Etienne Stott is a slalom canoeist who competed at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, winning a gold medal in the men’s canoe double (C2) with his crewmate Tim Baillie. First-hand experience of the power of psychology in sport led Etienne to embark on a degree with the OU. Although as yet unsure of the branch of psychology he wishes to specialise in, Etienne really hopes that in the future he’ll be able to use its power to help others succeed and thrive in their life choices.
“I left school with science-based A levels and took up a place at the University of Nottingham, graduating in 2000 with a degree in mechanical engineering (BEng). Nottingham is also a training centre for canoeists and I went on to a career as a slalom canoeist, competing in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and winning gold in the men’s canoe double (C2).
My interest in psychology came about initially from experiencing its power in sport first-hand and I decided I’d like to become a psychologist. I opted to study for a degree with the OU as it offered me the flexibility I needed; I could manage my studies according to the demands of my lifestyle. Although I paid most of my module fees myself, I also secured some UK Sport funding through the English Institute of Sport’s Performance Lifestyle Service, which helps athletes to fund their education beyond their sports careers.
The route to an OU psychology degree is largely prescribed, although there is some choice of modules, so registering was unproblematic.
My tutors were very good: supportive, easy to contact, kind, knowledgeable, generous and understanding. OU tutors are very aware of your other commitments and do their best to be accommodating; for example, should a TMA extension be necessary. I found the learning materials really good: well written and presented, with interesting content. The OU is well organised for distance learning provision and all study components, including the online materials, are carefully integrated, providing a positive learning experience for students. I particularly liked the online study planner as it meant you always knew which stage of the module you were meant to be at.
The face-to-face tutorials that accompanied some modules were quite interesting and helped reinforce and consolidate what I’d learned. There was also a residential school and it was good to meet up with students from such a wide range of backgrounds.
Being an OU student isn’t easy, but I’d definitely recommend it to anyone considering registering; you learn a lot and the sense of achievement you experience is really rewarding. For me, the main challenge is finding the time to fit everything in. I try to anticipate how busy I’m going to be with training and competitions and then plan ahead as far as I can, setting up my life efficiently so that I’m using my energy productively. Prioritising is key. If you’re prepared to make sacrifices for a while and are clear about your motivation, you’ll find it more interesting so will be more likely to succeed. Be enthusiastic about your subject, too. When I think back to my first degree, I realise just how much of a mechanical process it was. I went from school to university almost without thinking, unlike now. I’m really enjoying studying and when I get good marks for my TMAs I know my hard work is paying off.
I’m just about to start my next module, E219 Psychology of childhood and youth, and have three years to go before completing my degree. I then plan to gain experience of work in the field of psychology and perhaps do a masters and/or a doctorate. I’m not yet sure of the branch of psychology I’d like to specialise in, but no doubt this will become clearer the further I progress. In my future work, I do want to be able to use the power of psychology to help people succeed and thrive in their life choices, though.”
If you have been inspired by Etienne’s story and want to study sport and fitness at The Open University please visit the ‘Study with us’ section of this website