Becoming an expert: sports law to personal training

Charlie Willett is a rugby union player for Exeter Chiefs, and represents Ireland in Rugby League. She’s studying for a Personal Training qualification with Motion Fitness Education, who have offered discounts to LAPS members on Level 3 Certificate in Personal Training, Level 3 Diploma in Gym Instructing and Personal Training and Level 2 Certificate in Gym Instructing. At the time of writing, Charlie had just suffered a severe knee injury (ACL, double meniscus tear and partial dislocation), whilst playing for Ireland, and has had major surgery on both knees. Follow Charlie on Instagram, TikTok and LinkedIn.

As an athlete, firstly I’ve always wanted to understand how my body moves and why I’m training in a specific way.  Even as a teenager I was dead set on going to university and studying sport science, and although I ended up working as a lawyer in a Magic Circle firm my first passion has always been sport science.

Since being in a full-time rugby programme at Exeter Chiefs, I’ve had more spare time and I’ve been able to do some content creation for social media. It’s been cool and I’m able to show quite candidly ‘life as a female athlete’ across TikTok and Instagram.

Increasingly, I was getting a lot of younger mainly female athletes saying, how do I become stronger? Or, how do I train like you? As a lawyer, I’m understandably cautious about giving advice via the internet because you shouldn’t give advice on something you’re not qualified in.

I came to the conclusion I needed to take a personal training course, so I could respond to these brilliant, wonderful and intelligent questions that needed to be answered, and I could respond to them with some authority.

Motion Fitness Education (MFE) came to my attention as also having an eye-catching and positive presence on social media, so I enrolled with them.

By the time of my injury, I was a few months in, and it fitted around rugby. The course is more engaging than I would’ve expected, given it’s all remote and online. MFE is quite helpfully set out and I’ve found it pretty easy. I have it set up on a whiteboard in my room and try to tick through two units a week. When I’ve been training at Chiefs I have the videos ready on my iPad, and when we have downtime I listen to the videos then.

One of the other Chiefs players has offered to be my guinea pig for when I have to do assessments!

Now that I’m injured, it’s been a lifeline, it’s given me something concrete. When people ask me what I’m going to do now I’m injured, I can say, I’ve got a PT course to finish.

I’m spending a lot of time sitting with a Compex machine on, I’m not especially mobile, so it’s nice to have something that I can do from home and makes me feel like I’m achieving something. They say you’ve got your sporting life, your career and your personal life. My sporting life isn’t really going forwards at the moment so it’s nice to keep the needle going on my career.

There are a lot of concepts within personal training and strength and fitness that I know as an athlete, but I don’t necessarily know the ‘why’ behind. Therefore, I can’t prescribe something to someone else until I know the ‘why’. And I might only know what works for me.

Now I am studying with MFE, I have the ‘why’ behind each thing and it makes me more confident to say to other people: here’s a really good workout to get stronger, because these are the principles of strength and here’s what works for me.

I have generally been coached and trained in the gym by men, and some of those men have been really wonderful; but there’s something very specific about how female athletes learn and understand things. And I’d like to be in a position to offer that out to the world.