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Belong, Believe, Achieve: Strength and conditioning coach Duncan Ogilvie guides UEL’s elite athletes to the top

Duncan and UELSports have grown together

'Belong, Believe, Achieve' is a series of profiles showcasing inspiring students and staff at the University of East London (UEL). Each week, we bring you a new story about someone achieving great things in our amazing community.

The University of East London (UEL) has produced a number of recent sporting successes – Olympic-turned-professional boxer Lawrence Okolie; Paralympic shot putter Vanessa Wallace; Commonwealth medal-winning sprinter Bianca Williams; Olympic medal-winning sprinter Adam Gemili.

These current and former UEL students have something in common – they all work with Duncan Ogilvie, UEL’s Head of Strength and Conditioning.

A former top athlete himself, Duncan played basketball for the UK national team before accepting a scholarship to play in the US and then going on to play professional basketball in Europe for eight years. When Duncan’s playing career ended, he started a new journey as a strength and conditioning coach. He worked at Barking Abbey Basketball Academy before coming to UEL in 2010.

Both Duncan and UELSports have come a long way. Duncan started out at UEL as an intern at a now-defunct gym on the Stratford campus, working with an intake of four sports scholars.

By 2012 the number of UEL sports scholars was growing, and they and Duncan moved to the new £21 million SportsDock on the Docklands campus. Duncan started in his current role when UEL opened Aqua East, a specialised training facility for sports scholars, in 2014.

Duncan now heads a team of five full-time staff and 16 interns who supervise 150 male and female scholars from 14 different sports, including football, volleyball, basketball, tennis and athletics.

Duncan said, “The guys that use Aqua East are training for a specific goal in their sport. Every single athlete that comes in here is prescribed a specific program by either myself or one of my assistants.”

The services that Duncan and his team provide have become a selling point with prospective student-athletes.

Duncan said, “We’ve had quite a few student-athletes who have come to UEL because of the facilities we offer. And that’s not just the strength and conditioning that I do. We’ve got one of the top physios in the UK based here. Another one of our sports therapists competed at the Commonwealth Games in the long jump.

“I think what separates us from a number of other universities is the quality of the programme that we provide. Lots of schools may give student-athletes money, but not much else. UEL goes the extra mile and that’s beginning to separate us from our competitors.”

And it’s not just UEL students who benefit from Duncan and his team. Since Aqua East is part of the Talented Athletes Scholarship Scheme, a Sport England-funded programme which encourages young athletic talent, students from other universities who are TASS athletes also use the services.

Duncan said, “That’s something we’re looking to expand, because in order for us to continue to grow and provide a better service, we need a bigger budget. We want to bring in more money from outside sources.

“But our main priority is to provide a service to our athletes and we don’t want to take away from them by diluting our service by trying to commercialise.”