Online classes, revamped facilities, virtual welcome fayres, free gym memberships, mental health and wellbeing resources, virtual socials and hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of fundraising – it is safe to say that not even a global pandemic could stop our members, partners and sports clubs from making a difference. Here are a few “COVID Highlights” from our student sport community.
University of Strathclyde | Community Spirit & Fundraising
Strathclyde Sports Union has not allowed the current pandemic to affect our community spirit and fundraising efforts. This semester we have witnessed sport member’s most creative thinking and determination to continue to play sport. After restrictions stopped them from training, our rowing club swapped their boats for bikes and completed a ‘Time-lapse Challenge’ in aid of Scottish Association for Mental Health charity. This consisted of a 25-hour cycling endurance event in teams of four, with an extra power hour being added due to the clocks changing. The challenge was completed online via Strava, so it was the perfect event to do as a club while adhering to covid regulations.
The club completed laps within Glasgow Green working in various shift patterns throughout the night. The club’s community spirit ensured that participating members were supported throughout – people chipped in to act as mechanics (attending to seven different punctures throughout the event) and chefs, baking plenty of sausage rolls to keep everyone fuelled. On completion of the event, the club raised an impressive £1195 with the teams cycling over 300 kilometres throughout the 25 hours.
Whilst indoor sports club training was halted, our Netball club showed incredible innovation and looked for an outdoor fitness solution. The club took their nets and set up at Strathclyde’s outdoor sports facilities, Stepps Playing Fields, utilising an old blaze pitch (pictured above). They set up their posts and lines, on a largely derelict space, to allow members old and new to step foot on a court. These training sessions saw even the most senior club members make their first-ever trip to the University facility, brave the cold and get to enjoy throwing a ball around again.
As part of the StrathActive programme, the club is currently running online zoom fitness sessions, allowing those that are bound by travel restrictions an opportunity to participate. The club runs two sessions at Stepps per week, ditching their shorts and t-shirts for baselayers and joggers. The sessions may look a little different but the club have really demonstrated resilience and a determination to play. #PlayTheModifiedGame
University of Glasgow | Wellbeing Resource & Makeshift Facilities
As lockdown began in March and our facilities as we know them closed UofG Sport immediately jumped to action to create a wellbeing offering for all of our students, staff and community. In a matter of days, we created a webpage and filled it with a range of content for everyone to access for free. Initially, we started filming classes with our amazing active lifestyle team and uploaded them for people to continue exercising no matter where they were based. The page went from strength to strength and now includes a whole range of information resources including nutritional advice, bodyweight circuits, home-workouts and couch to 3K training plans, meditation tips and links to support resources.
✔️Since March our wellbeing resource recorded over 10,000 clicks.
Another highlight at GUSA has been the new intramural programme to invite students to get involved in sport for free without restrictions of memberships. This has massively improved the student experience at a time when most other social activities have been restricted. To support these activities we have adapted our facilities where ever we can – turning our outdoor rugby pitches into volleyball courts and using an outdoor marquee to host the boat club.
✔️In the last month, over 550 students attended our brand new drop-in Badminton and Table Tennis sessions to replace cancelled sports.
RGU | Digital Content & Free Gym Memberships
To support our community to remain active and take time to look after their physical and mental wellbeing during lockdown, RGU SPORT created Stay Safe Stay Home Stay Well. An initiative that saw us work with departments across the university to give the RGU community free access to the breadth of our services. Over the course of 23 weeks, we offered daily digital content ranging from live classes and stretching sessions to mindfulness visualisations, showing our commitment to keeping our community well during the challenging times being faced.
On campus we continued to place our student wellbeing at the top of our priorities. We believe the benefits of physical activity and using the facilities at RGU SPORT extend through all aspects of University life, whether that’s improving physical and mental wellbeing, meeting new people, increasing motivation or potentially enhancing academic performance.
Due to the challenging time students are facing, we believed the opportunity of free membership for the remainder of semester one for all students, regardless of individual physical activity background, would be a great way for students to get active at RGU and maintain an active lifestyle in order to support a healthy body and mind, without having to worry about the cost.
This opportunity has been made available to all students, whether or not they have used, or even visited the gym before. RGU SPORT is a safe space for students with a team who are always on hand to support students in their physical activity journey.
