This year we have revamped and restructured our SSS Award programme and we are doing things slightly differently!
Given the unusual and challenging year that everyone has faced, we wanted to recognise the incredible work and many success stories across our membership and celebrate the amazing people involved in student sport in Scotland. With a reduced year of activity, with many students not getting the chance to represent their institution on the field we decided to change up our awards – instead of recognising our usual individual, performance-based and club awards, this year our awards are based on each of SSS values!
In addition to the new awards, we will still be handing out the Honorary President’s Medal and Dr Robin Macpherson Award – recognising an outstanding commitment to volunteering within the student network.
In a further twist and in a bid to be more sustainable instead of handing out medals – we have planted a tree for each of our award winners. Each award winner will have a tree with their name on it added to our grove of trees in the Scottish Highlands as part of our new collaboration with TreesForLife.
Scroll down this page to read about EVERY award winner, get involved on social media and watch our celebration video!
2020/21 Award Winners
Dr. Robin MacPherson Award
This award differs slightly from the rest of our awards – there are no nominations, instead, the winner is selected by the SSS staff team as opposed to the Executive Committee.
The Robin MacPherson Volunteering award was inaugurated in 2016 following the death of Dr. Robin (Rob) Macpherson. No individual in our history has better embodied the positive culture of volunteering than Rob himself. He was a tireless, wise and extremely capable figure who dedicated much of his spare time to student golf.
Many congratulations to Barbara Lawson on receiving the 20-21 Dr. Robin Macpherson Award. Barbara has been a brilliant volunteer for SSS over recent years, proving leadership, wisdom and energy through her important role as Chair of the SSS Equality Steering Group. Barbara’s dedication to this role has given us a really strong platform upon which to advance inclusion in student sport and she has guided us through a period of significant development, including to achieve Intermediate level in the Equality Standard for Sport. Thank you Barbara for your great contribution to SSS, and to always approaching every challenge with a smile, just as Rob always did.
Barbara joins the list of previews winners of this award including Michael Rimicans (Cross Country Chair) Paul McPate (Women’s Volleyball Chair), Emma Borthwick (Cycling Chair), Chris Gray (Rifle Chair), Karen Mackellar (Netball Chair) and Emily Short (Trampoline Chair).
Honorary President’s Medal
There were three winners of the Honorary President’s Medal this year – an award that recognises individuals who have made an extraordinary contribution/impact on student sport at a local, regional or national level.
The first is George Kominis, often described as the heartbeat of Glasgow University Basketball club George is a very popular figure. George is a professor at the University but has volunteered his time to coach the basketball club for many years. During his time at the club, George has provided students with countless opportunities to learn, develop and ultimately enjoy themselves with studying – through Basketball!
Some highlights include forming links with professional team Glasgow Rocks – which has seen a number of players step up a level and play professionally. George co-created and facilitated the Govan Rising Stars Social Outreach Basketball program. The initiative provided over 200 primary & secondary school pupils from the Govan community with weekly basketball sessions run by volunteers from the university. The program facilitated trips to watch games, semesterly basketball tournaments and created a mentorship programme for Govan high school students. The standard of coaching has greatly improved with George at the helm, he has recruited a range of performance, S&C coaches and talent development coaches and during lockdown he stepped up and provided regular fitness classes online!
Head coach of the Edinburgh University Football Club for 9 years and 6 years involved with the Scottish Student Football coaching team, Dorian Ogunro is well-deserving of his Honorary President’s Medal. Over the last decade, Dorain has taken charge of around 50 games per season and has won multiple pieces of silverware – including the Queens Park Shield in 2016! Off the field, Dorian’s impact has been equally impressive, he has positively contributed to the sports union inclusion committee and each year Dorian offers placements opportunities for students who wish to gain experience working with a football programme.
John McGonigal picked up the final medal in this category – for his services to sport at UWS for over 25 years! During his time in post, John has held numerous roles within ranging from Sports Attendant in 1995 to Sports Development Manager in 2021. In a quarter of a century some of John’s main highlights include managing the UWS Sports Scholarship programme which has supported nearly 200 student-athletes in reaching their academic and sporting goals at both national and international levels. Other highlights include contributing to UWS restructure, consistent improvements in the BUCS Points table with a joint-highest total in both 2018 and 2019, and being awarded the ‘Roll of Honour’ at the 2017 UWS Sports Ball for his contribution to sport over the years.
The Ambitious Award is aimed at individuals, teams or unsung heroes who have demonstrated their ability to juggle multiple projects at once and make a significant impact within their communities. George Kominis, winner of the Honorary Presidents Medal was awarded an Ambitious Award for his dedication and commitment to developing basketball in the city of Glasgow.
