Thursday 25th November 2021

Para-Swimmer and Edinburgh Napier University student Laura Pilkington, shares reflections on coaching, education, mental health, & overcoming challenges.

 

In a brand new SSS feature, Spotlight On, we caught up with our Disability Lead Laura Pilkington.

Laura is a para-swimmer and currently studies at Edinburgh Napier University.  She tells about her story so far, touching on education, mental health and overcoming challenges!  

Hi – I’m Laura Pilkington, and I am a para–swimmer for Falkirk Integrated Regional Swim Team and I’m studying Physical Activity and Health at Edinburgh Napier University. I am currently a member of the Scottish Disability Sport (SDS) Young Person’s Sport Panel and sportscotland’s Young Person’s Sport Panel as well as the Disability Lead for Scottish Student Sport. My journey has been more of a squiggle line than a straight one, but I have learned so much along the way, and looking back it has made me who I am today.

In 2016, I was starting the third year of Computing Science at the University of Stirling and I wasn’t enjoying it. I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my future, and I felt so lost and alone. I eventually got some support and made the decision to drop out of university. I felt like a failure for giving up, but I also felt a lot of pressure on my shoulders. During that time, I really struggled with my mental health and didn’t see a positive future for myself. I wanted to highlight this before I talk about my leadership journey. It was never a straight path and if I told myself 4 years ago, I would be where I am now I would have never believed it.

After taking some time out and going abroad to Mallorca, I decided to get back into my studies. I started at Robert Gordon University studying Applied Sports and Exercise Science. It was at this point I wanted to do some coaching while I was there, Alison Shaw (Scottish Disability Sport Regional Development Manager) suggested I apply for the Young Start (YS) Programme within SDS. I got paired up with Kelly as my mentor who coached at Bridge of Don. I loved it, Kelly was great and really supportive and by the end of that year, I gained my swimming teaching qualification. Unfortunately, at the end of my first year at Robert Gordon University, I decided to take a leave of absence due to still struggling with my mental health. This was hard as although I loved the course, I still wasn’t in the right place mentally to be able to complete the degree. But having the teaching qualification from the YS programme allowed me to get a job and get some experience working while I figured things out. I loved the programme and took all the opportunities to go on courses and upskill myself.

In March 2020 the pandemic hit and the YS programme was moved online, this gave me a drive and something to work towards during that time and without that I would have struggled. I felt a sense of purpose and wanted to use that time to make a difference. During that time, I graduated from the YS programme as well as starting the Disability Wellbeing and Me project with fellow Young Start members. This was important to me as I struggled to accept my disability, especially at university and I wanted to use my experience and what I had learned to positively influence others.

In November 2020, I was accepted onto the sportscotland panel and even to this day, I still can’t believe I got through the selection process. Raising awareness of the positive impact of sport and getting more people involved is so important to me. We are now in our subgroups, which I am in the PE, Education, and Schools. I am also Scottish Student Sport’s Disability Lead, so far we have run an event for individuals transitioning from school to higher education (see below). It can be such a challenging transition and having an open space to talk about it is so important. Within the SDS Panel, I have been involved with the Comms and Branch subgroup, raising the profile of opportunities available to young people with a disability.

It can be hard combining training with 3rd year at university, but I am part of Napier’s Dual Career programme which is great in supporting me and allowing flexibility within my studies. This time around I am so much happier studying something I love and enjoying training in the pool.  It is difficult to admit that something isn’t right for you but taking that brave step and making a change can be the best thing. I still have hard times, but I am getting better at asking for support. I used to never think I was capable of all the things I am doing now but I am so glad I made the first step in saying yes to an opportunity instead of no. Getting involved in leadership has made such a difference in my life.

Scottish Student Sport would like to thank Laura for sharing her personal story with us. If you have any questions for Laura or how to encourage students with disabilities to take part in student sport, please email Development Coordinator Eilidh Paterson

If you would like to be featured on “Spotlight On” or know someone inspirational with a story to tell then please get in touch.

