Join AFYA & The USA 7s Team At The Athlete Factory

On Saturday 26th May the USA 7s team will be visiting The Athlete Factory, Chester whilst preparing for the London HSBC 7s rugby competition.

AFYA Sports Training are inviting local junior rugby teams to apply to attend the USA 7s training camp, meet the players and develop rugby skills alongside the likes of Perry Baker (7s world player of the year) and Carlin Isles (fastest player in world rugby).

This exclusive event is open to a select number of teams only and due to it’s limited capacity is likely to fill up fast.  Bookings will be taken on a first come first served basis so please get in touch as soon as possible.

To book your team’s place please email: 

detailing the club you are contacting on behalf of and the age group of the team you will be sending.

(NB. The cost per player is £10 for the day which runs from 10.00am until 1.30pm)

We look forward to hearing from you.

Find out more about The Athlete Factory, Chester by clicking here

Scott Pearson

Watch AFYA’s Scott Pearson on Rugby Wrap Up

AFYA’s very own Scott Pearson appeared on Rugby Wrap Up at the weekend.

Scott, one of our fantastic Strength and Conditioning Coaches, appeared on the programme to discuss whether we are training our rugby players to only play for 60 minutes with speed training for 10 meter runs.

Scott has worked with Worcester Warriors, Sale Sharks and Doncaster Knights as well as with Olympic medal winners. He appeared on the programme with elite 7s coach Steve Lewis and host Matt McCarthy and it made for some great viewing.

If you missed it, you can watch it again here

Check out every Saturday and the AFYA chat session with our weekly guests.

Coming up next: Watch Will Wilson, England 7s and Oxford University RFC/London Wasps player.

VIDEO AFYA’s Scott Pearson talking to Rugby Wrap Up

AFYA’s Scott Pearson, whom has worked with Worcester Warriors, Sale Sharks, Doncaster Knights and Olympic medal winners, joins elite 7s coach Steve Lewis and host Matt McCarthy in a tight, quick and interesting conversation about that and more.


AFYA Sports Training & FITISM are delighted to announce a new working partnership to promote Sports Training and Strength & Conditioning for the aspiring young athlete FITISM is a unique and specialist gym based in the heart of Wilmslow providing specialist facilities and high level personal coaching and development founded by Matt Kay AFYA has joined forces with FITISM to provide specialist Rugby, Speed and Strength & Conditioning Training.

One of the other key components will be a focus on Nutrition and Healthy Eating
The programme will be in partnership with Wilmslow RUFC.

James Wade Head Coach Oxford University and formerly Head of Player Development WASPS RUFC and Head Coach Sale Sharks Academy along with Scott Pearson Olympic Coach with 8 Gold medals to his name will be leading the programme.

Ben Wood CEO of AFYA commented “This is great news – FITISM and AFYA have a common goal to enhance sports capability and awareness in the aspiring athlete of tomorrow. AFYA and The Team are looking forward to working with FITISM and its outstanding staff- to make a difference.”

The first training camp is Friday 23 Feb for young athletes aged 13-16 – please see the AFYA website and social media sites for further details!

Bookings open for rugby camp coming to Caldy Rugby Club in New Year

Top rugby coaches will be coming to the Wirral in the New Year to run a coaching camp for young players.

AFYA Sports Training will be running the rugby camp at Caldy Rugby Club to develop skills.

The Coaching Camp will take place on January 20th 10am – 2:30pm and is open to players aged 9-15. It costs £17 for the day, which includes a club lunch and option to watch the 1st Team as well in their National 1 home match.

AFYA partners with leading tackling equipment provider Shadowman and will be using their training tools in the camp. Team building, leadership development and tackle techniques will also be key elements of the course.

Ben Wood, Managing Director of AFYA, known for its sports coaching excellence, said: “We’re looking forward to bringing Shadowman to Caldy Rugby Club. Shadowman’s innovative training products allow players to really work on their speed and agility as well as their one-on-one tackling and tracking.

“This is also great opportunity for young rugby players to be trained by our team of professional coaches and players who have played and coached at National or International level.

“We will be covering a wide range of techniques including Individual Tackle Technique and Tackle Development, Defensive Structure and Strength & Conditioning. We will also be looking at team building and leadership development skills training that can be used on and off the pitch.”

AFYA is led by Ben Wood, a former Army officer and qualified RFU coach, and James Wade, a top coach who was Head of Player Development at Wasps, Head of Sale Sharks Academy and is currently Head Coach at Oxford University RUFC (The Blues).