Caitlin Duguid from the University of the Highlands & Islands is another worthy winner of the Ambitious Award. This year Caitlin has taken on numerous roles at HISA, assisting in HISA’s Nature Explorer project and taking on the role as a Sports Ambassador at her local campus (Moray College). Caitlin also graduated from the SSS Leadership Programme this year, her passion for developing sport and physical activity both on campus and within the local community is telling.
Ross Simpson joined the Edinburgh Sports Union team in 2015. From then on, he has never looked back and in March 2020 got the role of Head of Sport. During a challenging time, Ross has played a key role in ensuring sporting activity was able to continue wherever possible during the lockdown and subsequent restrictions, whilst constantly highlighting the benefits that sport and physical activity play in enhancing the student experience to university senior management. Ross has established partnerships important with SGB’s which to elite level athletes, particularly the Edinburgh swimmers, being able to continue training throughout all lockdowns. Throughout the year, Ross showcased his passion and dedication for student sport, stepping in to cover staff on sick leave and always ensuring that students were at the forefront of every decision!
There is no doubt in the ambition and drive to perform within the RGU Rowing Club. Throughout the past year, the club and committee have dedicated themselves to a return of activity on the water, advocating in both the Union and University space. The club were ambitious in their delivery of the annual boat race, which took place behind closed doors in late May. Led by coach Lewis McCue, the club has worked tirelessly to ensure all safety precautions were followed, university protocols abided by and documentation was signed off in time for the long-await summer season!
In the season of 2020/21, the University of Stirling Women’s Rugby Club showed outstanding charitable initiative in raising money for Killin Mountain Rescue. The club aimed to run a relay of 5k a day throughout the month of February in memory of a former player, Eilidh McNab. The club did a tremendous job in fundraising £3200 in donations and gift aid.
The club not only aimed to raise money throughout the month but they were also able to engage members and keep them active during a month with very strict government restrictions. The intention of this fundraiser was to raise money for a cause close to the team’s heart, whilst also allowing the membership to maintain their fitness and challenge themselves – with many members completing their first-ever 5k during this fundraiser. In recognition of the club’s ambition, they were awarded Outstanding Charity (Club) Award and Club of the Year at the Sports Union Awards Ball 2021.
Heriot-Watt picked up added another award to their cabinet for the Movember campaign led by Stewart Morgan from the Heriot-Watt Basketball Club. The Movember campaign raised a whopping 35k, as well as increasing awareness of the charity across the University. Stewart’s collaborative work with athletes such as Mark Beaumont and Nasi Manu, as well as securing Movember advertising space on the side of a local bus company has improved the education on the charity and the disease.
Nominations were accepted from individuals, teams or institutions who have demonstrated their ability to work collaboratively on a project or programme to enhance the student experience. Where better to start than with Movember Campaign – both Heriot-Watt University and the University of Stirling received collaborative awards for their Movember efforts.
At Stirling, Camy Rosen (Women’s Lacrosse) and Jack Sutherland (Men’s Rugby) coordinated Stirling’s Movember Campaign and managed to get 47 university sports clubs involved. The campaign brought Stirling Sports Union together during a challenging time, when virtually all club training and competition was suspended. The Movember campaign offered a fresh sense of purpose and motivation for the clubs who managed to raise over £39,000 in total – double their target at the start of the month!
Another example of the Movember campaign in action was at Heriot-Watt. Led by Stewart Morgan from the Heriot-Watt Basketball Club, the campaign quickly took off with the rest of the sports union and wider university getting involved too. In total, the campaign raised over £35k with 11 sports clubs raising over £1,000 each. In addition, Stewart worked collaboratively – organising interviews online with high profile athletes such as SSS Honorary President Mark Beaumont and Nasi Manu, discussing the importance of talking about mental health, wellbeing and raising awareness for the charity!
The Heriot-Watt Volleyball club participated in the Movember campaign too – raising over £4,000 and were worthy winners of SSS Collaborative Award. The club’s fundraising efforts and online socials became renowned throughout the sports union, with committee members using their creative thinking and initiative to keep their members engaged during the pandemic. Bingo, Uno, Lip Sync Battle and Pub Quizzes became headline social events in the diary and were not to be missed – with attendances averaging at 60 people!
A fine example of collaborative work in action could be found at Glasgow Clyde College campus. The Glasgow Clyde College Student Association (GCCSA) joined up with the college’s Sport, Hospitality, Tourism and Additional Supported Learning (ASL) departments to offer free online fitness classes for students. The classes were run by students, giving them the opportunity to deliver a range of practical sessions which were adaptable to the ASL students!
The RGU Basketball Club developed strong links with local community clubs – engaging them in online lockdown leagues and online socials, with several students offering their time to coach at local clubs too. The club has been exemplary in its efforts to restart the return to sport – ensuring correct protocols were in place and recognising the need to ensure a safe return to sport not only at RGU but within the local community.