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Friday 19th November 2021

Scottish Student Sport is delighted to welcome Kevin Harper as the new Equality Steering Group Chair.

We are delighted to announce Kevin Harper as the new Chair for the SSS Equality Steering Group.

Kevin was a professional footballer from 1992 to 2009. The former Hibernian FC striker was the first black player to play for the Hibs, before going on to have a successful career with several English clubs including Premier League sides Portsmouth, Derby and Stoke. Kevin is also the founder of the Kevin Harper Football School of Excellence and is a passionate diversity and inclusion advocate.

As Chair, Kevin will provide support and future direction for the group, and be an advocate of equality and diversity within student sport to the wider network.

Speaking to Scottish Student Sport, Kevin said: “I am absolutely delighted to be the Scottish Student Sport’s new Equality Chair. I have been championing equality within Scottish sport and society for over 25 years and I will do my utmost in the role to make student sport in Scotland, open to all.”

Speaking on the appointment of Kevin, SSS Chief Operating Officer, Stew Fowlie, said: “I am delighted to welcome Kevin to a position of such vital importance to the SSS team. Kevin has a well-informed passion for equality and diversity, and as someone who has faced barriers throughout his own life and career, I know he will provide leadership and inspiration both to our Equality Steering Group and the wider network. I am excited to work alongside Kevin to achieve the cultural and systemic progress required to make sure that sport and active health are truly at the heart of the student experience for all.”

SSS Development Coordinator Eilidh Paterson added: “I am very excited to work alongside Kevin and continue to achieve the outcomes in the current Equality Action Plan and have his experience to assist SSS to look to the future as to what we should be achieving long term.”

The SSS Equality Steering Group

The Scottish Student Sport’s Equality Steering Group was created in 2018 to advise and prompt the staff, committees, and networks of SSS on all relevant aspects of equality and inclusion, with particular emphasis on ensuring adherence to a rolling Equality Action Plan for the organisation.

Kevin joins the group as Chair as they reach mid-way through their annual Equality action plan which will continue to steer the work of the current group (see below): 

  • Emmanuel Akerele – Ethnicity Lead & Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Advisor, Robert Gordon University
  • Georgia Moran – Women’s Lead & East Regional Development Officer, RYA Scotland
  • Laura Pilkington – Disability Lead, Scottish Para-Swimmer & student at Edinburgh Napier University
  • Carolina Sousa e Sá – LGBTQ+ Lead & Project Officer Communities, LEAP Sports Scotland
  • Keith Macleod – Institute of Sport & Exercise, University of Dundee
  • Fraser Reynolds – Edinburgh Napier Student Association
  • Jenny Beedie – University of Glasgow Sport Union
  • Ian Lowe – Head of Development, SSS
  • Eilidh Paterson – Development Coordinator, SSS

Scottish Student Sport would also like to take this opportunity to thank our outgoing Equality Steering Group Chair and Dr. Robin MacPherson Award winner Barabara Lawson for her expertise and dedication to this work over the last three years.

If you would like to discuss your or SSS’ equality and culture work in more detail, please contact Development Coordinator Eilidh.

 

 

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Tuesday 23rd February 2021

Our Equality Steering group have recruited four new volunteers onto the group. Meet our Women’s, Ethnicity, LGBTQ+ and Disability Leads here!

The Equality Steering Group was established to advise and prompt the staff, committees and networks of SSS on all relevant aspects of equality and inclusion, with particular emphasis on ensuring adherence to a rolling Equality Action Plan for the organisation. Meet our four new volunteer leads!

Emmanuel Akerele, Ethnicity Lead

Meet Your LeadMy name is Emmanuel, after serving for two years as Robert Gordon University’s President for Education and Welfare, I am now their Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Advisor working within the HR Team. I love and play football and I am very passionate about equality, diversity, and representation within sports and wider society.

What attracted you to the role? I know that still racism exists, having experienced it myself and hearing of others’ experiences. It is imperative that everyone be anti-racist, and act against racism until it is completely eradicated. During my studies, I co-founded RGU’s Black Liberation Network which is a network of students coming together to take a stand against racism. I have also led several activist campaigns in the past such as Black History Month and hope to add more value to the subject through SSS.

