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University of East London Graduate Camilla Smee Stepping Out on Road to Success

University of East London Graduate Camilla Smee has established key roles for herself at both the London Aquatics Centre and England Volleyball together with running her own sports injury clinic; Elite Injuries. Her passion, energy, drive and determination seem to know no bounds. We talk to Camilla about her Sports Therapy journey so far.

What was the initial attraction to Sports Therapy and why did you choose the University of East London?

I looked at quite a few University’s in a variety of locations, however there was something extremely exciting and motivating about London. I enrolled on the Sports Therapy course in 2012 which was the year London hosted the Olympic Games. University of East London (UEL) was highly involved in supporting the event, with their Dockland Campus being the base for the USA Olympic and Paralympic team athletes. The £21 million pound sports and academic facilities at UEL were second to none, combined with their location and networks with high performance sports teams and athletes, I knew I would be getting more than just a degree at a University, I would be able to gain experiences and contacts that upon graduation might set me apart from the other thousands of Graduate Sports Therapists.    

You started working at the London Aquatics Centre in your third year- how did that come about? As a student how did you feel about working at this now world famous aquatics venue?

UEL opened up a STEP (Sports Therapy Employability Programme) Internship position when I was coming to the end on my third year at University. This gave us students the opportunity to experience the process of a job application first hand, consisting of CV submissions, interviews and presentations. Ultimately I was successful in my application and was offered the job! The UEL STEP role was to lead and support clinical duties with external partner/s and the Campus Sports Therapy Clinic, to support learning and teaching on Sports Therapy modules, to contribute to the School's teaching, research and administrative activities, and leading various civic engagement and promotional activities. Alongside these responsibilities, I was given the opportunity to work with the London Aquatics Centre Performance Programme (LACPP) at the London Aquatics Centre (Olympic Park) facility delivering soft tissue therapy. Knowing I would be working in the heart of where the historical events of the 2012 Games had taken place, and where some of these Olympians and Coaches were now working and training, was incredibly exciting!

You still work at the centre – are you undertaking the same role or has that developed in other areas? Tell us about typical sessions there and who you are working with?

The UEL Step Internship was contracted for just one year, after this I had a progress review meeting the head coach on the LACPP. The programme was extremely happy with how the soft tissue clinic had help aid their athletes and decided to renew my contract! So from starting as a Graduate Sports Therapist just delivering soft tissue therapy, my role has now developed into leading the LACPP clinic into a facility aiding the prevention, assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries. The swimmers I work with on a weekly basis range from young local talent to Olympic athletes and coaches who competed and worked at London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic Games, meaning I got first-hand experience of the ‘Road to Rio’. The LACPP Head Coach Lisa Bates has been a great inspiration, she is extremely knowledgeable, professional and successful and it is hugely motivating to be working alongside her.

The London Aquatics Centre is also the base for the Dive London team. Through some networking, I was able to gain experience working with the dive squad alongside Head British Diving Physiotherapist, Gareth Ziyambi. Gareth has been such a fantastic mentor over the past year, especially supporting me with the LACPP clinic. His professional, experienced and tremendously knowledgeable approach has vastly aided my continued professional development, and continues to do so!

You combine this with working with England Women’s Volleyball team and also your own clinic Elite Injuries – first how did the England Volleyball role come about?

Volleyball England (VE) came to UEL for a National training camp. One of their physiotherapists had to pull out at the last minute so they contacted the University to mention they had an opening therapist position available if they knew anyone who would like to apply. I sent my CV over to the VE head office and applied for the position. After liaising with them they gave me the opportunity to work at the UEL camp. After attending the camp they were happy with the work I had done and offered me more opportunities working on National Camps around the Country and ultimately this lead to working on International Competitions.

You had a trip to Denmark towards the end of 2016 with the England U17 women’s Volleyball team. Tell us about the trip – was it for a tournament?

My first international competition traveling with the VE Cadet male and female teams was to the NEVZA (Northern European Volleyball Zonal Association) tournament in Denmark, which was held over 4 to 5 days. Nations competing in the tournament included England, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Sweden and Faroe Islands. My role on the Camp was to look after the England Cadet Women’s team, delivering first aid, pre and post-game treatment, education sessions on optimal recovery, as well as mobility and muscle activation workshops.

