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.

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 – 

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.