Fun fact about yourself? I love football and I love scoring goals. I am a big boxing fan and my favourite sportspersons are Cristiano Ronaldo and Anthony Joshua.

 

Carolina O’Neill de Sousa e Sá, LGBTQ+ Lead

Meet Your Lead: I’m a Portuguese/American who grew up in Lisbon and has been living in Scotland since 2013. I’ve been an avid sportsperson for most of my life; taking every opportunity to get involved in sports teams, competitions, and outdoor activities. I studied at the University of Edinburgh – as an undergraduate in Sports Science and a Masters in Sport Policy and International Development.

Like most people, it was during my time at uni that I really came into my shell. One thing which definitely helped me was joining the Women’s Football Club. It was a place where I felt understood and like I could be entirely myself. It was during my Masters that I developed my passion for promoting equality and diversity through sport, particularly LGBTIQ inclusion. I now work as a Senior Project Officer for LEAP Sports (Scotland’s LGBTIQ sports charity) and Football v Homophobia Scotland.

What attracted you to the role? Student sport is a dynamic, fast-paced industry so I have always considered SSS to be an exciting organisation to be involved in. As for the role, this is a completely new role within SSS so it feels like a clean slate and something I can get creative with. LGBTIQ inclusion in sport is what I’m passionate about, and I’m really looking forward to working with students and sports clubs all over Scotland to make student sport a more welcoming space for all LGBTIQ people.

Fun fact about yourself? Not a fun fact, but my claim to fame is that I went to school – in Portugal – with Tottenham Hotspur’s Eric Dier. He was in the year above me, and I used to play football with him during our lunch breaks.

 

Laura Pilkington, Disability Lead

Meet Your Lead: My name is Laura Pilkington and I was born with a disability called Brittle Bones disease. I am a current student studying Physical Activity & Health at Edinburgh Napier University. I am a competitive para-swimmer and have been involved in swimming for the last 10 years. I am part of the Scottish Para-Swimming team and have Scottish para-swimming records in my classification. I am currently part of both Scottish Disability Sport and sportscotland’s Young People’s Sport Panel. I am also a swimming teacher covering shifts when I have some free time!

What attracted you to the role? I am passionate about inclusion within sport and know how much being involved within sport can have such a positive impact on your life; mentally, socially, and physically. However, I know that there are barriers that prevent those with disabilities taking part. I think raising awareness of these barriers within SSS is really important as well as finding out how best we can promote inclusion within disability sport. Sport is such a big part of student life and having a disability shouldn’t stop you from participating in this! I am really excited to work with the team and SDS to increase participation.

Fun fact about yourself? I can lick my elbow!

 

Georgia Moran, Women’s Lead

Meet Your Lead: Hello, I’m Georgia, SSS’ Women’s Lead. I studied Popular Music at Edinburgh Napier University, where I got quickly involved in the Students Association for four years before being elected as VP Sports & Societies for two years after I graduated. I am now the East Regional Development Officer at The RYA Scotland.

Being VP Sports & Socs lead me to so many amazing volunteering opportunities within SSS such as Elected Students Forum Chair, Competitions, Equality and Executive Committee Member and Chair/Founder of the Women in Sport Working Group. I have a passion for Equality and Inclusion in sport and I can’t wait to continue making a positive impact on the Student Sport Sector with SSS and the rest of the Equality Steering Group.

What attracted you to the role? I am excited about this role as it will provide more positive impacts to happen within the SSS membership. I have chaired the Women in Sport Group from 2019, now and I am so excited to keep pushing forward with the rest of the team. I have loved volunteering with SSS the past couple of years and I believe this group will have some amazing outcomes.

Fun fact about yourself? When my mum and I were visiting Nashville, Tennesse we were invited on stage to sing a couple of country songs in one of the most famous bars.

