GUSA: A Year in Sport

Beatrice Cook

It has been yet another successful year for the Glasgow University Sport Association; alongside the University’s recent triumph at the Glasgow Taxis Cup for the third consecutive year, there has been consistent victory in other areas of club sport, with Glasgow University Women’s Football  team remaining undefeated in the British University and College Sports (BUCS) Championships  since February 2011, and the Glasgow University Netball BUCS team dominating over Edinburgh seconds, securing a place in the Conference Cup final to fight to retain their title. However, it is not all about club and competitive sport here at the University of Glasgow. A recent drive to focus on health and wellbeing at the University has been seen in the restructuring of the association’s Council with the introduction of the position of Welfare Convenor, as well as the Sports and Wellbeing Week at the beginning of the second semester. In addition to that, emphasis has been placed on recreational sports and clubs, with the creation of the Recreational Sports League in 2012, opening up sport to a wider collective. GUSA has strived to remain an open and equal institution, and with the coming construction of the new Stevenson Hive Building Project meaning more gym space and increased service levels for all members, it seems that there has never been more of an exciting time for sport at the University of Glasgow.

GUSA has over fifteen thousand members, with approximately two thousand of those students using its facilities on a daily basis; from this statistic alone it is obvious that the association is extremely popular across campus, its partnership with the Sport and Recreation Service (SRS) serving to further strengthen its reputation and influence, whilst its Council, made up of twelve university students elected by their peers, acts on behalf of the student body to ensure a bright future for sport and wellbeing. This popularity was clearly seen at the recent GUSA Council elections, where 1066 votes were cast to decide on who would take up the mantle for one of the seven remaining opposed positions; this is in stark contrast with the other Union elections occurring at the same time. Whilst the Glasgow University Union garnered a respectable 878 returned ballots, the Queen Margaret Union only managed 476 votes, with the healthy turnout for the GUSA elections, where many senior roles within the council were largely unopposed, showing the solid level of support that the association has gathered over the years. Furthermore, by comparing the Student Representative Council (SRC) sabbatical hustings with the GUSA equivalent, the latter having double the turnout, it is evident that students feel they can actively engage and be involved with the association, as well as influencing the future of university sport.

With 48 different clubs and 83 sporting teams affiliated to GUSA competing in BUCS, it is no wonder that this academic year has arguably been the biggest and best yet for the University of Glasgow. The wealth of choice and variety has given new and continuing students the opportunity to get involved in a sport they’ve never tried, or to indulge their competitive side. With groups ranging from the more competition-based hockey, swimming and rugby clubs, to their recreational counterparts, including surfing, ski and snowboarding, as well as canoeing and kayaking, there is a great deal on offer sports-wise. Also, with gym membership at just £50 for the entire year, this is yet another reason to get involved with GUSA. Moreover, this year has seen the commencement of a recreational sports league, the Glasgow Championship, so for those of us who don’t want to feel under pressure to perform at club level, you have to the chance to participate in regular sporting fixtures in badminton, football, hockey, rugby and squash alongside people of a wide range of performance levels and abilities. This fantastic concept further widens the pool of potential new members, affording students and staff alike the opportunity to get involved in sport in an entirely new and unrestrictive level.

Although this year has seen a distinct move away from the stereotypes of sport, the University of Glasgow still retains its sporting prowess when it comes to the competition stakes; the university’s recent win at the 2013 Glasgow Taxis Cup evidently shows that GUSA has developed a finely tuned machine of sporting excellence, their success adding to Glasgow’s four previous victories at the same competition. In comparison to the previous year’s nail-biting finale, when Glasgow reigned supreme with only a point separating them from rivals Strathclyde, this year’s competition resulted in unparalleled success for Glasgow University, finishing with 49 points overall, compared with Strathclyde’s 35 points and Glasgow Caledonian’s 23.

