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From campus to community: How our Bath degree ignited a passion for disability sport

Alex and Jenny talk about setting up Nova Sports and Coaching, a business dedicated to promoting disability sport and inclusion, after graduating from Bath.

Discover how Alex and Jenny’s journey from studying BSc (Hons) Sport and Social Sciences 1 led them to stay in Bath and establish Nova Sports and Coaching, a thriving business locally dedicated to promoting disability sport and inclusion.

How did your journey from university to starting a business in disability sport unfold?

Alex: Jenny and I met during our Sport and Social Sciences course at the University of Bath. We quickly became best friends and eventually a couple. After university, I did some travelling while Jenny worked with Active Gloucestershire in their sports inclusion team. We both realised our passion for disability sport and saw a gap in opportunities in the field. Jenny proposed starting a business together and that’s how Nova got started.

What motivated you to focus on disability sport?

Jenny: I had always been drawn to individuals and communities being able to enjoy sport, more than looking at an elite sports path.

Alex: During university, I played wheelchair basketball, which I loved. As part of our business at Nova we set up a community wheelchair basketball team, which has become our biggest and most successful club to date.

‘I wrote my dissertation on that [community sport and disability inclusion] and later presented this to a sports partnership as a research area they should focus on – they then hired me!’
Jenny Johnson BSc (Hons) Sports and Social Sciences graduate (2016)

What drew you to study at the University of Bath?

Alex: Bath’s close-knit campus and high-standard sports facilities appealed to me, especially being near Bath Rugby. Other universities felt too large or exclusive in comparison. Our decision to stay in Bath and establish our business locally reflects our affection for the city and our desire to contribute to the local community.

Jenny: My mum had brought me to Bath before and I was immediately drawn to the Sports Training Village, I knew that I wanted to come here. The safe and friendly atmosphere and the campus’ proximity to the city centre is a real bonus.

How did your university experience shape your career goals?

Jenny: I wanted to work in sports coaching but with my M.E., participating in sports as a career didn’t feel feasible. So, I focused on community sport and disability inclusion early on. I even wrote my dissertation on that and later presented this to a sports partnership as a research area they should focus on – they then hired me!

How did your course at Bath prepare you for your business venture?

Alex: While studying, I diversified my skills by taking units in marketing and business-related topics. My placement in New Zealand then challenged my assumptions and gave me experience which fired up my desire to be involved in sports coaching to make meaningful change.

Jenny: Our course emphasised creating collaborative and inclusive communities, which resonated with our vision for Nova. The positive culture on campus empowered us to speak up and advocate for change, which we continue to do through our business. The Bath Half Marathon organisers have adopted our recommendation to include participants with running frames.

What challenges did you face in starting your business?

Jenny: Initially, gaining momentum was slow, but piggybacking on existing connections and building trust helped us expand. We struggled a little with work-life balance but have since learned to separate the two.

How do you see Nova evolving in the future?

Alex: We’re focused on sustainability and growth, which includes bringing in new team members and expanding our impact. We’re keen to make sure our foundations are solid and we’re here for the longer game. Our goal is to continue making a difference in the community through inclusive sports programmes.

What advice would you give to prospective students considering a sports course at Bath?

Jenny: There are so many diverse opportunities and placements that can shape your career path by doing a course here. Engage with lecturers, seek industry experience, and don’t be afraid to challenge assumptions. It’s a rewarding journey that can lead to meaningful impact.

Alex: Engaging with as many current students or alumni and academics on the open days as you can to provide valuable insights and give you experiences and ideas that really relate to you. Ideas and opportunities open up as you go along, whether you have a fixed idea for a career path or not at the outset.

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  1. BSc (Hons) Sport and Social Sciences is now known as BSc (Hons) Sport Management and Coaching