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Wednesday 16th December 2020

Inspiration, innovation and collaboration at every corner. These were some of the key themes that emerged from the SSS 2020 Festive Gathering. Over 70 members tuned into the virtual gathering and were treated to thought-provoking discussion, high-quality guest speakers and plenty of Festive Fun! Read all about it here!

In a change to tradition and a fitting tribute to 2020, the SSS Festive Gathering was delivered virtually this year with over 70  members across the tribe tuning in to hear from a panel of world-class athletes and leaders in sport.

Whilst the virtual gathering was a first of its kind, the longstanding tradition of participants wearing festive jumpers remained true – with some fantastic outfits on show throughout the afternoon. None more so than panelist Robyn Love (pictured below) in what is undoubtedly a candidate for the most festive photo of the year.

After an energising welcome from SSS Chair Pete Burgon, a brief review of the year gone by and finances approved – our attendees were met by two equally inspiring and thought-provoking discussions from our special guests.

First up, the Road to Tokyo panel, where SSS Head of Competitions Chris Purdie, was joined by three athletes whose experiences through student sport had helped shape their career path and their journey to next year’s Tokyo Olympics.

Neah Evans (Cycling), Megan Gaffney (Rugby) and Robyn Love (Wheelchair Basketball) discussed how their positive student sport experiences helped them reach where they are today. From balancing the workload of their studies with the pressure of performing in their sport and also trying to keep up a social life in the process, the panelists spoke honestly and fondly of their student days.

All three touched upon the huge sacrifices required to make it at the top level and acknowledged the vital support they received from their institutions and staff during their time at University. This support has been vital to them and many other young athletes looking to achieve their potential while also studying and preparing for their future.

The panel discussed the importance of resilience and “bounce-back ability” that the challenges of Coronavirus and lockdown caused before previewing what promises to be a jam-packed and exciting year of sport in 2021.

All three have very real and promising hopes of competing at the Tokyo Olympic Games and everyone at SSS wishes Megan, Robyn and Neah every success for 2021 and beyond.

Following this inspirational panel, the next section was packed full of ambition, innovation and collaboration at every corner: An Audience with Jan Paterson.

Jan is currently Managing Director Sport for Neom, delivering a bold new vision of future living. Neom is being designed as a global city for global citizens and Jan’s role is to engrain sport and physical activity in the lives of residents. In the future city, citizens will never be more than 8 minutes from a sports facility and physical activity will be an integral part of the curriculum.

Jan herself is a pioneer and her experiences in leadership roles were a great learning opportunity for our audience. She spoke of the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people, and the significance of bottom-up team building. We also heard some great stories of her times at the World University Games, Commonwealth Games and the Olympics.

To round off the day and in true 2020 style, the SSS Tribe were treated to a Zoom Quiz of the Year courtesy of Pete Burgon. This gave everyone a chance to show off their best Christmas jumpers, share some “funny” Christmas jokes and engage in some much needed festive cheer.

We would like to wish everyone a restful festive break and we look forward to seeing you all in 2021.

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Tuesday 30th June 2020

The SSS AGM took place virtually on Thursday 11th June 2020. Did you miss it? Catch up on everything you need to know here!

The 2020 SSS AGM took place on Thursday 11th June via Zoom webinar in what was the first (but perhaps not the last…?) of its kind for the SSS Tribe. Over 50 members from 16 institutions were able to tune in and whilst something was lost in the two-way face-to-face interaction, we also gained in some respects and the Chair is to be congratulated for bringing it all to a close within 62 minutes. Please click here for the official AGM minutes.

The meeting allowed for a bittersweet look back at the unusual year, which until mid-March had been going like a train, with a bumper year in terms of club activity at an institutional level, and event entries nationally. This appetite will surely stand us all in good stead as the subsequent lockdown begins to lift.

The AGM endorsed a sober but pragmatic approach to the 20-21 Academic Year in terms of SSS’ planned activities and finances, and approved a one-year plan that can get the organisation safely to next summer whilst still being well placed to deliver across every part of the business.