University of Dundee | Active Living Programme & MND Fundraising
In response to COVID-19, the ISE Active Living Programme delivery immediately moved online in March, with nine classes delivered weekly, supported by online member resources and guidance. Regular member circulars with updates, guidance and reassurance ensured that online class attendance was very positive, with over 40 participants for some classes. The feedback from programme members, who are in the highest risk COVID category, has been overwhelmingly positive:
“The classes have been the best thing about lockdown. Apart from maintaining some degree of fitness, the classes have added some much-needed structure to our days.”
The success of the programme delivery resulted in its manager, Hazel Ednie, being shortlisted for the Evening Telegraph’s Dundee Champion Awards 2020
On the sports clubs front, over the summer, the Dundee University Men’s Rugby Club worked together with club alumni to complete 1,000000 reps of different exercises in support of Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA).
After 30 days of hard effort, the club successfully completed 1,027,746 reps and smashed their fundraising target of £2k, with a total of £3894 raised. The individual efforts of one member – who completed 6012 reps on the final day – highlighted the individual and collective efforts of the club and its commendable focus on those in greatest need.
University of Aberdeen | Performance Swimming & Space Management Volunteers
After three months of lockdown, the possibility of elite swimming returning emerged in June 2020. Working in collaboration with Scottish Swimming, colleagues from the University and Aberdeen Sports Village seized the opportunity to host one of three regional ‘Performance’ locations (Aberdeen, Edinburgh & Stirling). Plans were initiated to mobilise quickly, with colleagues returned from furlough, documentation produced, COVID training undertaken, and building compliance ensured.
By 20 July all the necessary checks were complete and ASV was able to facilitate the successful return of elite swimming and diving to ASV’s world-class aquatic facilities. This ensured that performance sport was able to resume six weeks before other aquatic activity in ASV.
Although initially open to only a handful of elite athletes, the high-performance programme helped enable the wider return to sport. Alongside ASV and University staff, club volunteers, Scottish Swimming officials, and the swimmers tested our health-related and building-specific processes and procedures, with all seen to be robust. This bred confidence ahead of the return of both public and club swimming which took place in September. This highly collaborative exercise was undertaken with exceptional dedication and attention from all partners.
The pandemic related contribution of the sports staff at Scottish universities hasn’t just been about facilitating the resumption of student sport and maintaining facilities. In Aberdeen, the specialist Sport & Exercise Team mucked in to help their Estates colleagues complete a vital institutional assessment of teaching spaces.
With Aberdeen Sports Village closed and most of its staff furloughed, the University’s small team of specialist sports staff were also furloughed through May & June. However, when an opportunity came up that required adaptable, resourceful, and physically active staff to volunteer to support the wider University effort to reopen the campus … the sport and exercise team jumped at the chance to come off furlough two weeks early.
Armed with hand-sanitiser, masks, tape-measures, common-sense, and a giant bunch of keys, the team set out on the exercise. They visited, measured and analysed every seminar and lecture room on the University’s Old Aberdeen campus. Each room was assessed for various social distancing scenarios; furniture was counted, logged and moved to lay the rooms out in the optimal format; and a data sheet for every room was compiled. Ten days and 100 rooms later an exercise vital to the timetabling of face-to-face classes in the autumn was complete.
University of Edinburgh | Wellbeing Offering
Given the unique challenges of this year, student wellbeing has been at the forefront of all of our activity so far. Sophie Weeden, our Wellbeing Officer, has worked on creating a dedicated wellbeing pack for all club welfare officers. A huge amount of planning went into various EUSU campaigns across Mental Health and Wellbeing Week(s) across November. Our #LetsTalk video highlighting men’s mental health had over 28,000 views across all platforms; we are running Mind Athletics and Growth mindset workshops; and have created a brand new social media campaign.
Alongside this, many of our sports clubs have supported Movember and a number of other mental health-related campaigns during this time, highlighting the importance of student wellbeing across our membership. Staying with sports clubs, during lockdown a number of our sports clubs took the opportunity to fundraise for different charities, including;
- The Boat Club raised £2500 for Alzheimer’s Society by rowing for 24 hours straight on an erg – breaking the Lightweight Tandem world record in the process!
- Ladies Rugby raised over £2000 for SAMH, My Name’5 Doddie, and Coppafeel – by virtually cycling/running/swimming from BT Murrayfield to each of the 6 Nation Stadiums – a total of 1,900 miles in just 7 days!
- Our cricket club raised over £3000 for Age Scotland – running/cycling/swimming the length of their planned summer tour – from Edinburgh to Barbados, in total a whopping 7,800 kilometres in 12 days!