For more information or to book a place please call 0151 326 2253 or email

England International netball star Laura Malcolm to come to Chester

England International netball star Laura Malcolm will be coming to Chester in the New Year to run a two day training camp for netball players aged 9-14.

Laura, who has represented England on a number of tours, is an established name in the Vitality Netball Superleague.

The camps will take place at Nuffield Health, The Life Centre, Chester Business Park, Wrexham Road in Chester on January 2 & 3 in partnership with leading specialist sports training providers AFYA.

AFYA has a strong reputation for sports coaching excellence and their courses are specially designed to incorporate insights that have generated some of the best teams and athletes today.

James Wade, Chief Operating Officer and Head of Training and Development for AFYA, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Laura to our camp in Chester. She will be working with children to develop their netball techniques, improve their skills and help them to understand what it takes to make them a better player.”

Laura, who started out as a goalkeeper for her school team when she was 10, won Player of the Year on her international debut against Barbados in Birmingham. She moved to the Severn Stars after a 7 year spell at Manchester Thunder.

The camps cost £40 per day and will run from 9am-4pm. They can be booked online here.

Scott Pearson

AFYA’s Scott Pearson and his nutrition tips

AFYA’s Scott Pearson is passionate about the importance of good nutrition for children and young athletes. 

As a Strength & Conditioning Coach for British Cycling, he knows how important getting the right diet is for both the able bodied and Paralympian athletes from novices up to Olympic standard who he works with.

Here, Scott gives AFYA readers some of his nutritional tips and advice:


Why a healthy diet is important

Eating a healthy, balanced diet is essential for everyone, whether you are aiming to be a professional athlete or simply want to enjoy a life free of illness. No matter how fit you think you are now, and how much work you think you can do, it is critical that you think about what you are putting in your body.

A good diet gives you the energy you need to think, train and play and helps you recover properly from all that work. No matter what you do, you can’t out train a poor diet.

The following tips are the starting point to beginning a healthier lifestyle, so work through them one by one, taking time to let the effects of each stage take hold before moving on to the next.

It is a stage by stage process; if you don’t have a great diet and you try and change everything all at once, it is less likely to succeed. To make healthy eating a good habit, it needs to be a gradual lifestyle change rather than a revolution.

If you are still lucky enough to get most of your meals cooked for you, talk with the rest of your family about how you can do this together. It is far more likely to work if everyone is going through the same things together.

Ready? Here we go….

Cut out the obvious junk

It doesn’t take a dietitian to realise that eating McDonalds and drinking Coke all the time isn’t good for anyone, let alone an aspiring athlete, so simply removing them from your diet can go a long way to improving your overall health. In general, try to cut out anything with excess levels of:


Excess sugar in our diet can play havoc with your body’s metabolism, leading to peaks and troughs of energy throughout the day. This roller coaster pattern has been implicated in the increase in Type II diabetes as the continual wear and tear on your pancreas eventually causes it to stop working effectively.

In addition, your body can only store limited amounts of sugar in the blood and liver (in the form of glycogen), so any excess is converted to body fat.

Foods such as soft drinks, sweets, chocolates, cakes and biscuits are all high in added sugar.

Saturated fat

Contrary to the popular belief, not all fat is bad for you. In fact, many vitamins are only soluble in fat and some fat in your diet is necessary for many bodily functions. However, fat comes in different forms, the main two being saturated and unsaturated.

In general, saturated fat is seen as an unhealthy fat and can be easily identified because it tends to be solid at room temperature. Therefore, many prepared foods, such as pizza, dairy desserts, burgers and sausage are high in saturated fat.

A diet high in saturated fat increases the amount of cholesterol in your blood, which can increase your risk of developing coronary heart disease. Remember that you do not need to be overweight to have high cholesterol.

Cut out the not-so obvious junk

Once you have managed to get by on a diet without the obvious junk in it, and realised you can still survive, it’s time to take it to the next stage by cutting out many of the foods with hidden problems. These are less obvious to spot, but can be pretty easy to find once you understand what you’re looking for…

Sugar Free

By offering all the taste without the calories, artificial sweeteners seem like a no-brainer when it comes to effective weight loss and healthy living. Unfortunately though, the much touted “health benefits” of these products are not all they’ve cracked up to be.

Bad for your health

There have been many health risks associated to artificial sweeteners, not least various forms of cancer. “Diet” drinks have also been linked to metabolic syndrome and Type II diabetes.

