UON graduate Ashlee steps up to EFL club’s first team
A University of Northampton graduate has been promoted to the first-team set up at a League One football club.
In less than four years, Ashlee Adebayo has gone from a Sport & Exercise Science student to first team sports scientist at Northampton Town Football Club.
Ashlee formed the foundations for a career with the Cobblers while still a student, after voluntary work experience at the PTS Academy Stadium led to him securing an internship with the club. After graduating in 2017, Town snapped him up on a permanent basis, to work for its academy as lead sports scientist.
In February, the departure of first-team sports scientist Pablo García Vilas to Championship side Birmingham City, saw Ashlee promoted from within to work with the senior side.
Ashlee has taken it all in his stride
Being on the touchline for first-team matches is a big step up from looking after the Cobblers’ under 18s, but Ashlee has taken it all in his stride.
“It’s a lot different than academy football,” he said. “Everything is that little bit more intense, but I enjoy it like that.
“At first, I did feel a bit of pressure when I started working with the first team professionals, but now I feel like I am made for this sort of environment. I think the only pressure I am under is internal, from me just always wanting to be better.”
Day to day, Ashlee is responsible for player wellbeing, pre-activation training drills, warm ups, recording and monitoring players’ movements via GPS tracking, overseeing players’ nutrition and hydration, plus their general fitness.
Almost every professional club will now employ a sports scientist, with coaches and managers becoming convinced they can help improve their players.
Ashlee feels the role will only grow in importance, as time goes on.
He said: “Coaches are more engaging and want to understand sport science. Some have more interest than others, but overall there is a growing level of interest.
“Northampton Town’s coaches, from foundation phase to first-team level, definitely want to use sports science in combination with football, to improve both the development and the experience of players. Sports scientists will be in greater demand, I’m sure of it.”
Ashlee has been delighted with the club’s willingness to embrace new ideas, as he explains: “When I joined, the youth staff really helped me grow into my academy role, allowing me to introduce my ideas and run with them.
“In my time, the team managed to win the youth league and a fair number of players gained pro contracts. It was a massive team effort that played a part in what the kids at academy level achieved.
“I’d never say I am a direct reason as to the reduction in our injuries, and so on, but I believe we as sport scientists play an important part within the structure of the team.”
With a month of first team duties in near-empty League One stadiums under his belt, Ashlee is keen to see the return of supporters, which he thinks will give the staff and players a real lift.
He said: “So far, all I’ve known is working games without fans, and you can tell they will make a significant difference when they are back. Some of the stadiums are massive, particularly Sunderland’s, which we go to on the last day of the season, so I believe it will be really good when the fans are with us again.”
Find out more about our Sport and Exercise Science BSc by visiting the course page.