This Girl Can at Leeds

Woman swimming

This Girl Can have just relaunched their campaign with another inspiring advert to motivate more women to take part in sport and physical activity. Women have long faced social pressures, judgement, and fear of talking about issues which society has deemed ‘taboo’ when it comes to their bodies and exercising. This campaign aims to show the unfiltered reality of exercise, whilst celebrating women of all shapes and sizes, abilities and backgrounds, to empower them to become more active and confident. The new campaign also focuses on periods, menopause, pregnancy and motherhood, and how women use exercise as a way to combat symptoms or allow time for themselves.

Since This Girl Can launched in 2015, it has inspired 3.5 million women to get active but there is still a long way to go, with 40% of women aged 16 and over insufficiently active, compared with 35% of men (Active Lives, 2018). Sport and Physical Activity’s new strategy: Do What Moves You also aims to celebrate and encourage anybody of any ability to engage in sport and physical activity, and to get moving in whatever way works for them.

This Girl Can women on matt

There are a number of opportunities available for women to get more active across the campus including:

  • Female only swim sessions @ The Edge pool (Tuesdays 10:45-11:45 and Fridays 21:15-22:15)
  • Women only strength training courses – the perfect opportunity for beginners or intermediates to learn new techniques to improve their workouts
  • Join the Couch to 5K programme to get more active in a safe, social and friendly environment. The deadline to sign-up is Tuesday 4th February
  • From 27 January there will be a range of beginner’s group exercise classes added to The Edge class timetable including Yoga, Barre Pilates, Body Pump, Zumba and Kaiser/Spin. There are also a range of dance based group exercise classes, which are a great way to have fun whilst exercising including Zumba, Clubbercise, Dance Fitness and Body Jam
  • Join the 5-a-side football social league by registering a team to take part. We will soon be sharing details about our new netball social league for staff. Contact for more information
  • The LOGIK centre will soon be releasing details of their Winter/Spring 2020 programme, which will include antenatal exercise classes as well as the introduction of yoga for menopause. You can check for updates here.

Do you have an inspirational story that you would like to share to help motivate and inspire other women to get active? Whatever it is that keeps you moving – whether it’s playing a team sport, yoga, dog walking, pram pushing, weight lifting, gardening or swimming – we’d love to hear! Contact Beth Fadden, Physical Activity and Wellbeing Manager at




Volunteer of the Month: Matthew Eke

Volunteer of the month matthew eke

Matt talks about the volunteering he is involved in, why he wanted to participate and how it feels to win volunteer of the month. 


Matt has been a great volunteer on poolside and has integrated well into the team. He has been eager to learn and is highly motivated to get the best out of himself and the swimmers he is coaching. He is well mannered and a pleasure to be on poolside with. He continues to push himself to do more and I look forward to continuing his education on poolside.’ Jacob Greenhalgh, Head of Swimming


Which volunteering programme are you on & what does your role involve?

I am a swimming coach for Leeds University Union Swimming and Water Polo Society (LUUSWP) on the Leeds Sport Coaching Scholars programme. I assist the head coach, Jacob with the coaching of all 3 squads (Performance, Competition and Development) at both training sessions and galas (competitions). Most recently, I travelled down with the Performance squad to Ponds Forge in Sheffield to assist with the coaching of University of Leeds, Leeds Beckett University and Leeds Trinity University at BUCS.

How much time do you commit to volunteering per week and how do you manage this alongside your studies?

Varies week on week depending on how busy I am with other activities but is usually between 4-8 hours per week if no galas are on at the weekend. Because most of the training sessions are on an evening after lectures have finished it allows me to concentrate on my studies through the day then spend my evenings volunteering.

What made you want to volunteer?

I have been an active member of LUUSWP since I arrived at university 2 ½ years ago, as a swimmer for Competition squad and a Water Polo player for the 2nd Team. Last year I was the Men’s Captain of Competition and Development Swimming Squads where there were some sessions that I had to write and deliver the session when we didn’t have a coach. I had previously coached at my local swimming club before university and found myself getting back into it last year so Jacob, the head coach, suggested I apply for the Coach Scholar program and assist him this year.

What is the best thing about volunteering?