Artificial sweeteners mess with the body’s system for taking in calories. Normally, taste receptors on the tongue detect sweetness and tell the brain that calories are on their way. The brain then sends signals to the pancreas to prepare release of insulin, but if no calories arrive, the body’s natural mechanism gets confused. In turn, this leads to poor health, illness and disease.

Don’t make poor Choices

Continual over-stimulation of taste receptors from artificial sweeteners literally change the way we taste food. Meaning that people who routinely use artificial sweeteners may start to find less sweet foods (such as fruit) less appealing and unsweet foods (such as vegetables) downright disgusting.

In other words, use of artificial sweeteners can make you shun healthy, filling, and highly nutritious foods while consuming more artificially flavoured foods with less nutritional value.

Fat Free

There’s been a boom in low-fat alternatives since the 1980’s, when the message got out that foods high in fat were bad for your health (see above). While it’s true that fat supplies more than twice the energy per gram than either carbohydrates or protein, and (saturated fat) is responsible for increasing cholesterol levels and clogging our arteries, the processes used to create low (or no) fat foods may be even worse.

Man-made fat

The fat in many foods provide much of the flavour and consistency (think of a thick, creamy yoghurt), so removing the fat also removes the taste and texture. To make up for this, food manufacturers use processes (called hydrogenation) to alter the structure of liquid vegetable oil to create a semi-solid fat suitable for their processing needs.

Ingestion of hydrogenated fats dramatically increase the levels of trans-fats in our bodies. Trans-fats have been linked with heart disease and increased levels of cholesterol, so it seems that low-fat alternatives are a major contributor to the very problems they are said to be helping against!

Added calories

Because removing the natural fat from products also removed much of the flavour, manufacturers found that it was necessary to add huge amounts of sugar simply to make them taste better.

As well as contributing to the taste and texture of a product, fat can also contribute to how full you feel after eating something. So, with removed fat and added refined carbohydrates you typically feel less full for a shorter amount of time. In turn this leads to blood sugar swings and foods cravings making the job of eating sensibly even harder than it already is. The food now provides the same health risks as overtly sugary foods mentioned above.

Watch your salt intake

Salt, or more correctly, the compounds that make up salt are required in the diet for your body to function properly. For example, chloride aids in digestion, while sodium regulates blood flow and helps transmit neural messages between your brain and muscle fibres. Also, there’s no denying it; salt also makes your food taste better!

Because of this, restaurants and food manufacturers add salt to their products to make them taste better. Unfortunately though, too much salt is very bad for you.

Dangers of salt

You probably already know that you feel thirsty after eating something very salty (such as a packet of crisps). This is because your kidneys need to maintain a balance between electrolytes (such as magnesium and potassium) and water so they can do their job of filtering the waste products from your blood.

More salt (therefore more electrolytes) means you need to drink more water to balance the system. More fluid in your body can lead to high blood pressure or other problems such as edema (swelling in places like the hands, arms, feet, ankles, and legs). Your body needs to maintain the balance, so if you decide not to drink extra fluid, your body will draw water from other cells, leading to dehydration.

In addition, regularly eating too much salt makes you urinate more often (because of the excess water). Every time this happens, your body loses calcium, the mineral that strengthens bones and teeth; urinate too often and you increase the risk of making your bones much more breakable.


Coming up soon: How to replace the junk with good stuff.





AFYA and first Oxford University RFC Ivy League tour of USA

The Oxford Blues will kick off their first RFC Ivy League tour of America with matches against some of the most prestigious Ivy League universities.

The 15 day tour will include The Blues training with Harvard Rugby Football Club, Yale University Rugby Football Club, Princeton University Rugby Football Club and West Point, a leader in USA Collegiate Rugby.

There will also be a series of rugby matches against the prestigious Collegiate All-Americans, Mystic River Rugby Club in Boston and Old Blue RFC, one of the oldest rugby clubs in America.

Highlights of the Collegiate All Americans game at the Talen Energy Stadium in Philadelphia are due to be shown on ABC, NBC and Sky Sports.

AFYA Sports Training is sponsoring The Oxford Blues on their tour and its name will appear on all the kit during the team’s tour to the East Coast of America.

The tour is centred on the fixture with the Collegiate All-Americans, which will be held in conjunction with AEG as the curtain raiser for the Newcastle versus Saracens Premiership Rugby clash at Philadelphia’s Talen Energy Stadium the same day.

