The Boat Club Boy’s Henley Hopes

A group of eight rowers and one cox from the University of Leeds have been putting their years worth training to the test.

Henley Royal Regatta is one of the most prestigious rowing events in the world attracting thousands of visitors every year. 2018 provides no exceptions with the third highest number of entries on record competing over five days. Over 100 international crews competed beside another 454 from across the UK, all searching for victory.

As visitors descended on the small town so did UOLBC in their bid for the Temple Challenge Cup. This particular event had 55 entries, from a whole range of clubs. Competition is incredibly tough with top crews from universities, colleges and schools all fighting for one of 32 places in the main event.  

After a successful early regatta season and a win at Peterborough Regatta the senior men’s squad have been working hard all year in preparation. 

With a crew made up from medics, mathematicians and engineers the boys had to work hard to fit their training in around exams and university life. Once the semester came to an end they threw themselves into full time training. One of the boys described the training:

‘It’s like a job but more work and more fun. We have to get up early most mornings to fit in a session before lectures and things start. Normally after a full day of uni we usually fit in another 1 or 2 shorter sessions in the afternoon to build up our fitness, working rowing specific muscles and improving our cardiovascular fitness. It’s great because we get to complete all our training as a team and that means there’s never a dull moment.’

With the whole crew committed to the Henley dream the rowers had been training three times a day. Working hard over the past few months the boys aimed to get into the best physical condition possible. To prepare they had been completing training out on the water at the boathouse to work on technique as well as working in our S&C Gryphon Room to improve their strength and mobility.

On the 23rd of June the team headed down Dorney Lake for Marlow Regatta to compete against other university crews in the Accademic 8+ category. Much of the competition they faced have been rowing from a very young age. However, half of our men’s crew has been formed by individuals only in their second or third year of rowing after having learnt at university. For these individuals to be competing at such a high level and standard of rowing is an outstanding achievement. Having the boys racing against other crews with many years of experience and practice there was going to be some tough competition.

The boys powered through their time trial to place them in the B Final, narrowly missing out on A Finals. Their final proved to be an exciting battle down the two kilometre course. With only milliseconds in it the boys managed to power through to finish in 1st place.

At this point the marshals had to make a decision on letting crews pre-qualify for Henley, meaning they avoid extra time trials the week after. However, they were particularly picky this year and so the boys stepped back to their training in preparation for their next race on the 29th of June which would make or break the Henley dream.

As qualifiers crept closer the boys got more and more anxious with only a few spaces left for the taking it was all to play for. They found themselves surrounded by 34 other eager crews that arrived from across the globe. Unfortunately, as the boys set off on their time trial the nerves began to get the better of them. Crews that Leeds had beaten only a week previously and throughout the season began to creep up the leader-board which unluckily for our boys meant they missed out on a place.

However it’s not all disappointment and frowns from the team as they still managed to have an amazing season. Coach Dan was proud of his team’s progress:

‘The club have done fantastically well to get this close to Henley. We have not been anywhere near the standard over the past few years so this is a great achievement for the boys. They should all be incredibly proud of their hard work. Seeing such strong development of the club and an increase in commitment, to what can be an incredibly challenging sport, is wonderful. I’m confident in the crew to make it further in the competition next year.’       

 

Students and staff volunteer in South Africa

South African student on a bike

This June ten University of Leeds students from a range of degree programmes and three staff members travelled to South Africa to volunteer in primary and secondary schools.

Over two weeks the Gryphons Abroad team made an impact on nearly 200 South African students lives over two projects.

Cycle to Success

The first project took place at Mnyakanya High School, in one of the poorest regions of South Africa where the team taught 30 students, both male and female how to ride and maintain bikes.

Frankii Darko, Gryphons Abroad student said,

“The cycle to success week of the trip has been amazing. To see students who had never been on a bike cycle by themselves and know how to fix them when something went wrong after only three days of teaching is pretty unbelievable!”

Read Frankii’s full blog here.

english student teaching african student to ride a bike

The team worked with Security Services and the Sustainability Bike Hub team to ship over eighteen recycled bikes which were refurbished after being abandoned on campus last year, as well as the tools and spare parts needed to fix the bikes when needed.

By the end of the week all students could ride a bike, most of which had never been on a bike before and nine students had all the skills and knowledge of road signalling to cycle on the main road.

south african fixing bikes and smiling

The skills the students have learnt are invaluable and many of them have already used the bikes to get to and from school, which for some was previously a two hour walk each way. The South Africa school teachers also spoke about the impact of the project on the students’ motivation, confidence and desire to succeed, and how the bikes were being used in the community,

“It’s not only the school that is benefiting from these bikes, it’s also the community. Learners who have learnt these skills are now showing others how to do it at the weekend. They learn a lot doing this project, they become motivated and go on to be something outside of the community.”

