Sports Champion

Mike Chamberlain joined Wolverhampton in 1999 as Head of Sport and Recreation Services, becoming Director of Sport in 2005.

When he was eight, Mike joined Wolverhampton Judo Club and a successful career in the sport followed. He has won numerous judo accolades, including winning the British schoolboy championships four times, being three times under-22s British Champion, six times British Masters Champion and a four times medallist at the World Masters Judo Championships.

1. What does your role at the University involve?

I am the strategic lead for sport at the University. My most important role is driving the sports agenda and bringing together all the component parts that are involved in sport, including the Students’ Union and the School of Sport, Performing Arts and Leisure. We’re aiming to better our ranking in performance sport and create more recreational opportunities for students and staff, in order to improve their health and wellbeing.

There is also quite a big advocacy role, so I chair the local Black Country Sports Board and also the West Midlands British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) Board. This brings together all the regional Directors of Sport and student officers that are involved in leading sport at their institutions. It is important for the University to be out in the wider community.

2. What are the University’s key sporting strengths?

We have concentrated on participation in recent years which has been a success. I manage the Sports Scholarship programme at the University and we look after our best athletes very well in terms of funding, support for training and mentoring. This will help to bring more success for our students in regional and national competition in years to come.

More recently we have some very good athletes who have performed well this year, including Jarryd Dunn who won gold in the 400m at the BUCS Visa Outdoor Athletics Championships at the Olympic Stadium in May.

We have had success in basketball and football, particularly women’s football and are keen to get more sports teams representing the University.

3. The University has a strong focus on health and wellbeing for its staff and students – what do you think are the main benefits of getting involved in sport?

We have developed a lot of initiatives around staff wellbeing, looking at physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing as part of the University’s People Strategy. We are also concentrating on student wellbeing, as I see this as a crucial part of the student experience. Our aim is to provide more activities for physical wellbeing and making it more cost effective for students to participate.

Aside from being more active and the obvious health benefits, there is a big social side for students who get involved in clubs. It helps with personal development and there are so many transferable skills such as teamwork, leadership, responsibility and self-discipline.

4. What do you enjoy most or find most rewarding about your role?

I enjoy the freedom it affords me to be able to decide my own destiny. I have a fair degree of independence as well as a lot of support from within the Estates & Facilities department. I also work in partnership with many people within the University, and feel well supported by the members of the Offices of the Vice- Chancellor who recognise the value of sport in the student experience. This is the clear focus and priority of my work, more so now than ever.

Also I am fortunate to work in a field that I am passionate about. I still participate and enjoy watching sport, so it is good to be around things that I care about.

5. What was it like to host the Aussie judo team before the Olympics?

The training camp was a huge success. Walsall provided a perfect training environment in terms of having everything on site. The squad and coaches were happy to fit in with everything that we provided; we put on training sessions, catering and a mix of social activities for them. They visited schools and were happy to have their pictures taken.

Based on that success they want to come back before the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

6. What do you think stood out about the University’s sporting facilities for them?

Walsall is a National Judo Centre of Excellence so we have excellent facilities for their sport, but there are also the other sporting facilities on site, such as the athletics track and the fitness suite.

But the success of the training camp was more about people. We have two dedicated judo coaches who looked after them and got them training partners, as you need people to fight against. We are the British Judo High Performance Centre in the West Midlands and all the top players come to us each week anyway, so we were able to draw on those teams to support their training.

7. How did you first get involved in judo?

I was one of the smallest boys in my class at school and I think my dad thought I was being bullied so he took me along to the nearest judo club in Wolverhampton. I was never bullied after that!

It gave me a lot of self-confidence straight away. I was competing at a national level from about age nine or 10 and qualified for the first national championships when I was 12. It gave me a life outside school, and I went on to represent Great Britain at the World Student Games in 1985 in Japan when I was 18.

8. You still compete – what do you enjoy about it?

I still enjoy the buzz of competition and also the training, despite the fact that judo is a really tough and often painful sport. I keep a judo suit in my Walsall office so it’s tempting to go and join in the training every so often.

 I’m 46 now so should know better, but it’s great for fitness and I enjoy even more the social side of the sport, having friends all across the UK and beyond. Maybe I’ll see sense and hang up my suit once and for all when I hit the big ‘5-0’!