In addition to this latest victory for the University of Glasgow, GUSA continues to oversee the nurturing of extremely talented sportsmen and women with elite athlete funding. These funds include sports bursaries and the Winning Students scholarship; whilst the former gives those honoured with the bursary both sporting and academic support, as well as taking care of them throughout their competitions and student life, the Winning Students scholarship, Scotland’s national sports scholarship programme, ‘supports student athletes with annual scholarships up to £5,500 to help them achieve their sporting and academic goals.’ Furthermore, this year’s GUSA Ball, held on the 9th of February at the Hilton Hotel, gave the University the opportunity to award these dedicated athletes with a recognition of their achievements; the Rebecca Cooke Award for female athlete of the year went to Ruth Dunn of the prestigious Boat Club, the Bob Wilson Award for best male athlete went to Calum Nicol, a rising star in the field of basketball, while the Glasgow University Triathlon Club were awarded best up and coming club. Dunn and Nicol are amongst many names to look out for in the coming years, and with the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games rapidly approaching, it will undoubtedly be the time for Glasgow University’s finest athletes to step up to the mark.

On a more grandiose scale, the Glasgow University Boat Club, established in 1867, is one of the oldest clubs at the university and arguably the most prominent. Based off-campus in Glasgow Green, it competes on both a Scottish and National level, but certainly the most exciting event in its calendar is the Edinburgh-Glasgow Boat Race. The race, taking place for the first time in 1877, is the second oldest in the UK, with only the famous Oxbridge Boat Race preceding it. According to the Glasgow University Boat Club website, ‘Winning is euphoric, losing – despair…The race is a blur. Heart rates soar, muscles scream with the effort and minds are locked in concentration… Perseverance through all adversities differentiates the winning crew.’ This year sees the race taking place on the 25th of May, and on that day, the media’s attention will turn to see which of the rival Universities will take home the highly sought after title. GUSA’s support has unquestionably helped in GUBC’s success thus far, with access to training facilities at both Glasgow Green and the Stevenson Building allowing the club to harness their full potential.

The general welfare and health of students has always been of great importance to the University, and the introduction of a Welfare Convener in the Council, taken on this year by Leah Tomlinson, as well as the Buddy System and Sport and Wellbeing Week demonstrates GUSA’s continuing dedication to look after its members. The purpose of the newly established Welfare Convener is to ‘provide support in the planning and delivery of welfare associated events and initiatives such as the Sport & Wellbeing Week, [being] responsible for the administration and accreditation of the Healthy Body Health Mind award programme [and] works closely with Sport & Recreation in raising the awareness of the benefits of leading an active and healthy lifestyle to the University community.’ The success of the Sport and Wellbeing Week at the beginning of the second semester emphasises GUSA’s commitment to providing a better service for all students, with keynote speakers including the inspirational Scottish track cyclist Graeme Obree and activities ranging from free exercise taster sessions, personal training, to talks on healthy eating and eating disorders, there was something to interest everyone. Starting university is a life changing experience, and GUSA strives to ensure that each and every member is given the best possible opportunity at living a healthy student life by promoting a healthy and happy lifestyle. The Buddy System, where disabled students wishing to get involved in sport are specially paired up with GUSA volunteers and given the chance to participate without any physical or mental barriers. This has proved a vital addition to GUSA’s growing list of achievements, further displaying the association’s ability to provide an open and fair service for all students at the university.

GUSA is a strong institution at the University of Glasgow; its drive to secure a bright and fair future for sport has meant that it not only remains a dominant force in competitive sport, but it also provides an open and diverse foundation for new and continuing students by promoting health and wellbeing, as well as equality within sport and a variety of clubs and leagues to interest both staff and students. From its numerous victories at BUCS, the Glasgow Taxis Cup and on a national level, as well as its creation of a recreational league and the Sport and Wellbeing Week, Glasgow University Sports Association has forged a strong relationship with its members, and continues to provide a sports and wellbeing service of unparalleled quality. As an anonymous source once told me, ‘Glasgow University Sports Association IS sport.’