The best thing about volunteering is the feeling of giving back to a society that has done so much for me over my time at university. Some of my best university experiences have been through LUUSWP and I have met so many new people and friends through the society that volunteering for them makes me feel like I am giving back to the society and helping the new members have as good a time as I have had and continue to have.

What are the challenges?

It can sometimes get a bit stressful trying to manage my volunteering around my studies but I always feel better for it afterwards as I would rather be doing activities that keep me busy than sat around my flat doing nothing useful.

Would you recommend volunteering to others?

I would highly recommend volunteering to others as it’s such a good experience and improves upon skills such as time management, leadership and critical thinking that will be needed in later life.

How does it feel to win Volunteer of the Month?

It’s an honour to win Volunteer of the Month as it shows that I am being recognised for my volunteering and gives me encouragement to do more.


Student Volunteering Week kicks off on 10 February with events for you to get involved with and learn more about volunteering opportunities with us!

Balancing Life Survey Results 2019

Balancing Life Imagery

In 2019 we ran our annual survey, Balancing Life, to find out about activity and well-being levels amongst the University population. We use this information to help shape our future plans and initiatives for Sport & Physical activity, so thank you to everyone who took the time to fill it out.

This year’s results coincide with the launch of the University’s new strategic plan for Sport & Physical Activity; Do What Moves You, with our vision to be the best University to be active. The results from Balancing Life specifically help to inform and guide us in regards to one of the strategy’s key aims; to help staff and students improve their health & well-being.

The results were positive, and have given us fantastic new insights to work with and shall help to continually evolve the service we offer;

2019 Key Results:

  • 2172 total survey response, a 48% increase on 2018
  • 75% of campus active, an increase of 1% since 2018
  • 46% of you are doing regular exercise, an increase of 7% since 2018
  • Our staff are 10% more active than the general working population
  • We scored 22 on the SWEMWBS* meaning our mental wellbeing scores are behind the national average
  • 25% of the campus population are fairly active or inactive, down 1% from 26% in 2018
  • Our students are 1% less active than the Higher Education average

To read more about the results from the survey, take a look at our Balancing Life page on our website. The SPA Physical Activity and Well-being Team will be delivering a series of workshops over the month with different faculties and services to discuss the Balancing Life results in more detail. If you would like to find out more about these, please get in touch with our Physical Activity and Well-being Manager, Bethany Fadden.

If you are wanting to make a change to your lifestyle and be more active, we have many options to help you get started. During term time, The Edge offers over 220 exercise classes per week, from quick 30 minute HIIT classes that you can fit into the working day, to more gentle yoga and pilates. If that doesn’t excite you, why not join one of our social leagues and play with your mates? Or, if you are looking to get into running, why not join one of Get Out, Get Active’s wellbeing runs or sign up for the latest entry-level Couch to 5K programme, which is open to all staff and students?


Run the Loop at the Brownlee Centre

Brownlee Run the Loop

Entries are now open for the “Run the Loop at the Brownlee Centre” event

Come join us on the 24th May 2020 for our annual multi-distance running event at our fantastic Brownlee Centre at the University of Leeds.

Our unique event takes place on our closed-road 1-mile cycle circuit and offers runners a range of different events to enter – from a 5km to half marathon. You can race and run where current and next generation Olympic champions train!

The closed-road circuit provides a unique opportunity for participants looking to take part in their first road running race and for seasoned PB hunters.

All finishers will receive a goody bag and a celebratory prize. There will be male and female prizes for all distances, and hopefully a few PB’s to be found along the way!

Cycle circut with brownlee centre building behind

The event will support an international sports development programme, Gryphons Abroad – supported by the Bambisanani Partnership. A contribution from your race fee will go to the project which changes the lives of young people in South Africa, in particular through the purchase of bikes, bike equipment and educational materials.

You can find out more about this amazing programme here.

