Home>Sport>Study. Train. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. – reaching for the stars as a sports undergraduate in the USA

Study. Train. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. – reaching for the stars as a sports undergraduate in the USA

Friday 12 November in Sport

An ex-Ramsey Grammar Pupil is leaping to new heights at Northern State University in South Dakota state, USA. Nineteen-year-old Glen Quayle is studying for a degree in Graphic Design alongside training full-time as a pole vaulter. After banking his GCSEs, went on to train at Loughborough college for three years, before moving to America to pursue a career in sport.

Could the first Manx pole vaulter put the sport, and our island, on the map?

Islandlife.im spoke to Glen to find out more about his university experience so far:

How does it feel to be studying and training in America?

Unreal! It’s a journey that just keeps on giving. I’m still getting used to the time difference and the culture, especially how everyone carries guns over here. South Dakota is a small, student town and definitely reminds me of the Isle of Man, but I really like my course mates and teammates.

Why did you decide to pursue higher education in the USA?

The opportunity came up out of the blue. My Loughborough coach mentioned it to me casually and it was only after I looked further into it that I realised it was something I wanted to pursue. You have to sign up with an agency, who then create an online profile for you where coaches in the USA can view.

Glen Quayle

After that, coaches get in contact with you and recruit you from there. Northern State got in touch with me and offered what they could. For me, it seemed like the best place to go as I really liked the coach and the school. Top athletes from the UK end up going to America because the quality of training facilities and level of competition is so high.

Pole vaulting is not a sport you come across often in the Isle of Man. When did you start pole vaulting?

I’ve been doing it since I was twelve – I used to do gymnastics from a very early age but wanted to try something new like athletics. I tried pretty much all athletics activities but it was only when someone from the UK came over to do a pole vault workshop that I got a taste for the sport. One of the Manx coaches started organising more events for athletes and brought poles and equipment over, it took off from there.

Manx weather and facilities are challenging training conditions for most athletes, especially for a pole vaulter – how did you cope?

It was very hard - wind and rain are never nice to train in. I knew I had to go off island for better and more specialist training so that’s what I did.

In what way does a sporting scholarship differ in the USA than that in the UK?

American universities definitely focus more on the student part! To still be eligible to train I have to have a GPA (grade point average) of 3.5. If I was to fail my classes I wouldn’t be able to train or compete so that’s always something you have to keep in mind.

It’s good though because it makes you work hard. I have to take a load of extra general education classes first - even though I’m still taking creative classes, I also have to take US history, math, English etc - it all goes towards your final grade.

Wow that’s a lot of pressure to carry – how do you balance it all, studying, training, eating and sleeping?

All my classes are in the morning (9am – 2pm) and then I have the whole afternoon to train and study. I have to be in a certain place, at a certain time to study - it works out well because if I didn’t do that, I probably wouldn’t do work in my room.

I think if you’re at university in the UK, it’s easy to forget about your studies and focus on your sport. American universities tailor your classes around your sports training and ensure they don’t clash. I have meetings with my Head Coach every now and then to catch up on how my schoolwork and training are going.

Who has been your biggest supporter?

Definitely my coach on the Isle of Man, John Whitlow. He really helped me when I first started and introduced me to the sport. Alan and Jan Croll were also very kind – donating money to IOM Athletics for poles which supported me throughout my journey to Loughborough and beyond, and I’m very grateful.

Where do you think this opportunity could lead to?

My dream would be to reach the Olympics. Before that though, I would love to get a Commonwealth Games or at least a few European Athletic Championships under my belt. It’s hard to think ahead though as I’m still trying to get through my first year of university! However, I am so excited for next summer in the USA when athletics season starts again.

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