Whilst they are on the tour AFYA will run coaching and tackle camps with The Blues with aspiring young American rugby players as well as running community outreach programmes in New York via rugby.

AFYA is led by Ben Wood, a former Army officer and qualified RFU coach, and James Wade, a top coach who was Head of Player Development at Wasps, Head of Sale Sharks Academy and is currently Head Coach at Oxford University RUFC (The Blues).

AFYA is proud to be supporting the first Oxford University RFC Ivy League tour of the USA

Ben Wood, Managing Director of AFYA, which has a strong reputation for sports coaching excellence in the UK, said: “We’re delighted to help sponsor The Blues during this exciting tour and it’s fantastic to see the AFYA name on the match top.”

Oxford University Rugby Football Club is one of the world’s leading and most well-known amateur rugby clubs. Founded in 1869, more than 300 Oxford players have gained representative international honours since then including Phil de Glanville, Tyrone Howe, Simon Halliday and Rob Egerton.

Current Oxford Blues Captain Conor Kearns said: “We’re delighted that AFYA is on board as a key sponsor for our first tour of the East Coast of America.

“The club has a great tradition of tours reaching around the globe and it’s an exciting prospect to once again bring a Blues squad to the East Coast.”

“Replicating tours of old, we will be making use of both academic and sporting ties between Oxford and some of the most prestigious universities in the world. It will be a great opportunity to grow as a squad but also represent student sport on a global stage.”


How mindfulness can give you the sporting edge

Are you looking to give your sport that extra special edge? Perhaps you need help competing with the extreme pressure ahead of a big game.

It is thought that 90 per cent of a person’s sports performance is mental but how much time do you invest in it?

Mindfulness techniques have been around for centuries but are increasingly being taken seriously in the world of sport.

Here Richard Graham, Programme Director of Nuffield Chester, gives his top 10 mindfulness tips:

  • Start with WHY? Why do YOU want to learn about mindfulness and why do YOU feel it would be of benefit.  It is really central to any sort of behaviour change for you to have a strong ‘why’.  Mindfulness can help with a broad range of symptoms and can help you to deal with many effects of stress, but to make it personal you need to start with what you want to work on.
  • Try an app. There are some great apps out there to help you to learn and develop your mindfulness practice. Mindlab and Headspace are really good and are normally free to install and use initially. Top tip: if you work through their courses they may charge you.
  • Read all about it. I found that the work and books of Jon Kabat-Zinn were hugely valuable to me in not only understanding mindfulness but also to understand how I can make it work in my life and to be ok with not having the time to commit 45-60 mins a day to the practice.  I would recommend ‘Full Catastrophe Living’ and ‘Wherever You Go, There You Are’.
  • Breathing. If you are new to meditation, your rhythmical, regular breathing is a great and important tool to keep you in a good place to meditate.  It can also help you to return to a serene state if your mind wanders. If you haven’t tried it, have a go at Diaphragmatic Breathing – it is a great way to relax during practice.
  • Practice. It is called mindfulness practice, as that is what is required. Expect that each time you practice it will be slightly different. But that is ok.  If you don’t feel very good at it, that’s fine too. That’s why we practice!
  • Give what time you can. As with any ‘addition’ to your life, it is common for people to sometimes think they don’t have the time to do it. But remember, the chances are you have time to watch some television or scan social media each day. So why not replace 10 mins of this for some practice.
  • You are central to mindfulness. Mindfulness is not about clearing the mind or about transcendence or becoming a ‘master’. It is all about ordering and becoming aware of and allowing time for your thoughts so that you feel that you have an organised, spacious and calm mind. This takes time. Here are some other myths –
  • Sports Trackers and watches. If you are a bit of a tech geek like me, you may have a sports tracker watch. Check your settings, as many of these have a mindfulness setting. Give one of these a go. It’s a great way to track your results.
  • Make new habits. The best results from mindfulness come when it is habitual. Research suggests that habits form between 66-80 days of regular practice, so don’t be hard on yourself and expect immediate results. The changes will be gradual and some you may not expect. I know from my experience that I have become better at dealing with challenging situations since I began my practice 10 years ago. I am far from perfect, but it has helped me to improve!
  • Be kind to yourself. If you are interested in the foundations of mindfulness and want to learn more about its ancient history, I would recommend reading some of the books of Pema Chodron. She really is fantastic as, despite the Buddhist approach being not exactly mindfulness, it may help you to be reminded that mindfulness is about being kind to yourself. Give yourself time and take a moment in each day to not have to react and to re-focus. Enjoy it!