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A question of sport

Last week Badger sport  caught up with current Student Union staff members, Activities Officer James Hickie and the university’s sports development coordinator, Andrew Gauntlett.  Both had various things to say with regard to the growth of sports on campus.

What are your roles within the students union?
James: I oversee our sport societies within the union. I also help organize larger events such as the freshers week, the graduation ball and even the dissertation dash.
Andrew: My role within the union is basically to develop the sports clubs, which can range from the socials right up to encouraging our first teams to maintain fitness and strength on the field.

What have you guys been doing differently so far this year?
James: I haven’t done that much yet as it’s only been three months. Thus far I’ve just been carrying on the projects that Scott Sheridan, my predecessor, had been developing over the last couple of years.  Basically, to keep the good things going and improve upon them when and if necessary. Now that term has started we’ll be seeing an increase in things over the next couple of months.
Andrew: My role was previously part – time whereas now I’m full time. This means that I have more time to make a difference, I’m actually able to get out and watch students take part in sports and gain a real insight into what it means to be a student playing sports at Sussex.

Do you believe the cost of sport at Sussex is too high?
James: In a word, no. We’ve done a lot of research into how much other universities charge and the value of the different memberships and our ones really do compare favourably to those universities with similar size and facilities. I believe that what a student at Sussex gets for £50 is actually worth well over £200.
Over the next couple of years we hope to offer a joint sports and gym membership which will lead to students saving even more money.
Andrew: I agree, we offer the best value comparatively to those universities of our type. We did address changing the structure to individual team membership but that turned out to be more expensive. So the current system works as it gives us access to a huge variation of sport, which is better value for money.

If you could change anything regarding sports at Sussex, what would it be?
James: It’s quite a broad question, if money wasn’t such an issue, obviously I’d bring in more pitches and have a swimming pool built. To be fair we do very well with what we have at Sussex. Everyone has access to our facilities, which works.
Andrew: There will have to be more facilities over the next few years, owing to the increase in fees. Balancing those financial implications will no doubt involve a commercial element regarding our sports as we would have to recoup that money. Initially the challenge is for Sussex sport to not become like Surrey, not geared at commercial use, which for them had a detrimental effect. Our priority always will be to look out for students.

What can people do if they’re interested in getting more involved with the union?
James: From the sports point of view, being part of a committee is a great way of getting involved, and having a more diverse experience with, sport at Sussex.
All our teams are student-led and run and we do our best to support and facilitate that.
Andrew: We’re always here, no appointment is necessary. If you’ve got an idea we’d love to hear it, so please feel free to come into the office and share it with us.

When looking at the various sports teams and societies, are there any that you rate especially highly?
James: Last year we had an extremely successful year. Lots of teams were winning, placing high in both league and cup competitions. As a student union we rose 8 places in the national (BUC) standings, which for a union of our size and capability, is really great! Ultimate frisbee are now UK double champions which for them is a great achievement. The university also recognized this and  they have since received further funding. I know the men’s rugby teams were successful as was hockey.
Andrew: As a club, the fencing club has done great things. All the trials and tasters this year were packed full of people giving us record numbers for sign-ups and participation. I started here in Easter when most sports were finished and I only got to see varsity, however, I remember seeing the netball team score in the last minute to tie with Brighton so I’ve got a soft spot for them.
James: The success hasn’t just been limited to one or two clubs, we’ve been successful across the board and the initial signs suggest that will continue this year.
All credit must go to the students and their various committees.

What sports do you play yourselves?
James: I play six-aside football myself and last year I coached the women’s football team. I also play for an 11-aside team in Brighton, so I’m involved in sports on and off campus. I think a staff football team could be a good idea…
Andrew: I used to play a lot of sport but have since had a break. Over the last few years I’ve done a number of things such as boxing and tennis. I have to say I like the new strength and conditioning rooms at the Falmer sports complex. Thumbs up to Terry Cooper who works for Sussex sports on that one, he’s put some great stuff together for the students.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Andrew: Massive  congratulations to all involved last year, everything was and continues to be so well attended, it’s an exciting time for sport at Sussex. We’ve achieved highly and with that comes the recognition these guys deserve. People need to see sport as integral to university rather than simply an add-on. Physical fitness is one of the most fundamental things in life and we need to promote it!
James: For those who weren’t involved last year, it’s easy not to realise all the great stuff going on. If you talk to anyone in sport at university they’ll tell you it’s a fantastic way to make friends and get the most out of your time at university!

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