Date: Sunday 24th May 2020

Time: 10.30am start (First event off)

Venue: The Brownlee Centre – Bodington Playing Fields

Information and entry fees

Sunday 24 May, 10:30Half Marathon (13.1 miles). Age 17+£24.00 affiliated, £26.00 non-affiliatedEnter here
Sunday 24th May, 10.305 km. Age: 11+£10.00 affiliated, £12.00 non-affiliatedEnter here
Sunday 24th May, 10.30 10 km. Age: 15+£17.00 affiliated, £19.00 non-affiliatedEnter here

Men’s Football: Donating our Time to Charity

men's football team picture in black and white
During my time as President of the University of Leeds Men’s Association Football Club in 2018/19, I made it a priority to ensure the club went beyond getting involved in fundraising for charity. Lots of money gets donated to charities across the country, which is great, but what can be far more impactful is donating your time to a worthy cause.

While searching for a charity that supported homelessness in Leeds, I came across HOMED. I’d never heard of it before, despite it being an LUU society. I made contact with HOMED in January 2019. They explained they were struggling to maintain their Wednesday evening food distribution due to lack of resources. With Wednesday being the day we have socials at night, after BUCS fixtures in the day, it seemed a perfect slot for a group each week to get involved. A huge amount of our members expressed an interest to help out. Within a week or two, we’d begun working with HOMED weekly and have continued working with them this academic year.

The Wednesday evening food run is a walk via a planned route through the city centre that the charity put together. The route is designed to come across as many people living on the streets as possible.

We would bring 5 members each week who were guided on the walk by a couple of volunteers from HOMED. Usually, it’s lads that have had a home game. They’d prepare 4 portions of warm food that was simple yet popular. Other volunteers would bring extra food, hot drinks, disposable cutlery and some essential supplies when possible.

members of the men's football team with HOMED in Leeds City Centre with bags of food.

Everyone you come across is extremely grateful for your help, food donations and also for the opportunity to have a chat.

“Some of the more touching moments I’ve experienced has been when a homeless person tells you they’ve managed to get a bit of food earlier, but points you in the direction of a someone down the road who they think needs it more.”

We’ve currently got nearly 40 lads actively involved. Not everyone can attend each week but the large list makes the rota easy to organise. This ensures we’ve always got enough people available. This level of interest shows we can increase our involvement, not just with HOMED, but with other charities too.

Investing our time as a collective is a hugely efficient way to help Homed carry out their amazing work. This helps make the lives of the less fortunate a little bit easier.

It’s a fantastic way to integrate new members of the society into the spirit of the football club. Another notable benefit of our involvement is the inclusive social aspect it brings. Typical Wednesday night socials aren’t for everyone, but this provides another chance to get involved off the pitch.

Through the Lens: Careers in Sport

Camera Lens

Have you ever dreamt of a career in sport?

Sarah Robinson, Leeds University’s sport performance manager spoke to us about her journey. From early sporting success in her adolescence to landing her first role as a full-time coach, Robinson dives into the past and reveals how one set-back can transform into a window of opportunity for a successful career in sport.


What does the role of sports performance manager involve?

Robinson explained that there are two key areas within her role. The first is focused on supporting sports scholar athletes and managing a task program tailored for them. The TASS athlete scholarship program provides athletes with additional support including physiotherapy, nutritional advice, strength and conditioning coaching and academic liaison support – “[A] bespoke package around the athlete.” The second is managing the relationship and working with the university’s sports clubs and societies in terms of their development plans and year-on-year progression.

 What inspired you to have a career in sport?

Robinson initially began studying three dimensional design, yet emphasised that sport had always played a major part in her life. From the age of ten, she became interested in synchronised swimming at her local leisure centre in Pudsey, West Yorkshire. By the age of twelve, Robinson had progressed to national level where she went on to compete at the British Championships. After achieving various medal wins she pressed on and trialled for the senior GB team in preparation for the London 2012 Olympics. To her dismay, she was unsuccessful in the selection process, however this setback did not stand in the way of other opportunities. It was at this point, where she made the decision to transition into coaching.

How did you land your first job as a full-time coach?

From starting as a lifeguard at the age of sixteen, Robinson took on multiple roles at the leisure centre ranging from her job as a receptionist to a cleaner. But it was when she made the choice to go into coaching that her career took off.  

She said, “I had no idea that it would become a career. When I was at university, I was coaching and training for a little bit and following that I was fortunate because there was legacy funding for sports like synchronised swimming. At the time, I was lucky because there were four full-time jobs open in the UK so I went for one of those and managed to get it.”

