Having become the world’s youngest international karate referee and spending the last three summers volunteering at Lourdes, it is fair to say Urmston’s Tyler McKenna is not your average sportsman.
But later this month the 19-year-old’s focus will be solely on the karate mat when he competes in the BUCS Nationals, the UK’s largest annual multi-sport event as athletes at universities across the country compete in a host of different sports between February 19 and 21.
The BUCS Nationals has proven to be an important building block in the careers of many professional athletes and McKenna will be joined in Sheffield by the likes of London 2012 Olympian Aimee Willmott and Commonwealth bronze medallist Bianca Williams.
And McKenna can’t wait to test himself against the best around.
“I have had a look through previous years and there were some really good players so I’m sure I am going to be tested,” said McKenna, who is in the first year of a biomedical science degree at Manchester Metropolitan University.
“I spoke to one of the girls from my university who took part last year and she said it was really well run and very busy so it should be a real challenge. It is an event that I am really looking forward to.
“It is hard to say what my expectations are in terms of results because I do not yet know who else will be competing but I know it will be enjoyable and it will be a challenge regardless of how strong the field is.”
McKenna will arrive in Sheffield confident though after winning the United World Karate (UWK) England Championships in November.
But the teenager is also spending as much time adjudicating fighters as he is getting involved in bouts nowadays after becoming a qualified referee.
In 2014, McKenna became the youngest qualified international referee with the WUKF at the age of just 18.
He added: “I kept being at competitions and thinking ‘that is an odd decision, why did he decide that?’ so I thought I would look into refereeing.
“And without referees the competitions would not be able to take place so I thought I would step up and give it a try.”
McKenna has also been providing a helping hand in the last three years at Lourdes, France, a major Catholic pilgrimage site where volunteers help the sick and elderly.
He travels alongside fellow students, past and present, from his old school St Ambrose College in Hale Barns, Altrincham.
“It is really rewarding and I like doing it. I enjoying being able to help people and I have made some friends for life there,” added McKenna.
“I have been going for the last three years now and every year you see the same faces – people we call VIPs – and it is nice when they recognise you and appreciate your help.”
British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) is the national governing body for Higher Education (HE) sport in the UK, representing more than 150 institutions. Covering 52 sports, BUCS aids grass roots participation through to supporting aspiring elite athletes en route to Commonwealth or Olympic Games www.bucs.org.uk