Some notable features of the revised plan include:

  • Carrying as little risk as possible, with modest aims around event entries
  • Shelving of all non-essential costs
  • Budgeting for a significant deficit on the year, equal to the current level of our non-fixed reserves
  • Offering up to a 25% discount on membership fees for those who need it

This will mean less room for manoeuvre and the cessation of some aspects, including our Special Projects Fund, but gives us a solid footing for what is a most unpredictable year. It also allows for the full staff team to remain in place throughout, so as to be best placed to provide a strong service to the members.

For more information about our plans for 20-21, please don’t hesitate to contact stew@scottishstudentsport.com

With the finances dealt with the AGM was then able to confirm the line-up of volunteer officers and appointments that will help to shape SSS’ work over the next twelve months. Across all of our committees we are blessed to have the most capable and enthused individuals in place and each of them comes into office with the thanks and optimistic expectations of the wider membership. Scroll to the bottom of the page to see the new SSS Executive, Development, and Competitions Committees for season 2020/21.

The departing volunteers – and particularly the sabbatical students leaving office – exit with a huge vote of thanks from all at SSS. We all appreciate that the year has ended in strange circumstances for you all, but we know that you have all the traits and tools you need to make a really positive transition, and we hope you’ll retain a long and positive engagement with the Tribe.

 

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Friday 29th May 2020

SSS are pleased to announce that we have been awarded the Intermediate Level of the Equality Standard in Sport. Read the full story about what the award is and how we achieved it!

SSS recently received the very positive news that we have been awarded the Intermediate Level of the Equality Standard in Sport.

This achievement represents three years of excellent work within the organisation and significant leaps across student sport in terms of participation, projects, and partnerships.

The Equality Standard is supported by sportscotland – via Plan4Sport – as part of its expert resource help to governing bodies and other partners. By working through the standard, funded organisations are encouraged to own and deliver an Equality Action Plan that can demonstrably improve their impact on people in protected groups.

For SSS this has produced a number of highlights including:

  • Our well-developed work with partners at Scottish Disability Sport
  • An active contribution to the SAMH Charter for Physical Activity & Sport
  • A lead delivery role within the rejuvenated Healthy Body, Healthy Mind programme
  • The collection, collation and analysis of better equality data
  • A series of impactful campaigns and projects including Rainbow Laces, CHANGES, and She Can She Will
  • Embedding value-based decision making across SSS – adopting an INCLUSIVE approach in all we do

Reaching the Intermediate award milestone represents another 2021 strategy target achieved, and so it is fitting to pause and celebrate the network-wide commitment that this represents.

SSS would like to thank all who have contributed to the work thus far, both across our membership and within the many partner organisations who have supported us along the way. A special thanks to Barbara Lawson and all of our Equality Steering Group members for giving additional volunteer time to help guide the work. We couldn’t have managed it without you.

Having reached this level SSS is now amongst the most developed sports bodies in the country. This important work will now continue towards the top-level (Advanced) over the coming years, in our bid to make student sport a place where everyone is able and welcome to play.

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Wednesday 29th April 2020

The numbers are in and SSS are excited to announce a 12% growth in club membership numbers in the 2019/20 academic year. Check out the sport-specific breakdown and highlights here!

Scottish Student Sport are delighted to report that across Scotland, the collective total club membership numbers has reached just under 40,000.  Here are some of the facts behind the numbers…

  • Across 571 student sports clubs there are 39,947 individuals reported to be taking part in club activity. This healthy annual growth of 12% is representative of the hard work put in by the staff, volunteers and students at each institution working hard to ensure good quality, fun and friendly sport and physical activity are available on campus.
  • We are delighted to see a huge increase in the reported involvement of students with a disability with that number reaching a total of 1,330 students.
  • The sex balance reported is 45% male, 48% female and 6% unknown.
  • There is slight movement in the top 10 sports per membership numbers with Netball moving up and Tennis moving down. Each sport in the top 10, with the exception of mountaineering, have all increased in size since the 2018/19 reporting.