Robinson gravitated towards coaching because of her love for it and for “the love of sport”.

“Looking back both my parents played for England volleyball so I basically grew up in a sports centre which I think is why I wasn’t necessarily interested in the beginning. It was just so familiar and I wanted something different initially, they were both teachers as well so that’s kind of interesting and they’re both coaches. So, I think they’ve probably had a really strong influence on me and I was always surrounded by people who were sporty. Sport was always a normal part of life and placing sport as a priority was always the norm.”

Did you ever face any hurdles along the way? If so, how did you motivate yourself to overcome these issues?

When I started in my first coaching job I was really fresh out of university and it was a big leap for me and everybody else because ultimately, it was a big step up and I had not anticipated how big of a step it was going to be, so it was like a baptism of fire. But, it was probably the best thing for me as I had to learn things extremely quickly. The challenge then was believing in myself. There was a lot of self-doubt for a good couple of years and I had to convince everybody else that I would be successful.”

Robinson told Leeds Sport that personal development has been a major part of her career growth. When she started off after university, she lacked the confidence to back her decisions and felt the need to change her attitudes about herself. So she took a risk and used her initiative to create a process regarding a vibrant new training plan.

“I had to develop my confidence to create a process because a lot of the time no process existed and there was no precedent to go off so I couldn’t just follow a plan.”

Essentially, it was Robinson’s passion for sport which helped her to stay focussed and committed. While she felt underqualified for her role initially, she knew she had the skills to execute her program successfully.

“In a sport without much funding, you are everything. You have to be able to educate yourself in nutrition, sports psychology and time management because you just don’t have the support services available  ̶  which is what is so fantastic about Leeds because we do have that available.”

Robinson payed credit to her colleagues as helping her to stay motivated as well as receiving regular feedback from students. She also emphasised the importance of setting targets.

Who inspired you when you were younger?

“Someone who had a key influence on me was a coach called Heber who competed at the Olympics with her twin sister Sarah. They came over to Leeds University from Egypt to study and while they were here, they got in touch with my local club in Pudsey and offered to coach for free. They were such positive people as well as being amazing coaches – they really inspired my coaching.

Following this, I went on to Manchester and had another fantastic coach at the club also. After that, once I started my career as a coach, my manager was Adrian Hinchcliffe who coached Olympic divers like Chris Mears at Leeds.”

Do you have any goals for the future?

“At present, I want to keep developing my management skills so the next thing I’d like to do is complete some more qualifications around management to further develop those and continue to build on that.”

Robinson encourages anyone interested in sport to start as early as possible, whether its working as a lifeguard in your local leisure centre at sixteen or simply helping out at your local sports club. She also expressed that you should always challenge yourself despite feeling too underqualified when applying to new roles – self-confidence is the key.


Volunteer of the Month: Zejun Yao

Volunteer of the month cross country running

November’s volunteer of the month is Zejun Yao. Leeds Sport chatted to him about the volunteering he is involved in and how it felt to be recognised for his fantastic efforts. 


Which volunteering programme are you on & what does your role involve?

I am volunteering as a Coaching Scholar for Leeds Sport . My role is to support the Cross Country Club and the lead coach Greg with a multitude of activities from programme planning to weekly team training and individual student development in distance running.

How much time do you commit to volunteering per week and how do you manage this alongside your studies?

During term time I am delivering approximately 2 to 3 hours of coaching at the University per week This includes two evening sessions on Tuesday and Thursday, usually on grass or track, followed by a Saturday morning run too. It takes effort to balance study/research time with volunteering but also simultaneously helps me to become more productive and flexible.

What made you want to volunteer?

Running and coaching directly reflects my passion for both sports activity and my practice-led PhD. The work-in-progress coaching experience with the university team will help me to confidently develop independent and team working skills. It will enable me to envisage the short to long-term training programme development and team management. Volunteering for the student community in various outdoor locations allows me to improve my leadership skills; being able to accurately deliver more in-depth and behind the scenes knowledge and critical thinking.

What is the best thing about volunteering?

‘Joie de vivre’ or ‘Joy of living’ – I consider the Coaching Scholar programme as a unique experience which would benefit the transition from a postgraduate student athlete towards an independent athlete/coach in the future and am looking forward to the opportunities to continue supporting our student community.

