By Aidan Ainsley – PlaySport Coordinator
On Wednesday 4th May I visited the National Football Centre at St George’s Park in Burton for the annual BUCS Football Development Conference which draws together University sports staff and sabbatical officers from across the country as well as football development staff both from the Football Association and the localised County FAs. The day was filled with several workshops and keynotes speakers but I will go into detail on just a couple.
The first speaker was Professor Dominic Shellard who is the Vice Chancellor at De Montfort University, Leicester (DMU). Professor Shellard who is a long suffering Queens Park Rangers fan spoke extremely highly of his personal experience of sport and physical activity. As a former captain of his University football team he spoke about how upon his appointment as Vice Chancellor in 2010, he was keen to establish a new strategy for the University built around creative and partnerships including ones in sport. Subsequently DMU climbed 32 places in The Times Good University Guide within four years and was named the most improved University in the country. A key relationship that was developed was with a certain Leicester City Football Club. There is a lot of research on the value that University sport has on the student experience in terms of student retention, student satisfaction, academic attainment as well as employability and career earnings. My favourite piece shows that students who play sport at University go on to earn on average £5,824 more every year during their subsequent career after graduating than those who don’t take part in any sport at University. (Sheffield Hallam University, Sport Industry Research Centre 2013 – http://www-aliases.shu.ac.uk/research/sirc/news/graduates-who-play-more-earn-more)
Another key speaker was Natalie Haigh who is the Project Officer for the University of Gloucestershire’s, Sport England funded project “UNIversal” (their version of PlaySport). Haigh spoke about how merely three years ago lots of hopeful student footballers wanting to join the University football club were being left disappointed after not making the grade on the trials day and having nothing else to keep them playing football. However, since then the processes they have established and the introduction of the recreational football activities has meant that in the last academic year, they retained 83% of all students who signed up for football at Freshers’ Fair in some form of football at the University. A great achievement considering the amount of people who usually sign up at a typical Freshers’ Fair.
I also discovered that Christ Church has a far broader football offer than a lot of other institutions. Almost every University will have at least one or more men’s and women’s teams who compete in the inter-university competitive BUCS leagues. However, some are only just starting competitive futsal clubs, whereas Christ Church has had a futsal club for a number of years now as well as a well-established 5-a-side intramural futsal league. The 11-a-side intramural football league was less uncommon however, but there were not many that had recreational turn up and play sessions of Futsal and even fewer that had ladies only Futsal sessions.
As a former student of Christ Church who was involved in football from my first year in 2008 it has been excellent to see it develop so much over the last 8 years and I’m delighted that so many more students here are part of the University football community.
My conclusions were that whilst we are comparatively a leading institution in terms of the breadth of football on offer, there is still more we can do. It isn’t enough if we are not engaging every student who wants to play football here. So a pat on the back for all who have been involved in delivering every form of football at Christ Church over the years, but the challenge continues!
Christ Church are currently recruiting for three football related positions at the University.
- Football League Coordinator
- Futsal League Coordinator
- University Football Activator (contact Kim Debling at firstname.lastname@example.org)
For more information about these posts, please visit the Unitemps website where you can also apply if you’re interested.