Please see below a snapshot of the data capture. If you have any questions regarding the data then please email Development & Competitions Assistant Leah Davidson.

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Wednesday 4th March 2020

The latest edition of SSS best practice webinar series is now available to view. We caught up with Alban Dickson and Amy Beattie from the University of Stirling who shared their success of their Stirling Disability Inclusion Forum. Watch the webinar here!

This edition is delivered by Alban Dickson and Amy Beattie from the University of Stirling and focuses on the Stirling Disability Inclusion Forum (SDIF).

In partnership with Scottish Disability Sport, the SDIF was established to improve accessibility to sport and physical activity for students with physical, sensory or learning disabilities. This webinar looks at how and why the forum was established. There’s an insight as to who was involved in those initial stages and what the forum stands for, as well as some of the projects currently being worked on.

Special thanks to Alban and Amy for delivering this webinar, and thanks to all those who have contributed to the forum from the University of Stirling, Scottish Disability Sport, Forth Valley Disability Sport, and Basketball Scotland.

If you have a project or campaign you think would be an impactful addition to the series then please contact neil@scottishstudentsport.com.

🎥Check out some of the awesome work the University of Stirling has been doing around disability sport and inclusion in the last twelve months.

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Wednesday 12th February 2020

We recently caught up with Gemma Lumsdaine, a GB Wheelchair Rugby Athlete and advocate for both gender equality in sports and more provision for disability sport. 

SSS: Gemma, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule of studying and training to speak with us. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am 22 year old wheelchair athlete who plays wheelchair rugby for the GB Talent Squad
This Squad helps athletes make the transition to the Paralympic squad and play at the highest level. I am also in my third year at Abertay University studying Sports Development and Coaching. So when I’m not playing, training and studying, I coach at Dundee Dragons Wheelchair Sports Club.

 

I believe at the moment you are traveling to Sheffield for a training session, tell us a little about your sporting journey?

From a young age I was involved in individual sports such as swimming and horse riding which I was advised to participate in as a form of physiotherapy. In 2013 I joined my local wheelchair sports club Dundee Dragons which has been life changing for me as at the time I struggled to accept my disability and had low confidence but seeing other people being independent and succeeding in life really changed my perspective of disability. When I first started at Dragons the club only participated in rugby league but through a whirlwind of events I ended up playing my first game of wheelchair basketball for my country with only two weeks practice! The Dragons then developed into a multi-sports club which includes basketball, tennis, badminton and curling. I continued to play basketball for Scotland for a few years and loved it. However due to my impairment level I struggled with some of the fundamental skills such as shooting so I was recommended to try Wheelchair Rugby as it is designed for people with impairments in three to four limbs and involves many transferable skills from basketball. I fell in love with rugby and have worked my way up within the Sport and now play for the GB talent Squad.

 

As you know Scottish Student Sport have partnered with Scottish Disability Sport with the aim to nationally improve the sporting experience of students with a disability. What do you think about that?

I think this a fantastic project as sport has so many mental, physical and social benefits which everyone should be able to experience no matter what their disability, gender, age, ethnicity, religion or sexuality. I would like to see all students in Scotland with a disability being provided with the opportunity I have had. Without sport I do not know what my main motivation would be otherwise. One thing I do know is that I would not have the community feel around me like I currently do, I would be much more isolated.

 

As part of the national aim, SSS and Scottish Disability Sport are working alongside Abertay University in their working group which you are a part of. For other Universities or Colleges that might not currently be doing this work, can you share what being part of this conversation and what this development means to you as a student?

It’s such a privilege to be part of Abertay University’s working group and be able to represent students with a disability at the University. Helping to make a positive change which will improve the quality of students experience at University is pretty special. Not all students want to be involved in sport and that’s okay but the important thing is that opportunities and suitable provision are available if they wish to get involved.

 

SSS are lucky enough to have had you sitting on our Women in Sport Panel during last year’s Festive Gathering at Perth College. Can you tell us about the incredible work that you are currently involved in outside of University and athlete life?

