EDUCATION | From Grassroots to Graduation: Rhys Topham’s Journey with Rotherham United Sports College 

Published: 06/06/2024

How one student’s passion for football and academics led to a transformative 4-year experience with the Sports Coaching and Development course at Rotherham United Sports College.  Rhys Topham has been a student with Rotherham United Sports College since 2020, and over the last 4 years has successfully achieved a Level 3 BTEC Extended Diploma and… Continue reading EDUCATION | From Grassroots to Graduation: Rhys Topham’s Journey with Rotherham United Sports College 

How one student’s passion for football and academics led to a transformative 4-year experience with the Sports Coaching and Development course at Rotherham United Sports College. 

Rhys Topham has been a student with Rotherham United Sports College since 2020, and over the last 4 years has successfully achieved a Level 3 BTEC Extended Diploma and Foundation Degree. Rhys is local to Rotherham, so initially chose to study at the college due to convenience, his interest in football and being a life-long fan of Rotherham United F.C. 

Having always played football growing up, and now at the age of studying past GCSE’s, Rhys gravitated towards Rotherham United Sports College due to their unique structured football environment with academics coming hand-in-hand. Rhys stated, “It’s the closest you can get to an Academy setting with training three times a week, having a fixture once a week, and learning all at the same time. Rhys found what he was learning in the classroom, he was implementing within training or matches. 

Rhys faced some challenges before coming to RUSC and was coming to the end of year 11 at his secondary school unsure what career path he wanted to pursue. The idea of a “traditional” college route did not seem appealing. However, his passion for sports and football was a key factor, despite never playing football at a higher level at an early age and having only played grassroots or in a development setting. 

Rotherham United Sports College presented an alternative option for Rhys, who did not wish to complete his studies in sixth form and wanted to combine academic studies with practical sporting experience. This choice then led Rhys to make the decision to stay on to study a degree with RUSC, “I stayed because of the familiarity, the tutors were a huge support throughout college, I knew I had that existing support system. The first two years at college were so good, and I just knew that the next two years were only going to get better.” 

Rhys mentioned how his confidence has grown over the last 4 years, and how he feels that he has become a role model to other students. “Now we are the oldest in the current group, it gives you responsibility and you become a role model. You can help the other students with things they need because you have been through it. It is nice to feel like you can help them and become a role model. But I have no doubt that some of the others are going to step up when we leave, the confidence they have already is great to see.” 

When asked about the relationship between academic and athletic commitments, Rhys highlighted that the combination of both not only makes you become a better athlete/footballer but also a better learner, the focus on improving as an athlete not only physically but mentally with the understanding of fitness and coaching helped him develop. 

“I feel like it’s an understatement as to what they actually promote at Rotherham United Sports College, if they advertised half of the stuff that we have done over the last 4 years, people would jump at the chance to because it’s been amazing.” 

In his time at the college, Rhys was part of the Shadow Academy, one of the teams that RUSC offered to join when studying. Rhys told us that the team has just got better in his 4 years, with credit going to Jamie Yates, Football Development Officer at Rotherham United Community Trust. Rhys has been fortunate enough to not only travel to many football grounds in the UK to play, but also to Barcelona and Italy with the Shadow Academy. 

Rotherham United Sports College run their degree in partnership with the University of South Wales, within this the students go to Wales to complete some of their degree. Rhys told us how beneficial this was, commenting on how professionally run the college feels and the opportunities that the college has internally and externally.  

Rhys has expressed that coaching is not in his plan right now for his career, but he has all the suitable qualification to take him there if he wants to do this in the future, as he still plans to play football at the highest level he can. He said “The last 4 years have been amazing, I have all my qualifications, the social side has been unbelievable, and it has opened a wide variety of options for me. We have the skills from the courses to take us anywhere.” 

If you would like to read more stories about students at Rotherham United Sports College, please head to www.RUCT.co.uk or if you would like more information on how to sign up to study with us, please email jmahoney@rotherhamunited.net.