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.

Meet the girls making strides for England

University of Leeds students compete in Mountain Running Championships

Over the weekend, three University of Leeds female undergraduates competed at the final, World Mountain Running Grand Prix, held at Smarna Gora in Slovenia. Jemima Elgood (Dentistry, 3rd year & Sports Scholar), Hannah Russell (Cardiac Physiology, 2nd year) and Helen Thornhill (Geological Sciences, 2nd year) represented England in the women’s under 23 team.

In a statement, Thornhill expressed the thrill of competing in such a picturesque location, commenting:

The race was an amazing opportunity for me, as I didn’t really know if I’d make the team. Slovenia was a beautiful country and we got to see areas such as Lake Bled and explore the mountains as well as compete in the race. Preparation for me involved training with the University Cross Country team, University Swimming Club and doing some solo gym sessions at the Edge – Leeds has such good sports facilities! It’s really boosted my running confidence, and I’m hopeful that the next year will bring more opportunities for me, as long as I train hard and keep things up.

The trio were joined by Lauren Dickson (International Business and Spanish, 2nd year & Sports Scholar) who competed for Scotland. Indeed, all four managed to secure a finish inside the top ten, amongst a world class field of senior athletes.

Leeds Varsity 2019 Round Up

cardboard sign saying 'go gryphons' at the Leeds Varsity 2019 netball opener

Leeds Varsity 2019 – the annual inter-university sports Varsity between arch rivals University of Leeds and Leeds Beckett University. It began in January with the cross country and culminated, as it does every year, with the Rugby Union finale held at Emerald Headingley Stadium, where over 10,000 students cheered on their teams from the stands.

History Makers

It was a historic moment for both the University of Leeds and Leeds Beckett’s women’s rugby union teams, as they played at Headingley Stadium for the first time. 

Our team came out on top and beat Beckett 19-12 in a great game of rugby.

University of Leeds Women's Rugby Union team celebrating their Leeds Varsity 2019 win.

University of Leeds Club Captain Ashley Ross had this to say:

“The experience of playing our varsity match with such a huge crowd was incredible, and not one that any of us will forget! It’s a special honour, especially for a university team, and it’s especially significant for us as a women’s team as we often struggle to get the same status as men’s sport. It feels like a massive step forward for gender equality and women in sport – not just playing for our team but every other woman’s team who hasn’t had the same opportunity as men. Thanks very much to everyone who came to support us!”

The men’s rugby union team unfortunately lost their game 25-16. However, they put on a brilliant, battling display they should be proud of. 

Uni of leeds men's rugby union team in a group huddle at headingley stadium for the leeds varsity 2019 finale match.


Check out the Leeds Varsity 2019 highlights, thanks to LSTV here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vYzcZz87RU 

Other highlight fixtures included the openers, Netball 1sts and Women’s Hockey 1sts. Both games ended in draws, 41-41 and 2-2 respectively. This showed just how close the competition would be and set the tone for the rest of the event.

In total, the University of Leeds registered 25 wins whilst Leeds Beckett had 33 wins. There were 3 draws on the day which meant the score ended 102-78 points in Beckett’s favour. Ultimately this crowned them Leeds Varsity 2019 champions.
You can see a breakdown of all the results on the Leeds Varsity website.

Congratulations to our Gryphons!

A huge well done to all our Gryphons that took part and competed in the spirit of Varsity. 

A girl in the crowd cheering and shouting at the leeds varsity 2019 netball match

FREE Seminar: Changing the Game – The Leadership Challenge

Maurice Keyworth Building

Sport & Physical Activity have partnered with highly respected leaders in business and sport to bring you a free seminar on Friday 15 November. The seminar, hosted in the Maurice Keyworth Lecture Theatre (University of Leeds Business School) brings together individuals, who in their own unique way have not only improved the performance of a number of organisations and teams, they fundamentally changed the game or industry in which they operated.

Each will give a brief perspective on their experiences ‘changing the game’ of organisations in sport and business, followed by a panel discussion. The three speakers include:

  • Alistair Gray – leading European strategic management consultant and voluntary leader at a number of UK and European sports.
  • Baroness Sue Campbell CBE  – Head of Women’s Football at The FA and former Chair of UK Sport and the Youth Sports Trust

Alistair Gray published The Game Changer with Routledge earlier this year. It outlines how a number of organisations in business and sport have done more than raise their performance – they have also changed the rules of the game in their industry.

Book your free space now for the chance to learn from some of the industry’s best!



Women’s Rugby Union Team Make History at Varsity

Women's rugby varsity

The Gryphons may not have retained their Varsity title, however Varsity 2019 shall go down in the history books; our women’s Rugby Union 1st team played for the first time ever at Emerald Headingley Stadium.

