Why did you decide to take the course?
Greg: I’ve been a full-time athlete for 4 or 5 years and I’ve got ambitions to continue working in sport once my playing career stops whenever that may be. This course provided me with just the right level of flexibility so that I can continue competing but also have a degree behind me once I've retired from sport.
Will: Rugby union is a professional sport now but it can be a short career with things like injuries. You can see people are retiring from injuries in sport every week, and rugby is no different and so I wanted to have an educational background for when I do finish up in my career. Obviously I threw all my eggs in one basket when I was younger, so that’s why I’ve decided that now is a good time to broaden my options and take the course.
"There is definitely flexibility there to compete at the top level of your sport and study at the same time"
How do you juggle training and competing at the same time?
Greg: It can be tough sometimes but it’s just about having the right planning processes in place well in advance. We tour quite a lot during the season and the because the course is all online it gives me a lot of opportunity to do things on the road, so I don't need to physically be in class. But like I said it's all about finding that right balance, planning ahead; prioritising training when it needs to be prioritised and prioritising study when it needs to be prioritised.
Will: I've actually found it difficult finding time to study, I’ve got a young family now and obviously I'm still training full time and travelling to play around Europe, but I've still been able to succeed and like Greg said its all about prioritising your time and finding that time and space to yourself to get things done.
Does the flexibility of the course and knowing that if things pick up in your training or competing you can drop down to fewer modules help you to balance both things?
Greg: Absolutely - I’m at quite an important time in my career where we are looking at going to the World Championships and the Olympics in 2018, and I have to commit a lot of time to be the best at my sport. So because of this I only committed to one module in the first term, but because of my schedule this term I’m doing two modules. So its really good to have that flexibility and work around competing.
Will: Well in my line of sport it can be quite different - Greg’s working towards one goal - the World Championships or the Olympics which is quite huge for him, but with rugby union its a season long craft. I’ve taken on two modules throughout both semesters this season and it has been quite difficult,for example the module we’re currently doing in the business degree is accounting and i have no idea what accounting is or about numbers, so that's a challenging part for myself, but its all part of the learning process and I’m enjoying it.
"I would really encourage any athlete to at least give it a try"
What has been the biggest challenge on the course so far?
Greg: I think just getting into the mindframe of being a student again. It's been the best part of 10 years since I’ve done any real study, but its been enjoyable and it's given me the opportunity to meet athletes from other sports who have the same career goals as myself.
Will: Probably time and actually trying to get things done - you’ve got other things to do in your life - sport and family, and for myself its the first time that I’ve taken a big step and made education a big part of my life and I want to make it work, so its just finding time to do it is probably the most challenging part.
'This course has definitely opened up my options and made me think of what I want to do post-rugby'
What are your plans for the future, what do you want to do with the degree?
Greg: Right now there is no timescale for retirement so this is just about being prepared for the future. I have ambitions to continue working in sport, this is where my passion lies, so I’m just hopeful that this degree can set me in the right direction for the rest of my career.
Will: I probably have 3 years maximum left that my body can hold and play professional sport,so I’m definitely looking towards the future. But this course has definitely opened up my options and made me think of what I want to do post-rugby. The flexibility of this course has different kinds of subjects and has been an eye-opener.
What advice would you give to another athlete who is thinking of studying and training at the same time?
Greg: I would say don’t dismiss the idea straight away. The university here at Edinburgh Napier have really been fantastic, there is definitely flexibility there to compete at the top level of your sport and study at the same time and I’m just very grateful for this opportunity.
Will: I agree, for me its been really good and the support the university has given me has been superb, so I would really encourage any athlete to at least give it a try. With the flexibility that the course has, doing one module or two modules a trimester, it really helps you to balance everything, and the course really allows you to look forward to your future after sport.
What’s it been like meeting each other in person after studying online together?
Greg : We’ve had a blast today, meeting the guys, I got to learn a bit about rugby and these guys got to learn a bit about curling, so it has been good fun.
And finally, what would you say has been the highlight of your athletic careers so far?
Greg: Mine was definitely winning an Olympic Silver medal in Sochi 2014.
Will: Well I can’t quite match that (both laughing). I would say playing in the world cup for me was pretty amazing.