Heriot-Watt University | The Watt Welcome Fair
The Watt Welcome Fair was a celebration of all that is good about a University environment. A Sports Fair is not new as a concept but in the midst of a pandemic, Heriot-Watt held its largest-ever fair (based on the number of stakeholders) at Oriam, Scotland’s Sports Performance Centre, with attendees from across the Heriot-Watt Community. These included the Sports Union, Students Union and Chaplaincy to name but a few. With so much activity around induction and welcome being online, the fair gave new students a much needed physical event to attend.
The planning for the event ended up being military level with every single detail scrutinised to ensure everyone’s health and safety was looked after. All key partner groups were part of the planning and delivery with over 100 volunteers from both the Sports Union Ambassador and Student Union helpers teams supporting the event.
Such was the success of the event, discussions have already started on how the 2021 event, with or without covid, will be bigger and better next year.
Once our new students signed up – our sports clubs activity took off! Our main highlight of this season so far has been our Movember campaign.Our Sports Clubs are doing a phenomenal job raising money for Movember this year – taking part in fitness challenges, growing moustaches and hosting socials, raising over £20,000 so far! We never would have thought that within a week we would’ve surpassed last years target of £14, so we decided to revalue our target to £25k.
Our HW Movember Ambassador Stewart Morgan is leading the campaign. Movember is a campaign close to his heart and he has been instrumental in raising money and awareness for the cause. He spoke with Mark Beaumont SSS Honorary President Mark Beaumont earlier this month about the campaign, chatting all things student life, motivation and the importance of speaking up about mental health. Alongside Mark, Stewart also interviewed Tongan Rugby Player Nasi Manu to discuss their experiences with Testicular Cancer in the hopes to encourage others to regularly self-check and take action if they feel something is not quite right! Stewart also managed to link in with external companies such as First Bus to advertise our campaign and John Pye to host a Movember Auction which has turned out to be very successful and raise awareness for such a worthwhile cause.
As well as fundraising through growing a moustache or doing exercise our Clubs have held socials too – both our Volleyball Club and Basketball Club hosted a virtual Bingo and Movember Quiz Nights to add to our ever-increasing total.
Everyone at Heriot-Watt is hugely proud of all our sports clubs who have built such a great community spirit together during the pandemic.
QMU | Food Pantry & Inclusive Movember
Despite the disruption to the regular season, QMU’s Sports & Societies have joined forces to raise awareness and funds for Movember 2020. But it hasn’t just been moustaches! Students from a diverse range of sports & societies such as Men’s Rugby, Netball, Hockey and Musical Theatre have all shared a common goal in challenging themselves to get active, completing ‘5K per day’ challenges throughout the month – raising the profile and awareness of men’s physical and mental health. In just twelve days they raced past last year’s fundraising total of £3,500, an immense achievement in the current circumstances.
Also on campus, recognising the additional pressures that the pandemic has put on students finances in particular a group of QMU students worked with local partners Cyrenians and QMUSU to develop QMU’s first-ever food pantry! This student-led project aims to provide healthy, quality food and ingredients to students, in an affordable and accessible way. The first of its kind in Scotland, and possibly the UK, the Food Pantry has been a huge success in its opening months and has become a must-visit for students living on campus!
University of St. Andrews | Charity Work
In line with COVID restrictions, the St Andrews Hockey club has been able to provide regular hockey activity throughout the first semester of 2020/21 in a safe and competitive environment. We have had a record number of students join the club, consequently expanding our squads to 8 women’s teams and 3 men’s teams. We were also able to host pitch sessions for freshers in line with national and university guidelines, giving them the opportunity to meet new people in a safe environment. We are thrilled with the positive attitude everyone has brought to training this semester.
Since May the club has been actively raising money and supporting charities that are close to the club. In May, members ran over 4,500km and raised £4131.76 for SAMH as part of our ‘Run 4 SAMH’ challenge – a challenge which will be completed again next year and hopefully become a new tradition for years to come. Students participated in ‘Green Week’ by hosting a virtual veggie cooking competition, using reusable bottles and more sustainable transport decisions. The club is currently participating in Movember, encouraging the ‘run and chat challenge’ as well as some moustache growing. As of today, the club has have raised £4,138 and ‘moved’ 2345.15km.
We have loved hearing all your positive news stories over the last few weeks. All of this work only scratches the surface of the hard work and countless hours the student sport community have put in throughout this unusual year. We are so proud to be able to showcase this fantastic work from our members. If you have a good news story you would like to share with us please contact Communications Coordinator Gavin Rittoo on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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