Rebecca Blair’s first 100 days as Sports President

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A lot can happen in 100 days. Tensions have run high in global politics, Great British Bake Off has graced our TV screens yet again and your sabbatical officers at Stirling have been busy representing you.

Come union elections, Brig is always eager to find out what candidates hope to achieve in their first 100 days. Now this time has passed, it’s time to find out if they are making their promises a reality.

Sports President Rebecca Blair was the first sabbatical officer who took time out of her busy schedule to have a chat with me in the underground.

Before reflecting on manifesto points, I was curious to find out what Rebecca has been enjoying most about her role so far, she explained

“I think for me it’s getting to interact with other clubs. I’ve only ever been part of women’s football since I’ve been at uni, so it’s actually having that face to face contact and meeting new people and getting to understand some issues that are going on in other clubs that perhaps I’d never experience before.

“I think the biggest thing for me is that I’d never been a club president before.  I had no experience of running a club. I was only ever within a captains’ role, so it’s about getting feedback from presidents on things they want to work on this year or about things they feel needs to change to make their team better. It’s quite exciting that you get to work with presidents to help clubs prosper.”

What a wonderful life it would be if we could go one day, without having any obstacles to overcome. The most challenging part of a job like the Sports President is what I wanted to know more about next.

“I’d maybe say being out of my comfort zone, because you are at the forefront of sport and that for me is huge. You are the students voice for everything to do with sport so it’s actually realising that you’re not just part of one club, you’re there to support 50 other clubs that are in the sports union.

“Another thing for me would be that you’re never going to make everyone happy. If you make a decision that’ll benefit a majority, it’s then coming to terms with the fact that some people still aren’t happy.

“I always want to make everyone happy but in a role like sports president you’re never going to do that.  However, it’s then working with those who aren’t happy to see if  you can do anything else to help them if they have been put out a bit.”

The first manifesto point we delved into was Rebecca’s “Opportunities For All” campaign. While we had time over the summer to binge watch Netflix without feeling guilty, your Sports President was putting these plans into action.

“Over the summer that’s what I’ve been doing, they tend to call the summer your honeymoon period. So when it’s really quiet over summer the campaign was my biggest thing to work on. In terms of that, “Opportunities For All” falls under coaching, volunteering, and just basically oppertunites for not just clubs to be involved in sport, but also people who aren’t as involved in physical activity.

“We’ve now set up a volunteering partnership with Wallace High School, where we have sports teams looking for volunteer coaches to deliver sessions. That was finalised just as of last week  and already the uptake of that has been fantastic. It took off a lot quicker than I thought it would, which was a bit daunting, but it was great to see so much interest from clubs.

“We’re also in the process of mapping out campus walking routes, as we know a lot of people live on campus. What we’ve tried to do is plot out common walking routes, for example from Juniper Court to Logie Lecture Theatre or from accommodation to the library, so it’s like a step count idea. It’s really just to map out how many meters or how many steps it is and we’re wanting everyone to meet their 10,000 steps a day target.

“If we can give these little pushes to add in steps and make people think about the physical activity they’re doing that’s something that could benefit students who perhaps don’t get involved with sports as much.

“As much as you can push sports and opportunities within that, you also need to have a focus on people who aren’t physically active. It’s understanding that people maybe don’t want to play sport, but that they might want to stay fit and healthy in other ways. So it’s trying to think outside the box to help people achieve that.”

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Credit: Rebecca Blair

Training times had been a problem many sports clubs were facing. Rebecca’s thorough answer to my question on the matter, to me indicates a desirable outcome can be achieved.

“Over summer there wasn’t much we could do about it because clubs weren’t here so we hadn’t sorted out allocation to training times. Probably two of the bigger things in terms of training allocations is that we understand that intramural has a lot of access to pitch time, which is great because people are getting involved in intramural sports.

“However it’s actually assessing now wether we can adjust those training times because currently intramural have the pitch between 5 and 9, Monday to Thursday on the artificial sand pitch so that’s them limiting access to the hockey team, for example.

