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Wakefield College staff combine to help drive York City Knights forward

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(L to R) York Knights Coaching Team of Mark Applegarth, James Ford, and Mark Helme

Staff from Wakefield College’s Sports Department are pushing the York City Knights Rugby League Team toward success after joining forces.

The trio include Head Coach James Ford, Player/Assistant Coach Mark Applegarth, and Strength and Conditioning Coach, Mark Helme have amassed an impressive list of experiences in the relative short coaching careers so far. 

The trio have said that their ability to work closely as a team at Wakefield College has helped them forge a tight-knit coaching group that can freely discuss their coaching strategies to maximise the performances of the team. All three are sport science graduates and experienced coaches so are now able to apply the latest scientific training practices into the real world setting of professional Rugby League.

James Ford is now in his second season as Head Coach of the Knights, and prior to this had a playing career which spanned over 10 years, including time in Super League with Castleford Tigers. He has progressed as a coach from double national titles with Wakefield College through junior and reserve grades with Castleford and York respectively, to take on his first Head Coach position with the Knights last year. Unfortunately the season ended seconds away from promotion, after being defeated by two late drop goals in their play-off encounter against promoted Swinton Lions.

Mark Applegarth is currently undertaking a similar apprenticeship in coaching as Ford, combining his playing duties for York City Knights First Team alongside being a key member of the coaching step up. During the day Applegarth is the Head Coach of Wakefield College’s Rugby League Academy and Assistant Coach with Wakefield Trinity Wildcats Under-19’s. All of the players are benefitting from Mark’s experiences as a player, who made over 50 appearances for Wakefield Trinity Wildcats in Super League, before making a switch to play in Australia. On his return he became a fan favourite and stalwart of a successful Batley Bulldogs team, during which time he studied and completed his FdSc and BSc (Hons) degrees in Applied Sports Performance at Wakefield College.

Mark Helme is currently the Coordinator of the Academy of Sporting Excellence programmes and has had several roles in elite sport. He has been Head of Youth Strength and Conditioning at Wakefield Trinity Wildcats and then Castleford Tigers, during which time he worked with both Ford and Applegarth. Moving away from Rugby, he took an international role with England Colleges Football Association, before becoming the latest addition to the Knights coaching team. 

Asked how working for the Knights would benefit students at the College, they said: “Having all three members of staff coaching together can only help the College, firstly we know each other really well and have a great respect for each other’s opinions and views, because we know we have done the research beforehand. This means we can really challenge each other to be better and be more effective in our coaching. As a team there aren’t many outside of full-time sport that will be able to spend the time together that we can and that helps us all develop. The students at College really do get the most of that development as we can share with them what is happening in the real world of sport, and when we give examples they’re instances from real athletes.

“When we coach we can pass on the expectations that we have for professional athletes and help them understand what it takes to succeed. Finally, for those players that are talented that come through the College, we can make sure they get an opportunity to progress. Harry Carter is one great example of this, who is currently completing the final year of his degree in Applied Sports Performance and has been a member of the York City Knights squad for the last 3 years. Carter was spotted by Ford playing for the College’s Rugby League Academy whilst studying his Level 3 qualification in Sport (Performance and Excellence) and was invited to join the Knights reserve squad and is now a first team regular.”


CONTACT: For more information email, or telephone 01924 789789.
DATE: 18 December, 2015

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