Student Sport Insight #15 – Troy Walters

In episode #15 of Student Sport Insights, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Troy Walters, a talented football player who graduated in 2023 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sports Coaching and Performance from the University of East London (UEL).

Troy’s university football journey began at Campbellsville University in Kentucky, where he honed his skills for a year before deciding to return to the UK to continue his studies and football career. His experience playing at both the collegiate level in the USA and UEL in England has given him a unique perspective on the differences between the two systems.

Troy’s impact at UEL was profound, leading his team in goals and assists during his first year, which contributed significantly to their promotion to the prestigious BUCS Premier Division. Balancing the demands of academics, sports, and a side business in sports coaching wasn’t without its challenges, as Troy frequently traveled across the country for matches and competitions.

Join us as Troy reflects on his journey as a scholar-athlete and shares invaluable insights for students aspiring to pursue football alongside their studies in the UK.

Student Profile

Name: Troy Walters

Nationality: English

Institution: University of East London

Degree(s): BSc Sports Coaching and Performance

Having experienced playing at both the college level in America and England, what would you describe as some of the main differences?

Prior to joining UEL, I had a full soccer scholarship at Campbellsville University based in Kentucky where I played for one year.

I would say there are many differences between the the USA and the UK. In the States, it is a very professional setup where the student-athlete experience is central and well-defined. In the UK, there has traditionally been a clearer division between education and sport. However, I did notice a shift during my time at UEL, with the level of competition at the university level noticeably improving and sport becoming more ingrained in the culture.”

After deciding to return to the UK to continue your studies, did sport influence your decision on where to attend, specifically the University of East London?

Sport played a pivotal role in my decision to choose the University of East London (UEL).

I moved to London primarily because it offers a greater variety of non-league football clubs compared to Bristol, where I grew up. This was key to me as I knew that I wanted to be involved in playing in a competitive environment in addition to my university football.

I chose to attend UEL specifically because of the football reputation it had and their sporting facilities which were better than other universities in London.”

As a scholar athlete at UEL, how did they support you in ensuring you could compete at a high level alongside your degree?

They gave me a small bursary but the most important thing was access to the university’s sporting facilities such as the gym facilities and also the support staff.

I had access to Physios, Sports Therapists, and Strength and Conditioning coaches which all helped me massively on the pitch and allowed me to improve year on year.”

Troy made a significant impact during his two successful seasons at UEL. In his first year, he led the team in both goals and assists, driving their promotion to the BUCS Premier Division, the highest tier of UK university football.

Did you find it a challenge to balance your sporting commitments alongside your studies? If so, how did you effectively cope with this?

Yes, balancing life as a student-athlete was definitely challenging. In addition to my studies, I was also working and running a sports coaching business on the side.

Long away trips to Cardiff and Exeter with the UEL team, which took around 4-5 hours by car, and simultaneously competing for a club in Guernsey, meant I was constantly on the move across the country.

These experiences taught me valuable time management skills and forced me to make the most of every opportunity to get work done and avoid procrastination.”

What are some of your most memorable moments and what advice would you give to students who wish to play football when studying for a degree in the UK?

Looking back on my career as a UK university student-athlete, there are a few standout moments that really define my experience. Firstly, scoring for England Universities on my debut was an unexpected honor, and the camaraderie and enjoyment I experienced with the team was unforgettable.

Another special memory is scoring a free-kick against Cardiff in the play-off finals, which secured UEL’s promotion to the BUCS Prem Division. Being part of that pivotal moment and contributing to the team’s success was a significant achievement for me.”

What advice would you give to students who wish to play football alongside their UK university studies?

I would definitely encourage students to pursue playing football while studying for a degree in the UK.

It’s important to maintain a strong work ethic, prioritize time management, and minimize distractions. Finding ways to combine responsibilities, such as bringing study materials on away trips, can be incredibly beneficial.”

What have you been up to since graduating from UEL with your Bachelor’s Degree?

I am still very determined to continue working my way up the football pyramid and to make it to the highest level.

This year marked my debut season with Uxbridge Football Club in the competitive Isthmian League South Central Division, a rewarding experience for both the team and myself. We celebrated winning the 2024 Middlesex FA Cup, and I personally made significant contributions with 7 goals and 7 assists from 12 starting appearances.

Off the field, I am dedicated to expanding my coaching business with the goal of establishing it as a leading sports company.”

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