Balancing water polo and biochemistry as a scholarship student

In the latest instalment of our Scholarship series, where the best athletic talents within the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health at The University of Manchester are showcased, we caught up with Biochemistry student and water polo player James Warman…

I started playing water polo at the age of 13. When I was 17, I was chosen to represent Great Britain in the Junior European Qualifiers in March, held in Malta. This achievement was the result of countless hours of training and determination all year round. Balancing my studies and this level of commitment to sport has therefore always been a part an important part of my life.

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In sixth form, I studied biology, chemistry and mathematics; as a consequence, I found a natural path into studying biochemistry at University. The decision of where to study was also an easy choice. Firstly, Manchester is the home of water polo in the UK; many of my GB training camps during the weekends and school holidays were held at the Manchester Aquatics Centre and I knew the facilities were second-to-none. Also, the City of Manchester (CoM) water polo club is one of, if not, the best in the country, and so the accessibility to the highest class of training and performance very much appealed to me. Secondly, the University of Manchester (UoM) is a world-class institution where I knew I was guaranteed an excellent education and access to an abundance of quality facilities.

In my first year, in order to best learn how to balance my studies and sport, I continued to play for my home team in the National League, Watford, and also joined the University’s water polo team. I was impressed by the organisation, the drive and the quality of the club at university. With access to training three times a week, at the Manchester Aquatics Centre, and additional strength and conditioning (S&C) sessions I was able to continue playing to a high level.


In my second year, I had different aims. The World University Games (WUGs) took place in the summer following my second year and I wanted to be part of that squad. This meant increasing my training. The head coach of CoM water polo club contacted me in the summer before second year began and asked if I would like to join his team and informed me he would be able to personally work with me towards being part of the WUGs squad. Furthermore, having heard about the potential scholarships available to high performing athletes in my first year, I decided to apply for support by the Athletic Union. I was awarded the BUCS scholarship (British Universities and Colleges Sport).

I now train four times a week with CoM, and an extra two times in the gym with the scholar S&C coaches, Nathan and Jamie, who have really elevated my game. Shortly after the start of the semester, I was selected to be part of the Senior GB water polo squad which included monthly training weekends here in Manchester. With my degree workload getting heavier too, the support offered to me through my scholarship was incredibly helpful. It was specifically the ability to personalise my training schedule around my work that allowed me to balance both university and sport easier. Second year was a success for both my academia and sport; I achieved a 2:1 grade in my studies and had numerous sporting achievements. I captained the University water polo team and lead the Men’s 1st team to 2nd in the league and winning the Christie Cup. Moreover, I was part of the CoM team that were champions of the top division in national club water polo.


Having been awarded the scholarship for my third year of University I continue to use all the resources available to me in order to balance both sport and academia. I have recently been awarded a role on a finance graduate programme at the Royal Bank of Scotland and I hope I can use the skills learnt through the scholarship programme to balance work and sport next year.

I believe my experience playing sport at many levels, especially at University, has allowed me to develop unique life perspectives and workplace skills that aren’t able to be learnt elsewhere. My advice for students who are in a similar situation would be to value every experience you have, whether it be in a sports team or otherwise, take as much as you can out of the experience, and use what you have learnt in all aspects of life.

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