“That’s something we’re really trying to work on to see if we can move the intramural programme to earlier in the day and to weekends to give teams more access to the articial pitch. During peak times people have class during the day so we’re trying to stay away from daytime training sessions as much. Again, it’s opening up that space to try and get as many people involved in sport as we can and the facility redevelopment project.

“Just now we have external bodies using our facilities. It’s looking at the provision that’s offered to external bodies. For example we have external people coming in and using the pitch at peak times, when our clubs should be having access to those facilities.

“It’s cutting training times that we don’t want our clubs to cut. For me, if you want to maintain that status as a university that puts so much emphasis on sport and physical activity then we should be helping student sports at Stirling. And for me that should be at the forefront going forward rather so than money.

“Obviously we’re wanting students to play sport, so that’s what I’m going to try and do.  We have an agreement with the university and the director of sport at Stirling as of just last week, to actually review that process to prioritise student sport so that’s quite exciting. They conversations are going to happen over the next two weeks to review on how we use our facilities and who gets use of them.

“That’s going to be a big conversation that’s going to take place, and it is something I’m quite excited about because it was a massive point on my manifesto to ensure that teams get a priority in terms of things like that. Going into week three, it’s all go now, but it is exciting to finally get things kicking off. For me it’s student sport at the end of the day because we are a university so that should be prioritised.”

“From the first time I saw the official plans back in May or June I understood that the students need weren’t catered for or represented in those plans. I can say that the progress that has been made since they were first brought to light to now is quite substantial.

“There was quite an issue over the amount of changing space that was provided in the first plans but we’ve now been able to completely strip that back. I think it was 14 or 16 changing rooms we had initially and now we’re at 8 or 10 which is including staff change and disabled change. So we have cut back really well in terms of that.”

“With that cut back we have been able to create space for an additional S&C area which will be open to the public and will never be shut. Now we have an S&C area which gets closed for the institute to use for performance athletes, but now that area in the new facility will be open to members at all times.

“We also have plans for a high performance area that’s being put together and that looks brilliant. But again it’s reiterating the fact that for us to support the plans going forward  it wouldn’t just be high performance sports getting access to the area or institute athletes, sports union teams would receive access as well.

“So we’ve now been given the 100% green light that student sports teams can use it. For example if the basketball or the polo team wants to use it they will be able to book out that space even though it’s in the high performance area. It is student sport at the end of the day and students should have access to all the facilites.

“That’s really exciting, now that we can actually put student sports out there and give them additional strength and conditioning support as well so they can improve performance. The plans are looking a lot better and it is something we’re now happy to support with the backing of the Students Union and the backing that student sport is going to be prioritised.

“But a thing for me was, that to support the plans we do have to prioritise student sport so falling into that was the reallocation of training times. It’s quite exciting to be a part of and it’s good that it’s getting off the mark.”

Now that your sabbatical officers first 100 days have come and gone, what lies next for them is what they hope to achieve by the end of the year.

“It’s actually bringing sport under the one umbrella. You come in with ideas and when you put those ideas on the table and think about them, other things get added into the equation. People always say to you, ‘what do you want your legacy to be when you leave as Sports President’ – for me it’s branching everything under one umberella.

“Currently Sports Union and Sports Development Service at the Gannochy were two completely separate organisations. It’s trying to bring that together to make things easier for clubs and easier for sport at Stirling, but one of the big things under that is the kit deal.

“Currently we don’t have a kit provider. And that tender document is set to go out pretty soon to get interested parties on board. It’s about actually having everyone wearing the same colour of green, everyone being represented in the same kit, everyone wanting to feel part of something.

“Although that is huge at Stirling it’s actually taking the next step to progress that forward cause. Obviously our hashtag is #bleedgreen, so we all want to be bleeding the same colour of green, wearing the same colour of green. It’s trying to bring things together and make sport, instead of tiny different things all over the place, a University of Stirling sport and bringing it togheter under the same roof.”

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