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Professional Sport & Higher Education: Callum Hunter-Hill
"I know very well about how things can go down in pro sport and how not having other things to occupy yourself can effect you. I am really glad now to have found a balance." A interview with Callum Hunter-Hill, rugby player for Saracens and fresher at King's.
01 February, 2021

How did you find yourself at King’s?

I used to attend Glasgow University, where I was reading geography and archaeology. I was also playing rugby there at the time. Unfortunately, however, I was not able to create a balance for myself in terms of study due to training commitments. Now, I play for a London based club called Saracens, who have been extremely helpful in adjusting to my university schedule. They were very supportive when I mentioned to them that I was keen to start studying again and doing something outside of the rugby program. 

It was also really helpful in having friends that too were studying at KCL and playing at Saracens. During my research about the college as well, the university’s track record in terms of their graduate programmes and also its reputation helped make my decision. Essentially, it was a pretty easy choice for me. I have always been interested in history too, so it was a perfect fit for me. 

I did take geography before, and I was interested in its human side. Besides from being good at it in school, topics like the development indicators and disease control (which is very convenient now) really fascinated me. But then, over the lockdown, I started doing a lot of writing and focusing on a lot older non-fiction titles, and I really enjoyed it. I am really glad I did take History as it has been great fun so far. 

How have online studies impacted your training and school life? 

Well, it has actually been helpful because I don’t have to do the commute and can stay close to training. In that sense then it has really worked out for me. I mean, I’m sure everyone wants to be out and about and immerse themselves into University culture. Especially being in the first year, you want to meet new people And make new friends. I actually haven’t even been to University yet, and so it’s quite bizarre that I have no clue what the campus looks like. In terms of scheduling, though for me, it works out as I can now focus on rugby full-time and do classes online. 

However, a regular day for me is still hectic. I have regular days of training which is every day between 8 am to 4 pm. During the lunch breaks and a half-hour here and there is when I try and get some university work done. In terms of seminar and lectures, I try and get those done in the evenings. But when we go into a block of upcoming games, and our training picks up and even studying about who we are playing picks up, it can get quite hectic.

There is quite a good programme at King’s Sport, which has been incredibly helpful. One of the programme leaders there, Laura Edwards particularly has been great. King’s Sport even has this dual career credited award, which I am not entirely sure it entails but it is definitely there for our benefit. It is very refreshing actually because I hadn’t come across a programme which helped people that are in pro sport and trying to complete their studies at the same time. King’s has been one of the first universities, I have heard of that has done this, so it’s been really great. 

My personal tutor and seminar leaders have also been great. There have been quite a few times I have been late for seminars because I’m rushing out of training. There was one time, in practice, we had been doing a lot of wrestling, and I finished a session just two minutes before a seminar. I was completely exhausted and ran from training, got on to the team’s call (I was sweating everywhere and couldn’t even breathe) Luckily the seminar leader was great about it and excused me from speaking that day. So its been great and I am really grateful for all these opportunities. 

You mentioned that you had done a bit of writing during last summer and published it online. What got you started on writing articles and op-eds?

My mum actually wrote a piece during the lockdown as she has been shielded since March due to an immune disease. She wrote an article for the Telegraph which talked about her time inside and how disabled and vulnerable people are getting treated and the language they are using. So I took a little bit of inspiration from her and just started writing. My first piece was about how the government was handling the crisis at the beginning. I found it great fun and really got into it and just kept writing. I started reading more and more books and started highlighting the parts I found most interesting and wanted to expand and research on. One book in particular which I found interesting was a book called Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari. It basically talks about where we go from now and the use of artificial intelligence. I wasn’t writing for any external purpose but rather to just cement it in my head and expand my knowledge. My main interest also lies around subjects such as politics, society and technology. Currently, I have been interested in the social dilemma etc. However, obviously, during the lockdown, everyone had a lot of time on their hands, but now, unfortunately, I haven’t had the time to continue.

How do sports and studies situate in your life in general? 

Sport isn’t a big drive for me. I don’t get inspired by it as much as I did when I was younger. Most of my enjoyment (it sounds bad but) lies out with rugby. This isn’t uncommon when one turns professional, and the sport becomes your job. This is actually one of the main reasons why I wanted to do University. With sport and rugby, especially in professional sport in general, things can go up and down very quickly. One minute you could be playing international games and the other minute you could be injured. Due to COVID and lockdown, it was definitely in a bit of a slump and rugby was in a tough spot as a sport and as a profession. It was probably on the verge of folding itself. With all of that, I spoke to some of the guys at the club and sort of realised that having something additional going on such as University and other hobbies is such a key thing to be able to have. Instead of having those up and downs especially when you got other things going on you aren’t really brought down with that sort of stuff. Your mood and your attitude to everything Isn’t reliant then on just a single thing. So this has been one of the main reasons why I wanted to get in education and have other things going on that weren’t just rugby. And I think it’s very important for a lot of professional athletes to do that. I believe this is one of the things that is not realised early on. This is one of the things I am very passionate about, as I know very well about how things can go down in professional sport and not having other things to occupy yourself can have an effect on you. So I am really glad now to have found a balance.

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