Inspire through sport and leadership

The second week of the project saw 160 South African primary school children learn a range of skills based around leadership, sport and education.

south african students playing cricket

The Gryphons Abroad team each led a classroom session based around their degrees, where everything from maths to mental health was taught. They also played a range of sports throughout the week as well taking part in leadership sessions where the South African students learnt the key skills needed to be a great leader such as, communication, organisation and planning.

male english stuident teaching South African students

The week culminated in the South African children leading activities of their own and putting what they had learnt into practice.

Finally on the last day the team went to a Zulufadder Orphanage where they got to meet and play with children who had lost their parents and were being looked after by an older sibling.

The trip was a huge success and has had a huge impact on both the students from the University of Leeds as well as the students from South Africa.

Watch the video and find out how you could be involved next year on the Gryphons Abroad Webpage.

The Gryphons Abroad project is run at part of the Bambisanani Partnership Charity.

Teaching South Africans to cycle

It has been an absolute honour to be a part of the Gryphons Abroad project this year!

The cycle to success week of the trip has been amazing. To see students who had never been on a bike cycle by themselves and know how to fix them when something went wrong after only three days of teaching is pretty unbelievable!

The children were all really friendly and to see how determined they were to learn was very inspiring.

group of south african students and leeds students smiling with bikes

I spent the majority of my week with the beginner group and you could how much progress the kids made in such a short amount of time. Our group shrank when more and more of them advanced to the intermediate and advance groups. I asked one girl whether she wanted to take a short break from peddling practice and she said,

“No, we must carry on”!

This was definitely a highlight of my day.

The children kept us on our toes the whole time and they definitely weren’t afraid to share their culture with us mid cycle session. If they weren’t teaching us a traditional Zulu dance, they were teaching us how to count to ten in Zulu. All of which I’ll remember for life.

It’s been an amazing experience! I’m proud to say I helped teach 30 kids how to ride a bicycle in just a few days. I am however even prouder to say that a group of 30 kids have taught me more than I could have ever imagined. I discovered the perseverance the children had as well as the importance of Zulu culture in those same couple of days!

Find out more about the Gryphons Abroad project and how you could be a part of it on the Gryphons Abroad webpage.

Active staff and students have greater sense of wellbeing

woman doing yoga

In March the Sport and Physical Activity Service conducted the annual Balancing Life Survey to find out a bit more about the activity and wellbeing levels of staff and students on campus.

One of the most stand out findings from the survey was that the more active our staff and students are, the greater their sense of wellbeing.

Suzanne Glavin, Head of Sport and Physical Activity said,

“It’s great to see the steady progress and an increasing awareness across University of the role physical activity can, and does play in the health and wellbeing of all staff and students, as shown through these the Balancing Life Survey results.”

The full results showed that 74% of our student and staff population are active which means they are doing at least 2.5 hours of physical activity each week.

75% of University staff are physically active and that’s 8% higher than the average for the national working population which is great news. Although only 73% of our students are physically active which is 4% less than the average higher education population.

The results also highlighted that over half of the activity people take part in either takes place on campus or is organised by the university. This supports the importance of programmes and activities provided by the university for staff and students to take part in, and the role they play in supporting campus wellbeing. This ranges from the onsite fitness facilities at The Edge to the Get Out, Get Active programme, Social Leagues and much more.

Suzanne Glavin said,

“We are committed to continuing the work we do through valued existing and newly forming collaborations to help people become more regularly active. We also know that there is more to do as we reach out to more faculties, schools and professional departments to help us support this agenda for students and colleagues alike.”

You can read the full results of the survey online here.

 

550 Miles, 4 footballers and one big challenge

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

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!

National Bike Week: Free Cycle Sessions

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

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

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!

The Brownlee Centre is a Finalist

In great news, it can be announced that the University of Leeds, Brownlee Centre facility at Bodington Playing Fields has been shortlisted as a finalist in the West Yorkshire Building Excellence Award!

The Brownlee Centre is the UK’s first custom-made built triathlon training centre; an iconic, architectural facility that is home to the renowned Leeds Triathlon Centre in association with the University of Leeds and named after the elite, legendary, University of Leeds alumni duo, Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee. Being shortlisted for this award is a great achievement, that highlights the construction and design of the Brownlee Centre and Bodington Playing Fields.

 

The Building Excellence Awards are all about the essence of good buildings. Our finalists are not judged on architectural beauty, but on the ‘excellence’ show from a construction and technical building control point of view. Our awards showcase buildings and design teams that have had to tussle with technical issues, difficult sites, innovation and creative solutions. – Architects Data File

 

The awards night will take place at the Best Western Cedar Court hotel in Bradford on Friday 8 June, the overall winners will qualify for the LABC Grand Finals in London on Friday 9 November which is the largest business to business awards in the UK.