Today is International Day of Women and Girls in Science, an opportunity to appreciate the critical role Women play in Science and Technology industries. To help celebrate, we caught up with our very own Lead Sports Scientist, Dr Laura Bowen, to talk about her aspirations, motivations and her role at Southampton FC.
How long have you worked at Southampton FC and what was your first role?
It's been six and a half years since joining in September 2014 and my first role was Academy GPS Analyst.
Can you tell us what a typical day is like in your current role?
Very different from what I’m used to due to Lockdown, I’ve been working from home since I’ve moved to the Girls and Women's Team. So firstly, I check in with the girls in the morning and tell them what their session is for the day which they have on an app, answering questions they have. I go to the girls home ground in Totton and have a few rehab sessions with some of the players with injuries. Then later in the day we hold nutrition workshops and any other team building activities, so like today we are doing escape rooms.
What is your favourite part of your job?
I have only been working in this department for the last five weeks but I guess my favourite part for me is that each of the girls are very different, individualising their work specifically to them and hearing that they have improved, that they feel fitter, they feel faster, they put on some muscle mass. That value knowing you’re making a difference to someone.
What motivated you to pursue a career in Science?
I’ve always been interested in playing sport as a kid, I was very shy and quiet person at school. The only time I was out of my shell or a bit more confident was when I was playing sport. Then as I got a bit older, I knew I was never going to be an athlete but I started getting really interested in what you can do to make athletes better, the little 1% changes you can make in their programs, what they do in the gym, what they do on the pitch to make them better and help them not get injured. And that’s why I chose Sports Science.
What are your career aspirations?
That’s a very good question. I’ve always wanted to be a Sports Scientist in Premier League football, that’s what I’ve aspired to be and I’ve ticked that off so it’s a really interesting place I’m at now that I get to pursue something different. Right now my career aspirations are to work with the Women’s team as they progress through the leagues, hoping that at some point I will be working with a Women’s Super League Team at Southampton, that would be great!
Are there any female scientists that inspire you?
For me when I first started out wanting to work in sport and be a Sports Scientist, Dawn Scott who is the Performance Manager for the England Lionesses, she was someone I looked up as a role model and a person I would like to follow in their footsteps. And then when I came to Saints, there was Frankie Hunter who was the First Team Sports Scientist at the time and she had this amazing rapport with the players, this knowledge and expertise I really admired, and I think that pushed me to want to be in that position and take my career further.
You recently have moved from the men’s First Team to Girls and Women’s Football. What inspired the transition and what new challenges do you face working in the Girls and Women’s department?
The great thing about working with the First Team is that there is quite a large group of staff that have different areas of expertise and knowledge, which is really good, so I was focusing more on the performance data of the players and how we could use that data to improve their performance. What I quite like about the challenge of the Women’s Sport Scientist role is that there is less staff so you have to cover different areas, you have to have a range of knowledge, and a lot of the work I do now is out of my comfort zone I was in with the first team. Now I lead a team, plan and deliver much more independently. Another challenge is that the players have other careers outside of football so we have to fit training programs around their jobs and lifestyles, rather than the other way round. Also it’s like a project, they are pushing to be in a league higher than they are currently in which is inspiring.
What piece of advice would you give to someone who wants to have a career in Science?
This took me a while to learn, especially when I was younger, is that you don’t need to know everything and its good that you don’t. You just need to know who to ask and use their expertise. Rather than blagging your way through something you don’t know and being scared to admit you don’t know it, there will be people that know something that you don’t and there will be people that won’t know something that you do. So sharing knowledge and expertise is the best way to move forward and develop as a Scientist.