As the UEFA Euro tournament 2016 gets into full swing in France, LJMU is celebrating its own football success story thanks to a Level 4 Sport Development student and sport scholar.
Toxteth-born Nikita Parris, who plays as a forward for Manchester City Women, has just made her official debut in the England squad and achieved her first senior cap after a 7-0 win against Serbia at the European Champions 2017 qualifiers.
Having scored goals for every England development team, and helped the U19s finish runners-up in the 2014 Euros, Parris was called into the senior squad for the first time for the 1-0 win in Bosnia in April, although she wasn’t named in the match day 18.
This time around, the 22-year-old former youth team star replaced another player in the 57th minute of the Lionesses’ Euro 2017 qualifying victory in Wycombe allowing her to realise a lifelong ambition. Days later Nikita came off the bench once again against Serbia, this time scoring twice and making headlines with her success. The Lionesses are now in a strong position to qualify for next summer’s Euro finals.
Nikita, who joined Everton’s Centre of Excellence at age 14, said of her Euro 2016 success: “I love winning and reach the goals in which I set out prior to the forth coming season. It's hard work but when you can see and feel the improvements it's all worth it.”
While combining her academic studies with her football career is always challenging, the secret of her success she claims is careful planning and the strong relationships she has built with her course tutors and football club: “Doing both football and studies is difficult at times” she said, “It’s hard especially between March and June when my final assignments and tests have to be completed, as well as it being the start of my football season. But with the full support of my tutors and good communication between my club, Manchester City and my course leader Danny we make it work. I always wanted to complete my education as a fall-back option in case the football didn't work out for me."
As for her first year at LJMU, her progress has been good and enjoyment levels high with a clear goal for her future career. She added: “I have thoroughly enjoyed my first year, the people on my course, both staff and students are amazing. We are only a small course but it's a tight knit group and everyone is willing to help each other along the way. Eventually upon completion of this course I would like to do a PGCE and become a PE teacher at a secondary school.”
Danny Cullinane, programme leader for Sport Development said: “Nikita is an excellent student and this is an outstanding achievement. She has the ability to manage unexpected workloads in her studies as well as with the additional commitments her football career brings her as a player for Man City and associated training demands.
“She copes well with the expectations of her course and displaying the discipline and mental resolve required of athletes on a national level. She’s a lovely person and a great ambassador for her School and the University more generally.”
Nikita’s personal tutor Cath Walker said: “Nikita has been really good at communicating with me in terms of her individual needs and her footballing commitments. This has made the management of Nikita's degree and classes much easier. She is an enthusiastic individual who engages fully when in University and works hard to support others in her personal tutoring group. This has meant that they too, are also really proud and happy for her success. Although difficult Nikita has managed to juggle both Football and Academic studies really well resulting in her successfully completing level 4.”
David McDermott, Sport Scholar Manager said: “It’s great that here at LJMU we can foster real young sporting talent, and Nikita is an exemplary student for her commitment to her work and the training demands of her football life. Her success in the Euro championships indicates a bright talent and someone with huge ambition and discipline to go all the way in the future.”