’s Edinburgh campus.
Olabanji is the first Head of Football at Oriam, and is responsible for supporting scholars on their academic and sporting journeys.
The football scholarship, Olabanji explains, can open doors to a variety of careers both in and out of the sport.
“There are supported pathways for players to reach the professional game or into other areas of the game, such as coaching,” he continues.
“The skills learnt here are transferrable. Leadership and teamwork, for example, are fantastic skills to have and give students flexibility to go in a completely different direction should they choose to do so. But anyone who comes here to study and play sport will receive the very best environment to succeed. They will have access to the latest sporting technology and specialist support from a team of experienced practitioners who want the very best for them.”
The Club Performance Scholarships programme offers pathways for students to study at Heriot-Watt University while receiving specialist support to advance in either football or squash. In addition to accessing world-class training facilities, scholars on this programme receive a 40% reduction on their university fees. While the scholarships are initially for a 12-month period this can be extended to cover a student’s entire time at university based on their performance.
There are also individual sports scholarships available to anyone not competing in football or squash. Successful applicants will access the same wide range of support offered by the Club Performance Scholarships but it operates over a two tier system. Level 1 scholars are required to compete at a professional or international level before starting the course and they will receive a 25% reduction on their university fees.
Level 2 scholars are typically younger and, as part of their application process, must submit a written endorsement from their sport’s national governing body to indicate they are likely to reach a professional level.
Ross Campbell, Executive Director of Oriam, said: “The appointment of Donna and Olabanji speaks to our ambitions of attracting the best sporting talent to Oriam and Heriot-Watt University. Oriam is already home to many professional sporting teams, and students who come here will have access to the best training facilities and expert insight, giving them the opportunity to succeed.
“We know how huge sport is to our students and to wider society. With the arrival of a suite of new sporting teaching programmes already launched or in the pipeline, there is an exciting shift in the university’s ambitions in this sector and with our specialist training, state-of-the-art facilities and growing reputation, we are on course to become the destination of choice for aspiring athletes.
“Donna and Olabanji are absolutely central to this ambition and I’m delighted they have chosen Oriam to pass on their knowledge to the next generation.”
For more information or to apply for a sport scholarship at Oriam visit the website.