performance testing unit line-up

Sporting stars support opening of new university performance testing and rehab unit

Carlisle United Ladies stars and England Rugby head coach Steve Borthwick give seal of approval 

Cumbria’s England Rugby head coach Steve Borthwick and Carlisle United Ladies stars are supporting the opening of new University of Cumbria performance testing facilities. 

Available for athletes of all abilities, the university’s sport team has been thrilled to welcome Carlisle United Ladies manager Tracy Gannon and player Chelsea Norris to officially open the unit. 

Chelsea is an alumnus of the university, graduating in 2017 with a BA Sport Coaching and Development degree, whilst university sports rehabilitation lecturer Xavier Smith is a member of the strength and conditioning team at the League One football club. 

Tracy said: “It was an honour for myself and Chelsea to be invited along to see the unveiling of the new testing facilities. It’s an incredible asset to have, both for the students and for those who go on to use it.  

“Being closely linked with a professional football club we know how important this area is to athletes who have to test themselves to the highest levels every week, with more and more importance being placed on the science, technology and data within this sphere. It was fascinating to see behind the scenes and we’re looking forward to seeing the new unit in action.” 

Light pod reaction test

Above: Biomechanics lecturer Dale Azzopardi observes a student completing a light pod reaction test in the new unit

Carlisle-born England head coach Steve (pictured, below), an Honorary Fellow of the university, is currently in France for the Rugby World Cup. Prior to the tournament, he sent his support via a testimonial. 

Stephen Borthwick GettyImages-1603560510

It reads: “As an Honorary Fellow of the University of Cumbria it is encouraging to witness the significance that is being placed on the provision of fitness and performance testing for both recreational and competitive athletes in the region.   

“As a coach, it is essential that athletes have access to the best resources and critical data to enable them to give of their best. The introduction of the new Performance Testing Unit, alongside the Sports Injury Clinic at the university’s Lancaster campus, will help raise the standard of sport and promote better health to sport participants. I look forward to being able to visit the new unit when my coaching schedule permits.”  

Steve has also donated a shirt that is on display in the Lancaster unit.  

The new unit and improvements to its existing and long-established Sports Injury Clinic, together with conditioning facilities that seek to prevent problems, increases the experiential learning opportunities and placements on offer to the university's sport, exercise, coaching and rehabilitation students to work with athletes and members of the public. 

Sports rehabilitation

Above: Student Carl Smith carries out a massage in the university's sports rehabilitation area, on campus in Lancaster

The university’s state-of-the-art human performance and sports conditioning facilities can be made available at affordable prices to professional athletes and sporting organisations from across the region.  

New specialist equipment used in the treatment of injuries to bone and tissue will penetrate the body much deeper than other forms of treatment, improving healing and the time span of an injury.  

For more than a decade, university staff and students have operated a sports rehabilitation clinic at the Lancaster campus and the nearby Salt Ayre Leisure Centre.  

Kathryn Wain

Kathryn Wain, principal lecturer in sport at the University of Cumbria's Institute of Health (pictured, right), said: “Whilst this is for our teaching and to provide more experiential learning opportunities for our students, this is also to help our local community athletes, our sports clubs and organisations gain access to services that they don’t do usually. We want to ensure it enables greater partnerships with clubs and athletes, to raise the standard of sport and promote better health to all sport participants.”  

Find out more about the facilities at


Notes to editors


Main: L-R: University of Cumbria principal lecturer for sport Kathryn Wain receives a signed shirt from Carlisle United Ladies manager Tracy Gannon, joined by sport rehabilitation lecturer and Carlisle United strength and conditioning support staff member Xavier Smith, and Carlisle United Ladies player and University of Cumbria graduate Chelsea Norris

2: University of Cumbria biomechanics lecturer Dale Azzopardi observes a student completing a light pod reaction test in the new unit

3: Steve Borthwick, England Rugby (Getty Images)

4: University of Cumbria student Carl Smith carries out a massage in the university's sports rehabilitation area, on campus in Lancaster

5: Kathryn Wain, principal lecturer for sport, Institute of Health, University of Cumbria

Honorary Fellow Stephen Borthwick

Stephen Borthwick was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by the University of Cumbria in July 2012 in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the world of rugby union football.  

Steve was born in Carlisle in 1979 and lived in the city until the age of 10 when his family moved to Preston. His rugby career included 57 Test caps for England, including finishing runner-up in the 2007 Rugby World Cup. He also went on to captain the team on 21 occasions between 2008 and 2010. Steve coached Japan at the 2015 Rugby World Cup and then became Coaching Coordinator and Forwards Coach of the England rugby team from 2015 until 2020, during which time England finished Runners-Up at the 2019 Rugby World Cup. From 2020, Steve was Head Coach of Leicester Tigers Rugby Club, and in December 2022, was appointed as England's Head Coach.