I am delighted to be a member of the Scottish Government’s Scottish Women and Girls in Sport Advisory Board. The board aims to create equal opportunities within Sport and Physical Activity for Women and girls across Scotland. As part of the boards role we set recommendations and advise the Scottish Government and other key stakeholders on how best to make a positive difference in sport for Women and Girls and as a result the group have recently released their ‘Level the Playing Field’ report, please have a read if you have not yet had the opportunity to do so.

 

If there is anything you could tell a student who is struggling to get engaged in sport at College or University, what would your advice be to them?

Don’t be afraid to try something new. Everyone has been a beginner at some point!

 

Thanks again to Gemma who took out time from her busy schedule to talk to us. Keep up the good work! We look forward to continuing to provide more opportunities to students with a disability across Scotland. If you wish to hear more about the Partnership contact your SSS Regional Development Coordinator or if you wish to seek advice for a student, contact a SDS member of staff in your area.

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Wednesday 18th December 2019

Read all about the highlights from our annual Festive Gathering which took place at Perth College, UHI. A fitting way to end an incredible year of Scottish Student Sport.

For the first time, the SSS Tribe descended on Perth College UHI for our annual Festive Gathering. We were delighted to welcome our members, colleagues and friends from across the length and breadth of the country to participate in a number of forums, workshops and discussions – giving everyone the opportunity to learn, collaborate and innovate the world of Scottish Student Sport going into the new year.

Stew the COO and SSS Chair, Pete Burgon kicked things off with a SSS update and overview of the accounts before we were treated to a practical session delivered by our friends at Scottish Disability Sport (SDS).

SSS has a strong partnership with SDS and this partnership has flourished with the number of events across our member institutions greatly increasing over the last few months – highlighting the appetite for disability sport in both Colleges and Universities in Scotland. Heather Lowden and Gavin Macleod, from SDS, were joined by wheelchair athlete Gemma Lumsdaine to deliver practical skills and theoretical insight into disability sport.

As well as learning more about the disability sport landscape, participants had the opportunity to test their practical skills; activities included visually impaired running,  Wheelchair Basketball, Goalball and mastering the art of Boccia. For a number of participants this was the first exposure to disability sport and raising this awareness is an integral element of the partnership between SSS and SDS.

After a hearty lunch,  we were treated to a panel discussion on Women in Sport and a keynote workshop on organisational sustainability. The panel was chaired by University of Stirling’s Cathy Gallagher who guided the conversation on a range of topics from participation in student sport to career opportunities and the role of the media in women’s sport.

Cathy was joined by Shelley Kerr, Head Coach of Scotland Womens National Football Team, Gemma Lumsdaine, Wheelchair Basketball coach and Wheelchair Rugby Player, and Laura McGhie, Sports Journalist at BBC Scotland.

With a wealth of experience on the panel we explored some of the barriers to participation but also the hurdles that women potentially face/faced in beginning their career in sport. With fantastic role models on the panel some of the topics discussed included how we celebrate achievements, encourage leadership and promote careers in sport for young women. One of the key actions to come from the discussion is to look for ways to better communicate and promote what we are achieving in the world of Women’s sport, and the importance of collaborative working to achieve this.

Following the panel discussion we were treated to a keynote workshop from Jen Curran. Jen works for Wren & Greyhound, a consultancy supporting the not-for-profit sector in working toward organisational sustainability. Jen delivered fascinating insight on a number of topics relevant to the SSS Tribe including income diversification, workload management and the importance of relationships.

To finish the day the Tribe had the opportunity to hear from Professor Craig Mahoney, Principal at UWS and recently elected Chair of BUCS. Craig’s background in sport makes him a great candidate to succeed Professor Sir Ian Diamond in leading BUCS forward and supporting the work of SSS.

Special thanks to the staff at Perth College UHI for playing great hosts and making us feel warmly welcomed. Thanks to our guest speakers, the Women in Sport Panel, SDS and all our members who attended, contributed and participated in what was a great day and a fitting way to end a hugely successful 2019. Here is to 2020…

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