550 Miles, 4 footballers and one big challenge

Berlin Cycle

On the 16th of June four intrepid members of the University’s Women’s Football Club set off on a momentous challenge – to bike to Berlin.

The girls left Parkinson Steps with the hope of making it to the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin in just 8 days. Hannah, Lil, Cat and Fiona cycled approximately 550 miles across Europe to complete their journey! They were working in partnership with the University of Leeds RAG society in the hope of raising money for their chosen charities.

On their travels the girls faced a variety of different challenges, from aching legs to exhaustion. Around half way they found themselves caught in a five person pile up! With a few scraped knees they continued on their bike to Berlin. It was a physical challenge like no other and Lil admitted to us that:       

“None of us even had a bike when we signed up!”

However with a strong team motivating each other it was not as bad as they had anticipated. The girls managed to distract each other with silly games and songs when it got tough.


With such an extensive cycle the girls did put in some extra hours training but Lil told us that:

“To be honest we did very little training for it! With exams and university work due we were all quite busy towards the end of the year. I think by the time it came around I’d done a combined total of about 70 miles training which was only 5 miles further than the first day. But, the base fitness that we all had from football was enough to see our legs through.” 

Who are the charities?

The girls chose to split their fundraising efforts between three charities, the first of which is CooP Uganda. They are a small charity with aims of improving locals access to education, healthcare and work. Coop Uganda provides bicycles for individuals and also offers support for new enterprises that focus around social cycling.

The other two charities are those chosen by the university football club which the girls fundraise for through various events all year. Stonewall is one which aims to empower individuals as well as promoting equality for the LGBT community across the UK. They work within local communities and large institutions to support people in reaching their full potential. They chose to support Stonewall as it was suggested by the widow of Rachel Lush, an ex-Club Captain who sadly passed away a few years ago, and who this year the team introduced a charity alumni match in memory of.

Their final chosen charity is the James Burke Foundation. The charity was founded in memory of one of our rugby league players and also works to provide education and support for mental health. The girls noted that James Burke was a friend of many of their members and they wanted to help raise awareness of mental health issues, especially for male university students as it is something that isn’t spoken about enough.

The bike to Berlin proved to be a fantastic experience for everyone involved. Hanna told us a little more about her journey:

“The experience as a whole was amazing! Surprisingly the day we crashed was my favourite day as it gave us a laugh. Other days were a bit deflating but getting into Berlin and all cycling up towards the Parliament building together was an amazing feeling. We had a couple friends meeting us at the finish line and the support team were waiting with prosecco so it was an awesome reception!”


Staff Healthy Week Success 2018

Leeds Sport Healthy Week

This year’s Healthy Week has been a fantastic success. We had a 60% increase in organised activity and double the attendance figures from last year.

Healthy Week balloon June 2018

Nearly 200 members of staff joined up to be a Healthy Week Hero! They helped organised lots of their own activities throughout the week. Overall, 160 hours of activity were organised over seven days with 1,036 people taking part.

Our Healthy Week Heroes have done a fantastic job! Everyone was out encouraging colleagues to get involved and consider their own health and well-being.

Let us know what you thought about Healthy Week 2018 by filling out our feedback form at the foot of the Healthy Week page.

Rollerskiing as part of Healthy Week June 2018The free rollerskiing taster at Bodington Circuit was a great success, with both sessions fully booked.

See what other people got up to by searching for #HealthyWeekHero on Twitter.

If you haven’t shared what you got up to already, you can still do so by tagging @UniLeedsStaff and using #HealthyWeekHero.

Activities on campus

Although Healthy Week has come to an end, there are still plenty of activities to get involved in around campus. Many of the activities on the programme take place regularly each week.

Visit The Edge for a swim or sign up to one of their ‘learn to courses’. The Chaplaincy is open regularly for people to go to relax in a quiet space and the Sustainability Garden and LUU Roof Garden have weekly volunteering sessions. You can also do some regular exercise with the Get Out, Get Active team which organises casual lunchtime runs, yoga, weekend trips and lots more.

The free family event, HSBC UK Let’s Ride Leeds (formerly Sky Ride and City Ride), will also be returning to Leeds on Sunday 2 September. Read more about it and save the date!

Athlete of the Month: June

Athlete of the month

Having so many fantastic sporting students here at the University of Leeds it’s hard to narrow it down to just one a month. Yet with the start of the World Cup and her international playing status we caught up with Rachel Newborough from women’s football.  We managed to get hold of Rachel in one of her S&C sessions before she set of for World Cup qualifiers!


Who do you play for and when do you play?

I play for Doncaster Rovers Belles, University of Leeds and Northern Ireland. I play matches on a Wednesday and Sunday.

What is your training schedule?

I train with football Tuesday night, Thursday night and Friday afternoon. Then I go to the gym roughly 2 or 3 times a week.

What Strength and Conditioning (S&C) training do you do?

I do S&C training at the Gryphon room twice a week. I do a lower body and upper body session with core. Sometimes I follow this with a blow out on the bike at the end!

What is your favourite exercise?

My favourite exercise is a back squat. With practice you can increase the weight quite significantly and you always feel it the next day so you know you’ve worked hard.

What is your least favourite exercise?

My least favourite exercise is pull-ups. It’s my least favourite because I’ve been practising for a long time and haven’t seen much improvement. I find it pretty frustrating.

How do you feel S&C has helped you develop as an athlete?

S&C has helped my game so much over the last 2 years after I highlighted speed and power as two areas I really wanted to work on. After doing more sprint training in the sports hall and powerful weight lifting I noticed a change in my game. The gps in my international game against Wales recorded that I had the highest speed within the team after the training I did prior. I’ve also found that I can hold my ground better against stronger players which has improved my defending massively.