The Edinburgh University Karate Club received their award for their amazing transition from a largely contact-based martial art to an extremely successful online delivery to help their members keep fit, socialise and be a part of the karate community. The club adapted its training to train outdoors, participated in virtual competitions such as the SSS Kata and was extremely proactive in securing a Student Experience Grant, which was used to invest in filming equipment so they could live-stream and record online sessions!
The SSS Inclusive Awards recognised individuals or clubs that made a significant effort to make their sport/club more accessible and available to everyone.
Shannon Harris was a worthy winner after setting up a walking group! After completing her training to become a group leader in early 2021, Shannon created her group “Best Foot Forward Rosyth” has given members of the community and Fife College students the opportunity to get outside, meet new people and stay active. The group continues to meet weekly for a one-hour walk and has had over 300 participants since the first session in March!
Thomas Nelson championed the role of the first-ever Welfare Officer within the Dundee Rowing Club committee. During his time in position, Thomas led numerous different online campaigns including a “Winter Wellbeing Series” and a “What’s Rowing On in Your Head” campaign – a five-part series that encouraged people to open up and talk about mental health. Thomas collated all the information and wrote weekly articles highlighting the importance of speaking up about mental health. Thomas also led the club’s Movember Fundraising efforts and created ‘Wellness Action Plans’ – templates for members to fill out if they wanted to open up about anything but didn’t know where to start.
The Edinburgh University Sports Union Inclusion Committee have been pivotal in keeping inclusion at the forefront of the sports union agenda! In its first year, the group was brought together to understand the barriers facing different underrepresented groups across the sports union. The group have a number of successful campaigns including;
- “Iron Women Challenge” which raised £1,934 for for Period Poverty Edinburgh.
- Developments in request for gender-neutral spaces at Peffermill.
- Circulated BLM resource document to all club committees, in order to help students better educated themselves
- An overhaul of all Sports Union policies, removing pronouns wherever possible, alongside creating a more transparent and fair system for disciplinary processes and outlining more clearly that all forms of discrimination will NOT be tolerated.
In February 2021 Mhairi Maclennan (University of Edinburgh) was part of a group of athletes that started the #ZeroToleranceUKA campaign – a call for lifetime bans for coaches who had been found to break conditions of their coaching licence in cases regarding physical and sexual misconduct, harassment, and abuse. This campaign involved an open letter to UK Athletics CEO, signed by almost 2000 people and an Instagram support campaign.
The #ZeroToleranceUKA campaign brought attention to the subject of athlete safeguarding and welfare in athletics with many news reporting bodies, including the BBC and Athletics Weekly, taking notice of the story. UK Athletics CEO Joanna Coates met with Mhairi and fellow athletes Anna Gordon and Kate Seary to talk about the campaign and the issues and concerns they raised in the open letter. She later came out with a statement supporting the campaign and confirmed UKA’s intention to change their policy to ensure zero-tolerance is implemented, prioritising the safety of athletes.
Following this Mhairi and Kate went on to set up their own company Kyniska Advocacy, which aims to promote and support women in sport through policy change, education and storytelling. Mhairi’s story is a brilliant example of how to use your voice to make a positive change and encapsulates everything we aim to achieve at SSS.
Creativity and innovation at its finest – the SSS Innovative Award recognised students and clubs who thought outside the box!
The Heriot-Watt Sports Union picked up another prize in this category with a number of inventive initiatives in response to the pandemic. The sports union held a ‘Battle of the Clubs’ every Monday for 10 weeks, where sports clubs were invited to take part in a whole range of different challenges… ranging from virtual 5k runs, to poetry, prose and video challenges. The union also held a virtual half marathon, which involved a 12-week training plan for students, staff and alumni to follow before participating in the event! To top it all off, Heriot-Watt took an unconventional yet highly entertaining take on sports ball this year – announcing the winners live on Instagram! This proved for a dramatic and exciting evening with the award winners delivering live victory speeches from their homes at a moments notice!
Across the city, the Edinburgh University Sports Union Media Team picked up an award for two of their impressive campaigns across the year – The #SportED Podcast and the #PeopleoftheSU. Both campaigns were entirely student-led and focused on telling peoples stories and gave students the opportunity to stay connected with the SU during the pandemic. The #SportED Podcast can be listened to here and the #PeopleoftheSU stories were published on Instagram with a picture of each individual – simple but so effective!
The University of Dundee Boat Club ensured that despite the lack of action on the water, the club continued to grow and engage their membership through a range of different activities and campaigns. As well as training and competing in virtual competitions, the club organised guest speakers to chat with the club on a variety of different topics including mental health, nutrition and racing tactics! The club engaged in numerous different fundraisers, raising over £1000 for both Movember and local Dundee charity Feeling Strong. In addition, the boat club put on wellbeing sessions – including the ‘What’s Rowing on in your Head?’ campaign – to ensure their members had a safe space to chat through what was on their mind.
