16-year-old Grace Snell always knew she wanted to study sport in some way, shape or form. 

Having played football and netball from the age of five, and coming from a sporty family, she was keen to pursue her passion for physical activity through learning. When she came along to an open evening at the Cardiff City FC Foundation’s House of Sport facility, she knew instantly that she wanted to study with us. Attracted by the opportunity to develop her sporting skills while studying for a BTEC Level 3 Diploma in Sport Performance & Excellence, she applied immediately. She says she was “so excited” to secure a place on the course.

We caught up with Grace, who lives in New Tredegar, to find out more about her learning journey and her future ambitions.

What first interested you about studying with Cardiff City FC Foundation?

I didn’t have a great experience in secondary school, and I wanted a fresh start, and the opportunity to meet new people. I also knew I wanted to combine academic study with my passion for sport. I’m a coach and sports ambassador in Caerphilly, and I really wanted to build on this. I was so excited when I found out it was possible to learn while playing sport, and when I went along to an open evening, I knew straight away that this was the right place for me. I applied for the BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in Sport Performance and Excellence and was so pleased when I achieved good GCSE grades and was offered a place on the course. 

How is the course going? 

I’m really enjoying it so far. Even though we’ve mainly been learning online because of the lockdown, I love how we go in-depth on things like anatomy and the physiology of sport and performance. My tutor is brilliant, and when we’ve been able to attend the House of Sport in person, I’ve really enjoyed playing Futsal with my classmates. It’s much more intense than football as it’s a five-a-side sport, and as a striker this means I get more touches and time on the ball. I’m also enjoying meeting new people and making new friends. I’m so happy I found out about the course through my football coach. Online learning isn’t always easy, but I feel very supported by my tutor, and I know this was the right decision for me. 

Where does your passion for sport come from?

My uncle and cousin are sporty, and I’ve played sport since I was very young. I always wanted to study sport somehow, and I’m pleased I’ve found a way to do that. During the lockdown, I’ve been working hard on my skills by going outside for kickabouts. I also practice as much as I can at home. I can’t wait until I can start training with other people again, but in the meantime, I’m really focused on doing all I can to perfect my skills.  

What are your career ambitions for the future?

I’m a little torn at the moment. I want to pursue coaching, but I’m also interested in becoming a paramedic. The great thing about studying with the Foundation is that I know there is a degree route open to me here, so I’m keeping my options open. I’ve only just started my BTEC course, so I figure I have plenty of time to make my mind up! 

What are the benefits of learning with the Foundation? 

I find it much less stressful than school. One of the best things is how well you get to know your tutor. Mine is called Jody, and I work well with her. She’s also really supportive. She knows how tough it is learning online, as she works from home too at the moment. She calls me weekly for wellbeing check-ins, and it’s great to have that level of support and a listening ear. I didn’t feel that was something I’d have got in school, personally. Because I had negative experiences in school, I was ready for a fresh start. Learning with the Foundation has given me the chance to meet new people who are all passionate about sport in the same way I am. I also really enjoy the academic side of things. Overall, it’s a more relaxed learning environment, but I also feel really supported. I love that I’m getting to focus on the areas that interest me, such as anatomy, in real depth. 

Would you encourage other young people to study with the Foundation? 

I definitely would, especially if they love sport. Personally, I’d love to see more girls coming into the Foundation - there are only 5 or 6 of us in the entire year. I think the way to get more girls involved is to raise awareness of the courses available and break down the idea that it’s “just for boys” because it definitely isn’t. I would say to young people that it’s good to look at all the options available to you because school isn’t for everyone. The Foundation is a supportive place to learn, where everybody is friendly and looks out for each other. I’ve also found a new circle of friends, and I’m really excited about my future!