How was the experience?

This was my first international tour experience traveling with a team, and I loved it! When you’re on camp it is quite an intense environment and you are constantly on duty. Pre game preparations consist of mostly taping and strappings, during the game you are delivering court side first aid and post-game is assessment & treatments of any injuries endured during the game, as well as aiding athletes’ recovery with soft tissue, manual therapies and cryotherapy. Injuries I was faced with ranged from court side bloody noses and broken fingers to management of tendinopathies and muscle/joint sprains. The tournament was not their most successful however it was still a very valuable experience in aiding their development as players and a team!

This year I have plans to attend more Volleyball England national indoor and beach camps across the country, as well as another International NEVZA tournament in October. There have also been talks about the U19 + 20’s Central European Volleyball Association tournament in January 2018. We do not know where that is being held yet, however last year it was in the Republic of Georgia.

Do you have the chance to work with the team throughout the year?

VE have a national camp once a month which I try to attend as often as possible! These are normally based at the National Volleyball Centre in Kettering or Loughborough. At each camp, a team of therapists ranging from Sports Therapists to Physiotherapists support the athletes with first aid duties, prevention, assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries. I like to be proactive when I am on camp, so if there isn’t anyone who needs treating I will often aid the coaches by incorporating muscle activation and mobility sessions into their warm up or cool downs! Although I had had experience working with a range of overhead sports in the past, Volleyball was fairly new to me before starting with the VE academy. Over the past year I have enjoyed taking myself out of my comfort zone by learning and researching new common pathologies, functional movement patterns and of course the rules of the game!

You also find time in your very busy life to run your own clinic – tell us about Elite Injuries and running your own business

I started up my own company Elite Injuries after graduating from UEL at the end of 2015. The Elite Injuries Clinic is based in Essex and specialises in musculoskeletal injuries, rehabilitation and pain management. Over the past year and a half I have focused on expanding my clientele by working with a diverse range of people and companies! By using the principles of Clinical Sports Medicine the patients I treat ranges from professional athletes and recreational weekend warriors to occupational workers! Although the therapy side is where my passion lies, sometimes I do have to change my therapist head for a business one! Keeping on top of admin such as client notes and progressive exercise plans, as well as accounts, client bookings and time management are a weekly must do! But I wouldn’t have it any other way! I use a lot of free online facilities such as twitter, Instagram and Facebook to advertise the clinic and to network with other professionals and organisations. Other marketing techniques I have invested in include building a professional web page (www.eliteinjuries and getting involved with local community charity & sports events. For example, next month I will be talking to a local Rheumatoid Arthritis Support group about how different types of exercise therapy can help benefit them and in the pipeline for next year the Sundried Southend Triathlon! I have really enjoyed building up the Elite Injuries as a business and overcoming the challenges it has thrown at me, and I am more enthusiastic than ever to keep developing as a therapist and company!

You clearly have bags of energy and a keen desire to succeed. What advice do you have for students entering their final Sports Therapy year at university?

I would say to anyone entering their final Sports Therapy year at University to be proactive and take every opportunity to gain as many experiences as you can. Working with a range of different clientele and professionals will really aid your professional development and potentially open up even more opportunities! Gain good connections/relationships with your University Lectures or Placement Educators as they are great to have as mentors upon graduation. My course leader Michael Cole has mentored me through starting up a business and gaining new job opportunities. His constant support and knowledge has helped me overcome obstacles I have faced during my ventures after graduating, meaning I have never felt on my own and unsupported, and for this I will be forever thankful! Lastly don’t be afraid to come out of your comfort zone, going into the big wide world of employment after graduating can be daunting. Once you have graduated do not shy away from new challenging opportunities because don’t forget, as a therapist you will never know everything. It is our job in the world of Sport and Exercise Medicine to continuously keep learning and researching for the welfare and benefit of our patients!

What 2 attributes do you think you need to succeed in the world of Sport and Exercise Medicine?

Passion and Drive! If you’re passionate about your work and have the drive to continue to learn, develop and succeed as a Sports Therapist, then I believe the world of Sport and Exercise Medicine is your oyster!  

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