The rest of the Innovation Awards were given to clubs who got creative with their training sessions – heading online to keep students, staff and their local communities active. In the west, the UWS Sport and Team UWS department came together to create the “UWS Active Community”. This initiative utilised the Playwaze platform to deliver a programme of daily live and on-demand fitness classes, physical activity challenges, and an open forum to bring staff and students together at a challenging time.
The Glasgow University Muay Thai Club at their peak were offering 5-6 online sessions PER WEEK – yes, you read that correctly! These sessions chopped and changed between yoga classes, strength, conditioning and technique sessions. The sessions were popular with both students and members of the public – that the club was invited to host destress yoga and fitness sessions are part of the university-wide ‘Exam Destress’ Campaign.
The RGU GAA Club managed to provide a home away from home for their members, forming a link with Aberdeen based Gaelic Football club Dalradia. Together, both clubs hosted joint zoom fitness sessions, participated in charity fundraisers together and shared training sessions and facilities when outdoor sport was permitted again.
The Stirling University Women’s Lacross Club claimed the final innovation award. The club created its own ‘Lacrosse Disney Channel Challenges’ online – splitting the club into teams to take part in different fitness and social competitions. The club supported the Universities Movember campaign raising over £2,100 and created their own ‘Christmas Walking Challenge’ – walking the equivalent distance of Stirling to Los Angeles totally over 2,500 kilometres!
The Responsive Award was given to clubs/individuals who showcased examples of best practices in adapting to COVID, new ways of working and flexibility.
The University of Edinburgh Boat Club response to the pandemic was first-class. The club used their mini-busses to great effect in the early stages of the pandemic, offering them up to use to transport vulnerable groups around Edinburgh and deliver food packages to first-year students isolating. From a competition point of view, the club modified their spaces to allow for social distancing so that their clubs’ members could train; specific beginner sessions for new members were introduced on the Edinburgh canal ensuring first-time rowers got the chance to experience getting out on the water; and even Erg’s were delivered across the country to high-performance athletes including Team GB Rower, Polly Swan, ensuring they could train whilst at home.
The Aberdeen University All-Round Fighting Club adapted the whole structure of their club in response to the pandemic. Training moved online with one technical and one fitness session being offered each week – as well as different themed socials ranging from movie nights to Pirate themed parties…
With no official governing body guidance to follow, the University of Stirling Dance Club showed great flexibility and initiative to ensure that their members could participate safely. The club adapted to training outdoors, providing online classes and created social media videos outlining new safety precautions. The committee researched other SGBs for applicable guidance and was able to demonstrate how groups of dancers could safely train by referencing the Scottish Gymnastics guidance! The club committee was further recognised for their efforts at the virtual Stirling Sports Union ball receiving the Committee of the Year Award.
With guidance on rules and restrictions constantly changing from SGB’s, RGU Sports Clubs COVID Officers were constantly on the ball – interpreting, simplifying and communicating the message to their sports clubs. Each week the COVID Officers compiled reports on NGB guidance and then relayed the information to their sports club in a clear and manageable form. Their hard work meant that RGU Sports clubs were in the best position possible to safely return to sport when restrictions eased.
The final award went to Frank Lindsay who is often described as the heart-and-soul of the Heriot-Watt University Tae-Kwon-Do club. As a coach Frank, provided individual lessons, outdoor sessions and pushed himself out of his comfort zone -delivering live-streamed and recorded lessons. Frank has ensured that the Tae Kwon Do club is regarded as a friendly, inclusive and exciting club within the wider Sports Union community and this is due to his enthusiastic approach and participant-centred attitude.
Lucy Smith and Amanda Marshall make up the ‘Active Lives’ team at Edinburgh University. During the past twelve months, the pair have had remarkable success in driving the benefits of sustainability and wellbeing across both staff and student communities. The first initiative the team created was the ever-popular “Health walks”. Aimed at anyone on campus, these guided walks got people out to the local parks, outdoor trails and green spaces around the city for a breath of fresh air and a chat. Following the success of the health walks, came the annual “Big Dig” project -where staff and students escaped the city to the foot of the Pentlands to plant hundreds of trees. The team partnered with the Woodland Trust and a total of 840 trees were planted by University of Edinburgh staff and students!
RGU Basketball Club saw a break in competitive activity as an opportunity to focus on other areas of the club. With more students available than in a normal year, the club managed to grow its membership base and as such, established a large enough group of players to create a second team. This step demonstrates the awareness of the sustainability of their club, ensuring that more individuals have access to a competitive outlet. The greater membership allows for the club to develop in other areas such as fundraising whilst also strengthening community spirit and allowing for committee succession in years to come!