Leeds Varsity is the annual inter-university sports Varsity between arch rivals University of Leeds and Leeds Beckett University. It began in January with the cross country and culminated, as it does every year, with the Rugby Union finale held up at Emerald Headingley Stadium where over 10,000 students cheered on their team from the stands.

Unfortunately for the Gryphons, Leeds Beckett have taken the title for this year. Lydia Evans, LUU Activities Officer said:

“Despite the result, it’s been a great day of sport for the Gryphons and every one of our athletes should feel proud to have represented their clubs.”

However, it was a historic moment for the women’s Rugby Union 1st team on Wednesday night, as they took to the pitch for the first time to compete against Leeds Beckett in front of the 10,000 strong crowd at Headingley Stadium. Ashley Ross, the women’s captain said:

“The experience of playing our varsity match with such a huge crowd was incredible, and not one that any of us will forget! It’s a special honour, especially for a university team, and it’s especially significant for us as a women’s team as we often struggle to get the same status as men’s sport. It feels like a massive step forward for gender equality and women in sport – not just playing for our team but every other women’s team who hasn’t had the same opportunity as men. Even though Beckett are our rivals, it’s a great achievement for them too. Winning was an amazing bonus on top of that! We’ll all definitely be celebrating tonight! The opportunity to play in the stadium is one we have been working towards for such a long time now so to see it all come together has been incredible. Thanks very much to everyone who came to support us!”

Our Gryphons put on a stellar performance over 60 fixtures including athletics, handball, tennis and lacrosse. Suzanne Glavin, Head of Sport commented;

“I’m really proud of all our Gryphons who played their best whilst representing University of Leeds. It was especially exciting this year to see our women’s rugby union club playing at Headingley with such great support from the student crowd.”

A full list of the results can be found here, and keep an eye out on our social media channels for photos and videos from the day. See you all again in 2020.

University of Leeds Rugby Captains Excited for Varsity

Varsity rugby
The University of Leeds women’s and men’s rugby union teams will headline Leeds Varsity for the first time, with both teams set to compete at Emerald Headingley Stadium.

Both captains sat down for an exclusive Q&A with the Leeds Varsity media team to discuss their highly anticipated fixtures.

Rugby teams and Myles Pickard pose at Headingley Stadium


Emma Winstanley, University of Leeds Rugby Union Women’s Captain

Emma Winstanley, UOL Women's rugby captain

Leeds University come into Varsity for the first time ever as defending champions, how does it feel just hearing that?

Pretty good! We’re really excited about coming into the event as champions and we’re ready to beat Beckett again.

Is your team looking forward to getting out there and playing?

Yeah, it has been a really good vibe in camp throughout pre-season so far.

Now for the first time ever your team is going to be co-headlining the Leeds Varsity Rugby Finale, how excited are you to be involved in a historic occasion?

I think all of the girls are even more committed to the cause this year, the team has been a lot more committed in training because it is such a massive opportunity for us to show our skills.

Why should people come watch the game?

I think it could be a closer game than what the men’s game potentially could be, so hopefully there’ll be a tough contest when we get out there.

A lot of the girls all know each other as well, so there’ll be a good vibe on the pitch and probably a few of us knocking lumps out of each other.


Luke White, University of Leeds Men’s Rugby Union

Luke White, UOL men's rugby

What does it mean to you guys going into the event first time as champions?

I think it’s pretty good. To be honest, it doesn’t bear much on the actual rugby game, we still want to win that and be winners overall but it counts for nothing when we get out on that pitch.

What are you expecting from the game this year?
Looking at our team this year, I think we’re prepared quite well.

We’ve got a lot of new players come into the team, a lot of freshers came through at the back end of last season and they’re making up a quarter of our team this year.

We’re coming into the game as massive underdogs again this year which we love and suits us quite well, so we’re really looking forward to it.

What’s it like having Varsity as your first competitive fixture of the season?

It’s certainly a baptism of fire for the team but if we can weather the storm in the Varsity game I’m sure we will go into our league season more than prepared I feel.

Why should people come down and watch your team?

It is probably one of the best atmospheres, not just for a student game but for any sports contest.

If you’ve either been here before or new to the experience it’s probably one of the best social nights of the year.

There’s plenty of fun you can have with your mates, with some rugby on in the background and it gives you something to cheer about and get passionate about.


Follow Leeds Varsity online:


@LeedsVarsity19 – Twitter

@LeedsVarsity – Instagram

Leeds Varsity Uni Fan Page – Facebook

Gryphons Abroad 2019; Another Successful Year!

Gryphons Abroad Team in South Africa

Our University of Leeds students and staff have returned from our annual Gryphons Abroad trip! Eight students and four staff members went on the trip which was a huge success, with all volunteers thrilled by seeing the increase in the children’s skills and confidence.

Each year, University of Leeds staff and students travel to South Africa to deliver a volunteering programme in partnership with the Bambisanani Partnership Charity. We work with hundreds of South African students with the aim of raising aspirations through leadership and activity. It is a student led project and once in a lifetime adventure, where the students gain a range of skills and experiences which set them apart for life after University.