I have been training Rachel for the last 2 years and it has been amazing. She is a pleasure to work with, consistently giving everything her all. Rachel is willing to try whatever she can to get the most out of her performances on the pitch. She brings a great energy and enthusiasm to the gym, not only making the sessions more enjoyable and productive, but also helping to improve the sessions of those athletes around her. An athlete that you wish you could have the pleasure of training every day.


Here is Rachel hard at work before she left for qualifiers:

National Bike Week: Free Cycle Sessions

Leeds Sport Tilly

To mark National Bike week and encourage university staff to get active, we are offering staff a chance to use the new Bodington Cycle Circuit at Bodington Playing Fields for free! 

National Bike Week first took place in 1923 and is an annual opportunity to promote cycling and show how it can easily be part of everyday life by encouraging ‘everyday cycling for everyone’.

Whether it’s for fun, as a means of getting to work or school, a trip to the local shops or just to visit friends, cycling has huge social, health and environmental benefits, so here at the Bodington Cycle Circuit, we are offering free use of circuit, bike and helmet to all staff and their families on these sessions:

  • Thursday 14  June (14:00 to 16:00)
  • Friday 15 June (15:00 to 17:00)
  • Saturday 16 June (13:30 to 17:00)

We also have regular Pay and Pedal sessions open to all individuals who would like to come and have a go on the cycle circuit, with no need to book. So why not come along and give it a go!

The Power of Football

Football Refugees Group

Leeds Gryphons have been out supporting young refugees in the local community…

Sport Science students at the University of Leeds recently had the opportunity to take part in a brand new project. The students delivered ten weeks of football coaching at the Leeds Refugee Forum as part of our Gryphons in the Community programme. Seven students took part in this pilot scheme delivering football and English language skills to unaccompanied minors at the One Community Centre in Harehills. They spent their Saturday mornings with individuals from countries such as Syria, Eritrea and Sudan.

During the first hour of the session, the students supported language tutors to teach English as a second language. Partnering up with one of the refugees, students supported them with tasks and practising their English conversation. During the second hour the students took the lead in facilitating a football session. All the students got stuck in, organising drills, games and matches and even joining in with the participants. 

What did everyone have to say?

Students reported improvements in their confidence, interpersonal communication and problem solving skills as a result of being involved in the project. Callum Bailey, one of the students involved shared his experience:

After I got involved with the volunteering project I found it so enjoyable. I would definitely consider doing it again in the future and would recommend others to do it as well. It helped me improve on skills such as leadership, teamwork and confidence. Everything I’ve learnt will also help aid my employability in the future.

Following a successful pilot Leeds Sport now hope to sustain this new partnership.  We are also looking to develop links with other community groups in Leeds, bringing people together through sport. 

Suzzi Garnett, the Sports Volunteering Officer at the University could also see the benefits:

The participants involved were around the same age as the students but obviously from an altogether different background. It was wonderful to see the students and participants interacting and having fun together. I could see the confidence of both the students and participants grow week on week.

Gryphons in the Community programmes allow people from all over Leeds to come together through sport. All the projects are fun and rewarding with students helping people in Leeds to live more active lives.

Ali Mahgoub, Director of the Leeds Refugee Forum shared his support:

Integration through sport and other activities is an important part of what we do at the Leeds Refugee Forum. The support of the students at the University of Leeds has exposed our young refugees to different cultures and allowed them to practice their English conversation.

This years project has been a huge success in helping students to make a difference right here in Leeds. Sport Science students will have the opportunity to sign up to Gryphons in the Community projects, including the Leeds Refugee Forum once again in September 2018. But don’t worry these positions are open to all students interested in volunteering. If you would like more information about the opportunities available please contact Suzzi on s.garnett@leeds.ac.uk or 0113 343 1544.


Social Sport Success

University of Leeds Social League Netball

At the University of Leeds we have a whole range of sporting activities that take place throughout the year. From all our BUCS Wednesdays to our Varsity final, sport at Leeds is for everyone.

However participating in sport at Leeds isn’t just for those elite high performing athletes. In fact there is a whole range of social sport activities on offer too. There are a huge amount of teams in faculties, halls and across the university that offer competitive sport where you can play alongside your friends. Recently we claimed victory from Leeds Beckett University in the annual Social Varsity. This year captain Monty Davies-Phippen took her netball team, Development Yellow, all the way to the final against Beckett. Naturally the girls were looking forward to competing for the ultimate varsity trophy! Netball was the final match to be played with the scores level at 1-1. However, they stormed to victory, helping crown Leeds as Social Varsity champions. We spoke to her after their win:


Our game was exciting, with both Beckett and Leeds University showcasing the best of their skills. The Beckett team even managed to continue to display great netball despite the occurrence of a few injuries. However, the Development Yellow team managed to walk away with the victory and retain the varsity social league title!


Social league sports provide a fantastic opportunity for those who want to  play with their friends and compete on a more casual basis. The flexible social sport sessions also allow you to try something different in a fun and welcoming student friendly setting. Monty told us a little more about her experience:


It’s great that our victory has raised the profile of social sport. The social netball league has seen a large volume of teams playing friendly yet competitive netball throughout the year. The LUU Development Netball Club has been at the heart of this social league. We entered five teams this year, with the Yellow team leading the way with the overall winning result. Development Netball is a fun alternative to BUCS sport, whilst also aiming to maintain a high level of netball. The club delivers structured training sessions, with additional training for higher level players. We also ensure regular fixtures in the social sport league and other matches against universities from across the country. We’re proud to provide such an amazing opportunity for many girls and have been grateful for such a wonderful year of social netball. Bring on next season!