Most people’s National Championships experience is limited to one year – possibly two if they are particularly successful.
But New College Pontefract student Fern Burnley will be racking up a hat-trick of National Championships appearances when the event lands in Tyne and Wear in two weeks. But that’s not to say she’s been dominant in her sport over the past three years – as she doesn’t have just the one speciality, but three.
This year, Fern makes up part of the New College Pontefract women’s basketball team, having previously qualified to represent Yorkshire and Humber at the Championships in squash and swimming.
What’s perhaps most impressive about her achievement is that none of these are even Fern’s main sport.
“Fern would be the first to admit her main sport is synchronised swimming. She has represented the District in this event,” said Andy Green, a PE staff member at the college.
“She has a fantastic passion for sport and would be the first to admit she is a jack of all trades and master of none!
“Fern has good all-round skills and knowledge, enabling her to compete to a good standard and she has the ability to focus on the events beforehand, giving extra time and effort in preparation.”
Competing in an array of sports might make the youngster a ‘jack of all trades’, but it’s something strongly promoted by the college as they seek to equip their students with all the skills necessary to move into a career in the industry.
“New College has encouraged Fern to play in as many sports as possible,” added Andy.
“We try to stress to all our students who want a career in sport - particularly PE teaching - to have a wide variety of experiences in as big a range of sports as possible. Fern has taken this on board.
“She has followed this up with gaining valuable experience in volunteering coaching in schools.
“Fern has also represented the college in eight different sports and has been the representative for Yorkshire and Humberside on the AoC Sport Student Committee.”
Fern certainly has taken the advice on board, not only in a competitive capacity but also by gaining coaching qualifications in five different sports to date.
But for the moment, focus remains on the National Championships and she is looking forward to enjoying the showpiece event from a team perspective this time around.
“I feel that when participating as part of a team, I will be able to share the experience with other people. We will have to work as a team if we want to succeed,” she said.
“I enjoy playing many different sports and competing in squash, swimming and now basketball gives me a chance to play for many different teams and also learn new skills. It gives me more opportunities and gives me a chance to meet new people when playing in the different teams.”
And Fern is hoping it’s third time lucky in her pursuit of a National Championships medal.
“We have some talented basketball players in the team who train on a regular basis and learn new skills,” she said.
“During training sessions we work on the fitness side of basketball but also work on different drills and skills, so we are ready for the different matches which we will face.”