Former rugby talent returns to TASS in professional capacity


Sport Science Lab Technician and Research Fellow Lucinda Howland, is the driving force behind the new TASS Potential schools project in Kent.

The certified S&C coach from Canterbury Christ Church University is partnering with TASS to host workshops offering a taster of the Scheme’s support services to forty local students.

The project aims to give the talented young athletes the opportunity to experience scientific support similar to that available to full-time national and international level athletes.

And Howland is certainly expertly placed to advise about balancing the demands of life as a student-athlete, having benefited from TASS support just over a decade ago.

The rugby union player was nominated for a place on the TASS programme following her selection for the England U19s team, aged just 16.

Howland accessed TASS’ core services including physiotherapy, S&C and lifestyle support from University of Surrey for two years whilst studying hard for her A levels.

“Being on TASS gave me a really good insight into the kind of support I could get at uni as well as the uni experience in general. It was actually a bit surreal at the time,” she recalled.

“The cash award definitely helped to fund attending additional training sessions and it took the pressure off to know my healthcare was sorted.”

Howland went on to play premiership rugby for Richmond Ladies, as well as competing for England, the highlight of which was travelling to Canada to earn her first cap.

“It was a massive achievement for me to play in the premiership. In first game which was against Saracens, I looked up and got absolutely smashed by Maggie Alphonsi!

“Being able to train with the senior team gave me an advantage when playing against girls for my age, as my skillset was developed far beyond the other girls in the county.

“It was at Richmond I was also introduced to social life of rugby and a lot of mums took me under their wing. So I was looked after but got to experience the amazing social side too.”

Having been introduced to the sport aged 13 by her hero Catherine Spencer, Howland has witnessed a shift in popularity, as well as attitudes towards women’s rugby. She explained:

“I think it’s a really exciting time for the sport. Though it was only three or four years ago that female players starting wearing kit designed with the same tech as the men’s.”

Following a significant injury and a decision to focus on her studies, Howland returned home to Kent to study at Canterbury Christ Church University, where she also captained the women’s team who reached the BUCS finals.

Awarded a ‘First’ in her undergraduate degree in Sports Science, Howland was encouraged to apply for a PhD by her tutors.  She was successful and has recently completed her research into the role of isometric exercise training and its effect on cardiovascular health.

Alongside her research, Howland has been working closely with 38 sport scholars at the university, as well as collaborating on TASS Potential, which recognises and supports talent in local schools.

She said: “It’s really nice to work one-on-one with athletes, organise various workshops, give them access to a range of testing, as well as arranging things like mentoring opportunities.

“Times have moved on and there’s the chance for young athletes to get an insight into performance sport. They’re so much more aware and excited about the science, tech and new developments.

“But for me it’s all about helping them to be a happy, healthy athlete with a positive outlook and empower them to make great choices about their uni life.”