Ellie West eats, sleeps and breathes sport. A fourth-year captain of the women’s netball club, she’s devoted nearly her entire university career to the team, serving as captain and now president of the club; she’s even focused her dissertation on the sport, attempting to unpack the experiences of men in the traditionally female-dominated culture of netball.
With her background in sport and her passion for netball, West’s decision to run for sports president seems almost natural. However, the process of applying and campaigning for the sabbatical officer position is far more complicated than her previous election experience.
“I ran for netball president [last year] and got it, and it’s a lot more low-key – all I needed to do was write a speech and present it in front of the club, and then people voted. So this is like very, very different,” West said. “Obviously in the run-up [for sports president], I had to prepare my manifesto, had to prepare my publicity. I’m really grateful for all of the support I’ve had, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to do it all.”
West’s support base stems initially from her netball club, the place where she found her identity as a student-athlete at Stirling and the place where she honed her leadership skills. She speaks enthusiastically, and rapidly, about her love for the sport, and she said that her time in the club has inspired her to take her sports leadership to the next level.
“I’ve feel like [netball] has completely shaped my university experience, like my whole life is consumed by netball,” West said. “I’ve had such a positive experience playing that I would like to just give that back.”
In her campaign for sports president, she’s earned the support and backing of her netball teammate Kelsey Blemings, the former sports union communication officer, and West said Blemings has been instrumental in helping her balancing the demands of a sports presidential campaign.
Blemings has run much of West’s publicity from social media efforts to on-campus promotion, and she’s been the sounding board for West’s ideas and manifesto development. Having been through two elections herself, Blemings knows the process of these kinds of elections, and she knows what it takes to win a highly coveted position in the sports union.
West, Blemings says, has all the qualities needed in a successful candidate, and she has complete confidence that her friend would be a successful sports president, if elected.
“It’s funny, when I first met Ellie, I was like this girl is an absolute nut, she is so bubbly, so down to earth, but she’s actually got her head screwed on so well,” Blemings said. “She’s so organized. She’s always on top of university work, she’s always on top of netball stuff, getting the meetings organized, making sure the committee are doing what they need to be doing – she’s very organized in that sense, and the personal stuff that she’s doing.”
Blemings and West have worked together since the beginning of West’s campaign, but Blemings said that the ideas in West’s manifesto truly represent the candidate unique and personal ideas, ideas that Blemings believe will help elevate the Sports Union in the year ahead.
Within her manifesto, West points to communication as one of her key points, and she hopes that her experience managing and leading people within the netball club has prepared for her the task of leading the sports union.
As netball president, West said she demonstrated her communication skills by repeatedly posting in the team’s Facebook group and trying to keep members abreast of all the new information. These skills, she hopes, will be transferred to the role of sports president, where, if elected, she hopes to build a connection with each sports club and work to meet their individual needs through programming, fundraising and support.
“At the start of the semester, I’d like to meet with every club,” Wests said. “I’d like to sit down with them and ask them what they want, what their needs are. I’d like to learn more about what works for them.”
Bridging the gaps between the clubs is important, West said, and rallying everyone under the #BleedGreen mission remains critical to the goal of the Sports Union president. But, unity doesn’t just need to happen between clubs; creating a collaboration and team environment within a club and within athletes of a the same sport is just as valuable.
West said that one of her greatest achievements as netball president this year has been creating cohesion between the competitive netball players on her team and the recreational uni athletes who just enjoy playing the sport. She hopes to continue this kind of work if elected club president.
“One thing that I’ve done with netball is I’ve linked up with Triple S, which is Scottish Student Sport, and I’ve integrated this ladder system,” West explained. “We have like four competitive teams, and then we have 30 girls who show up on a Monday wanting to train recreationally, so they don’t play competitively or anything like that, so I’ve entered them into this, and they’ve all loved it.”
This process, of developing and implementing innovative sports structural changes, has given West the confidence and leadership necessary to be sports president, she said, and she hopes that people believe she can be the representation and voice of students in sport.
“From being president this year, I’ve learned that I like to have responsibility, and I like developing,” West said. “I feel like I’ve developed the club a lot, and I feel like I’d do that to the Sports Union.”
West’s involvement and passion for improvement extends outside of the sports union, though, and she’s made an effort to have a response on broader university issues.
The day of our interview, I met Ellie in the sports centre cafe, and she ran over to our table, panting, attempted to catch her breath and to lower her heart rate and to gather her thoughts. She had come over straight from the picket line, where she said had been supporting the striking lecturers and trying to show the student body that she cares about all aspects of uni life, not just those who train in the Gannochy or on the pitches. Still running on the adrenaline on that appearance, she sat down, took a sip of her water and smiled. She was ready.
“It’s good to show I don’t just care about the sports clubs and I don’t just care about how the sports clubs do, I care about everyone,” West said. “And obviously I do support the strikes, and I don’t think it’s fair what they’re doing to the lecturers and our pensions, so I wanted to show my support for them.”
West explains that some people think that the “student union and the sports union are completely separated,” and she wants to dismantle this myth. During her campaign, she’s reached out to clubs such as the Gender Equality Movement to talk about the ways she can integrate their needs into future policy. If elected, and she hopes to continue her speaking tour and hear from more students about their needs and expectations, both within the sports union and within the union as a whole.
“Obviously sports union have done a lot of initiatives that every university member can get involved in, and I don’t think the likes of people who are involved in clubs and societies realize that,” West said.
It’s this kind of communication gap that has to change, West said, but first she’ll have to win over the support of those in the sporting community, and she’ll have to reach outside of her netball team for that support- somethings she’s committed to do.
“I’d love to learn more about sports I don’t know a lot about, like underwater hockey,” West said. “I may not know everything about it now, but I’d hope by the time that I finished, I know about every single sports team and I’ve made contacts within every sport.”
West will have a lot of learning and networking to do if elected, but she seems to have the energy and willingness to learn and strive to meet her goals. At least, Blemings thinks so, and she’s seen the demands of the job firsthand, having worked in the sports union already. She believes West’s experience will serve her well in the role of sports president, and she hopes the rest of the campus community believes this as well.
“I think this year as a club president for netball, she’s been a standout president, as far as sports union is concerned,” Blemings said. “And I suppose not necessary a leadership quality, but just a personal quality, she’s really down to earth, really approachable, she’s always up for a good laugh but she can keep her head straight when needs be as well. Anyone can go to her with an issue and she’s always there to support them as well, so she’s nice, organized, good communication, but she’s also just a nice person in general, great friend, so I think that would make her good in the role.”
Voting opens on the March 12 at 9am until March 13 at 6:15pm, with the results party being held at 7pm in Venue. Stay tuned for all the Union Elections action with Brig and you can see Ellie and the other candidates manifestos here.