A NORTH-East and Team GB rower has returned as a coach to the high performance academy which got her involved in the sport.

Lauren Irwin, from Peterlee, helped Team GB claim a bronze medal in the 2017 European Rowing Under 23 Championships and sixth place in the 2017 World Rowing Under 23 Championships.

The 19-year-old is now a coach at Durham University’s junior high performance academy (JHPA), which she was part of while studying at Durham Sixth Form Centre.

Lauren, who is now in her second year at Durham University, where she is studying sports, exercise and physical activity, said: “I benefitted so much from the JHPA. It was great to learn from rowers older than myself, on techniques, health and how to balance sporting, academic and other commitments. It showed me what I might be capable of in the longer term.

“When given the chance to get involved as a coach, I jumped at it. I am pleased to be giving something back. Hopefully I can help younger women, both in their personal and sporting lives.”

The programme is aimed at supporting North-East teenagers to develop rowing skills while helping them manage the other pressures of their teenage years.

It offers young people aged 15 to 18 with rowing abilities a six-week training programme. In the one-hour, weekly sessions, participants learn about strength and conditioning, psychology and health.

Julie Shaw, a coach at St Leonard’s Catholic School, in Durham, said: “The St Leonard’s pupils found the sessions very interesting and productive. I learnt a lot and valued being able to be with our pupils during the sessions.

“The students that ran the groups were great fun but took their coaching seriously and I appreciated their time and effort.

“I really appreciated that an athlete of Lauren’s calibre takes the time and trouble to foster and encourage up-and-coming talent and it certainly gave our team a boost.

“I can certainly say that all our pupils are in a much better place both physically and mentally following the course and realise that knowledge is power.”

Miss Irwin, a former pupil of St Bede’s Catholic School, Peterlee, is hoping to be part of the Team GB squad for the 2018 World Rowing Under 23 Championships in Poland in July and wants to compete at the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

She started rowing aged 12 and now trains for around 20 hours a week.

She added: “It is challenging to balance everything but when we have time between sessions we get our laptops out and do half an hour’s work.

“My course tutors and rowing coaches are all very supportive.”