With Scotland stuck in the doom and gloom of both an obesity epidemic and an economic downturn, sport can step up to play an important role in improving our physical and mental wellbeing. The University is rightly proud of its high participation rates but must not rest on its laurels. Certainly the 46 Sports clubs affiliated with GUSA offer a fantastic variety of activities, from the traditional to the extreme. Nevertheless opportunities to participate can, and should, be increased by improving the quality of these clubs, as opposed to establishing more and more obscure teams.
And quality does not just mean elite sport. Increased involvement within reserve teams will bring many benefits — healthier, happier students anyone? This can be achieved by avoiding ruthless competitiveness and instead placing emphasis on the enjoyment and the social appeal offered by clubs.
The Mens’ Hockey 3rd XI is an exemplary case in point. Formed just two years ago, it offers a regular Saturday match to players with different levels of experience in the game. This season the team has blended a multitude of different abilities and backgrounds — from a Canadian Ice Hockey convert to a Malaysian ex-internationalist.
Truly, players are at many different levels but with enjoyment of sport as the key concept, even beginners are turned into stars. Freshers have played a key role in the team’s success, with Harry Tattersall Smith notching up a sensational 24 goals, in a debut season that has seen the striker rewrite Glasgow hockey history…
The team ply their trade in the deep depths of Scottish Hockey, otherwise known as West District Division 4. But with away-days to such glamourous locations as Carluke, Helensburgh and Newton Mearns, team spirit remains high. It has been a good season but the team still face an anxious wait to see whether they have done enough to secure promotion.
Team captain, Joe Fitzgibbon, knows that the team will always have to work hard to build on their success. He appreciates the inclusiveness that a 3rd XI team can offer, having never played hockey before coming to university. Speaking to him, his enthusiasm is clear: “It’s been a fantastic year for us and I feel lucky to be part of the biggest club on campus.”
He added: “Funding however remains a constant issue for us and we have been lucky that GUSA have helped out with our travel expenses this year. If we are to be able to continue to attract more students to the sport then this support must continue.”
Clearly, despite the hard times we find ourselves in, the value of getting students to play sport should not be forgotten.
On a competitive level, reinforcements below will force the quality at the top to keep improving. University sport often suffers from a lack of consistency and this must be countered by GUSA continuing to support club targets. Bitter rivals Edinburgh have 7 hockey teams competing weekly. Whilst it would be overly ambitious to suggest a similar structure is viable at Glasgow, if we want success at the top level we must build from the bottom.
A lack of strength and depth is the crippling factor in many sports teams; let’s not let that be the case at Glasgow.