South African Student fixing bikeThe first week of the trip was spent at Mnyakanya High School in rural Kwa-Zulu Natal teaching the South African students to ride and also maintain bikes. This skill is often life changing for the students, as many live as far as two hours away from the school which creates a barrier to getting their education. This year, as a result of the project;

  • 35 children learnt to ride bikes with ten making it out onto the open road.
  • Six children were trained as bike mechanics.
  • 20 refurbished bikes were shipped to the school for continued use by the students.

In the second week of the trip, our staff and students worked with four local primary schools based in the Eshowe district, delivering a sports and leadership programme. This involved the students delivering classroom lessons including anatomy and history of art, teaching and playing a variety of sports and organising leadership activities. As a result of the programme;

  • 12 classroom sessions, 12 leadership sessions and 12 sports sessions were delivered at Gratton School.
  • 175 new young leaders were certified from Gratton, Little Flower, John Wesley and Holy Childhood schools.
  • 300+ football shirts were distributed to six schools and Zulufadder day care centre. 214 shirts were collected by Murphy Grisedale-Stairs

Alan Stuart, Principal of the John Wesley School, made the following comments about the impact of the programme;

“How can we thank you enough for the incredible impact you have made on the lives of so many youngsters of Eshowe? Your efforts could be described as tireless, positive, enthusiastic, meticulously planned, generous and highly professional. Each year you have come to Eshowe, you have fine-tuned your sports leadership programme to extract the most benefit possible from your time with our Grade 7s. Your students engage actively with our Grade 7s and the departure is always an emotional one. The gifts of sporting equipment that you leave with us each year are highly appreciated and the Grade 7s particularly enjoy receiving their soccer shirts.

Thanks also, particularly from John Wesley, for the students who spent time in our classrooms and presented innovative and exciting lessons to our children. It was such a pleasure to have you as a youthful and energetic presence in our school for a week.

We look forward to similar interactions between us in the coming years.”

South African Students with FootballsThe programme not only helps the South African students to develop new skills, but it also increases our students’ skills. This year, over the course of the project, our students demonstrated an average improvement of 31% in 18 key employability skills. This will help them to stand out from the crowd once they leave University, making them attractive to top employers. Not only this, it is an experience they will never forget.

Emily Faux, one of our Gryphons Abroad students said;

“Gryphons Abroad was more than I ever thought two weeks could be. I learnt so much about the challenges that so many people face and I helped to make a genuine, sustainable difference with the University’s partner schools. I made incredible friends and memories to last a lifetime.”

Jessica McCarrick, another one of our students commented;

“There is no better way to gain skills and push yourself in a teaching environment, whilst having fun and making friends. Truly an incomparable experience that I would recommend to all.”

Check out the blogs the students wrote during the two weeks to get a real insight into what the trip involved and take a look at our Instagram to see it all in action! All photos from this year’s trip are available to view here.

Applications to be part of the Gryphons Abroad 2020 team are now open until Friday 27 September. Apply now for the chance to be part of this fantastic project, allowing you to experience another country’s culture whilst developing yourself and making a clear impact on students’ lives in South Africa.

Keeping the Cost of Sport Down for Students

This year’s Gryphons Club Fund will significantly reduce the cost of participating in sport at the University of Leeds which involves 7,500 students. The fund is worth £290k and helps to cover costs for all 70 of the University’s sports clubs.

For 2019/20 onwards there will be a more consistent allocation of funds across all clubs. This will ensure that as many students as possible are able to participate in sport whilst at the University. All clubs will get a minimum 10% contribution towards costs, ensuring everyone receives fair support, whether you are involved with kickboxing, rowing or horse riding. We want to help all clubs and their members develop and grow, whether that means having more teams or entering into more competitions.

The fund was created in 2016, following student feedback about the high costs associated with participating in sport. Its sole aim is to help students with the cost of training and playing sport during their time at Leeds.

In addition to the Gryphons Club Fund, the University continues to provide free access to sports facilities for training slots and certain competitions to all its student club members. This means that the previously compulsory Sports Pass in order to use University Facilities is not needed, saving each student £77.50 per year.

Ella Murphy from the University of Leeds Boat Club said;

“We are so grateful to Leeds Sport for our funding this year, it goes a long way in helping us be the best university at providing high-performance and participation programmes simultaneously. Every one of our members benefit from the funding, ensuring as many students can enjoy rowing alongside their studies.”

The boat club will be using their allocation from the fund to;

• Lower membership costs to ensure the club is accessible to more students.
• Increase national and local representation for both the club and the university by lowering competition entry fees.
• Lower costs of travel to and from competition for all members.

We hope the fund will encourage more and more students to get involved with sport whilst at University by helping to significantly reduce the cost of those participating.