What are the challenges?

The programme and coaching covers both team training and club race events, which relates directly to BUCS, the National Cross Country Championships and the following track season. I am currently working closely with the lead coach of Leeds Sport to discuss the annual planning for both recreational and competitive student athletes. During the weekly training sessions, I provide live feedback to participants and communicate the challenges that have arisen between the collective and individual needs of the group. Additionally, I offer advice and demonstrations by providing additional training support for injury prevention, strength and conditioning development.

Would you recommend volunteering to others?


How does it feel to win Volunteer of the Month?

Feeling like a running ‘Kaomoji’ (emoji)!


‘Jun has thrown himself into his coaching role with great enthusiasm and is a valuable member of the cross-country club. In spite of being injured this season, he has continued to cycle to coaching each week to support his fellow students. He has also undertaken two coaching qualifications in a short space of time (Leadership in running fitness, and Coaching Assistant) and hopes to take his next qualification soon. Parallel to this Jun is a well-rounded and interesting person to be around!’ Suzzi Garnett, Sports Volunteering Officer

You can read more about Jun and his PhD work here:

Volunteer of the Month: Ellie Stroud

Ellie Stroud Volunteer

Ellie talks about the volunteering she is involved in, why she wanted to participate and how it feels to win volunteer of the month.


‘Ellie has been a fantastic addition to our team of netball umpires – she is reliable, punctual, eager and frequently goes above and beyond. She is also a lovely, kind, pleasant human being who proactively looks to help and make a difference.’ – Rachel Harrison, Social Sport Coordinator.


Which volunteering programme are you on & what does your role involve?

I do two volunteering programmes for Leeds Sport. The first one is the Netball Umpiring Scheme which involves umpiring two games a week in the Tuesday and Friday social leagues. The second is the Media Assistant role, which is a bit more varied. I mainly focus on social media, where I can be covering anything from Varsity to the One to Watch Twitter Poll. I am also in the process of writing a blog post about GoodGym, which has recently launched in Leeds.


How much time do you commit to volunteering per week and how do you manage this alongside your studies?

I do a few hours of volunteering a week. As schemes, they are really flexible meaning that I can balance my studies and volunteering easily.


What made you want to volunteer?

For the Netball role, I had been involved in the social leagues a lot during my first and second years, both playing twice a week then being Sports Secretary for a society. I really enjoyed these two years and so I felt passionately about the social leagues scheme at Leeds and wanted to help run it. For the Media role, I am interested in a career in sports marketing, but did not have any direct experience of marketing in a sports context, and so thought it would be a great way to develop some more marketing experience and skills.


What is the best thing about volunteering?

It has really helped me develop skills for my future career. For example, it has allowed me to develop leadership and communication skills in the umpiring role in particular, whereas the Media role has given me some invaluable marketing exposure and experience. I’ve found that it’s been really useful to talk about these schemes when I have been applying for graduate jobs, along with giving me some future direction for career options. I’m also hoping to get an umpiring qualification this year, which the University generously offer a bursary for, which will really help improve my skills as an umpire.


What are the challenges?

It took me a little while to develop my confidence as an umpire. I did not have much experience before, it was more just when I was running training sessions, and I had not played for a year so the first few weeks were a bit challenging!


Would you recommend volunteering to others?

Definitely! There are lots of different volunteering schemes to get involved with, from Gryphons Abroad to Sports Sport Activators so there’s something for everyone to get involved in, regardless of your experience and what skills you’d like to develop.


How does it feel to win Volunteer of the Month?

It was a lovely surprise! I really wasn’t expecting it at all.


If you are interested in getting involved in volunteering with Leeds Sport, check out all of our programmes on our website.

Natalie Haythornthwaite Inducted into Sporting Hall of Fame

Natalie Haythornthwaite playing netball

Leeds University Alumna Natalie Haythornthwaite has been inducted into the University’s Sporting Hall of Fame.

Natalie was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Sports Scholars Award Evening held on 14 November, an event which celebrates the successes of all of our scholars who have been awarded a scholarship for the upcoming year. Unfortunately Natalie was unable to attend the evening, but did send us a quick message from down under;

Natalie, who graduated from the University of Leeds in 2014 with a degree in Linguistics and Phonetics, is part of the history-making England Roses netball team who won the gold medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. She has recently been selected again to be part of the England Roses squad who will travel to face the South Africa SPAR Proteas in a three-match test series in a few weeks’ time. In addition, she won the bronze medal at the 2019 Netball World Cup and has over 40 England caps to her name.

Whilst studying at Leeds, Natalie was Vice-Captain of Superleague side The Yorkshire Jets and was named Superleague Player of the Year in 2015. After a brief spell at Manchester Thunder, Natalie joined the newly formed Wasps side and went on to win consecutive Superleague titles with them in 2017 and 2018.

Following success with Wasps, Natalie moved to Australia to play for the New South Wales Swifts in the prestigious Suncorp Super Netball and in September 2019 won the Suncorp Super Netball Grand Final. Natalie was part of the England Roses team which was named BBC Sports Personality Team of the Year in 2018 in recognition of their historic Commonwealth Games gold medal.

Natalie Haythornthwaite Hall of Fame Board

You can take a look at the full Sporting Hall of Fame by visiting The Edge. It’s located alongside the sport scholarship board and you can read more about Natalie and all our other Hall of Fame recipients, who include:

  • Johnny Mowlem, Geography and Spanish 1998, Racing Car Driver
  • Rebecca Gallantree, Sports Science 2005, Great Britain diver.
  • Carol Isherwood OBE, History 1982 and PGCE Education 1984, Great Britain rugby union player and founder of the Rugby Football Union for Women.
  • Andrew Shovlin, Mechanical Engineering 1995 and PhD in Mechanical Engineering 1999, Formula 1 Chief race engineer.
  • Ray French MBE, General Studies 1961, England rugby union and rugby league player, rugby league commentator.
  • Giles Long MBE, Geology 1997, three time Paralympic swimming champion
  • Simon Mason, Economics 1994, Great Britain hockey player and vice president of England Hockey

Find out more about Natalie by following her on social media; @natsymone @nataliesymone.

University Celebrates our Sports Scholars

Sports Scholars Group Picture

The University of Leeds Sports Scholars have been awarded their scholarships by the University’s Vice-Chancellor Sir Alan Langlands at the annual sports scholars’ evening.

Over 60 students studying a wide variety of courses, from Dentistry to Philosophy attended the special reception which celebrates their success. All scholars are supported by our Sports Scholarship Programme to help and guide them in achieving their goals to the highest of their ability, both within their sport and their academia.

Head of Sport, Suzanne Glavin said;

“It was a lovely celebration led again by our Vice Chancellor where we took the time as a University to recognise and applaud our most gifted and talented student sport scholars. We are grateful to all our partners from across the University, LUU and Alumni Office for their interest, support and advocacy for sport as an essential part of student experience. It is wonderful to hear more of the incredible success stories about our student athletes and what great ambassadors they are for our University.”

This year the University has over 60 sports scholars studying a variety of subjects, ranging from Digital Media to Zoology. They compete at a range of competitions as individuals and also represent the University with their club teams, whilst working towards both their sporting goals and their academic studies.

Matt Brigham Rowing

In rowing Matt Brigham qualified for the Diamond League Sculls at Henley Royal Regatta and went on in the first round to beat Mahe Drysdale from New Zealand who is the course record holder and two-time Olympic champion in the single scull in the first round, described by one commentator as “the shock of the decade”. Matt was also selected to represent England in a home international regatta, coming away with the gold in the double and silver in the quad sculls.

Kate Waugh competing in triathlon

In triathlon Kate Waugh representing GBR won silver in September in the ITU World triathlon Grand Final in U23s Relay, Silver in the ETU Sprint Triathlon European Cup, and Bronze in the triathlon World cup.

Our Sports Scholarship programme provides all of our athletes with a personalised package to support them during their time at Leeds. This includes a personal mentor to help ensure they are maintaining a healthy balance between their sporting career and their academic studies. In addition, they receive free access to The Edge to help with their fitness, health and wellbeing, plus a bespoke bursary to ensure they can manage the financial demands of performance sport.

Find out more about our Sport Scholarship programme online here.