What a truly sensational summer of sport. From Bradley Wiggins' triumph on the Tour to Team GB's record haul of Olympic and Paralympic gold to Andy Murray’s first grand slam to a dramatic European victory in the Ryder Cup, it has been a summer that will be forever etched in the memory and hopefully one that has inspired a generation. While such inspiration is hard to determine or quantify at this stage, a quick glance at sport and physical activity within colleges and universities proves there is reason to be optimistic.
The University of Edinburgh Fresher's Sports Fayre. (Picture: Dennis Rewt).
It is apparent increasing number of students are opting to take part in sport, with The University of Strathclyde reporting Sports Union (SU) membership numbers already up on last year’s end of year total of 1380 students and it is only week 3 of term. Further along the M8, The University of West Scotland has also witnessed a rise in SU membership, from 1500 to 2500 students, with many of those new to sport altogether. In the capital, The University of Edinburgh Fresher’s Sports Fayre played host to 13000 students, up 2000 from the previous year. The first day alone saw a record of 8000 students through the doors of the Centre for Sport and Exercise’s Pleasance Facility. In Dundee, 1454 students took part in taster sessions as part of The University of Dundee’s ‘give it a go day’, a 4% increase from last year. Finally, the University of Stirling has added 359 students to its SU membership total from the figure at this time last year. You can watch Air TV's video on the Stirling University Fresher's Fayre below.
Many of these universities also highlighted sharp growth in popularity among certain sports such as rowing, triathlon and boxing. Perhaps, this is linked to the success of British athletes, such as the Brownlee brothers, Nicola Adams and Katherine Grainger, at this summer’s Olympic Games in London. To me, the end of Grainger’s quest for gold at Eton Dorney alone was enough to inspire a generation with a performance that sent shivers down the spine to the soundtrack of Garry Herbert’s awe inspiring commentary.
The summer of sport certainly seems to have increased the demand for taking part in sport at university or college. Such demand acts as one of the many drivers behind the regional sports programme rolled out by Scottish Student Sport (SSS) this academic year. In conjunction with national governing bodies, the SSS regionalisation programme is designed to increase the sporting opportunities for a further number of students, leading to an increase in participation and providing an additional level of competition. Four regions are now in operation, bringing together students from universities and colleges around Scotland in sports such as badminton, basketball, football and volleyball.
Ross Campbell, South East Region Coordinator, stated: “There is a growing demand for sport at a recreational level across Scotland and I am delighted to see the uptake at a lower level appear in the South East, hopefully it is the start of something in the future where we can concentrate our efforts in the South East regional programme to drive up student participation in sport and cater for increased demand.”
Meanwhile Iain Stewart, coordinator in the West Region, said ''The advent of West region student competition has been a welcome evolution. It is great to see Colleges and Universities starting to take each other on more regularly in competitive sporting action across a variety of sports including basketball and badminton, not just football. Currently British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) prohibits colleges from entering their competitions, which prevents full sporting integration with Higher Education and Further Education institutions, so we must continue our good work in integrating and engaging colleges against university sports teams through the regionalisation programme to cater for a larger section of the student population”.
Although legacy and impact are fairly difficult to quantify at this stage following the summer of sport, developments within tertiary education sector (colleges and universities) show there is real reason to be optimistic with early evidence of rising participation levels among the student population. The sports system in Scotland and the UK must now look at ways of catering for this increased demand, such as the regionalised programme offered by SSS, to prevent the dreaded ‘Wimbledon effect’ from occurring. Attention must also turn to the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow to develop the legacy of the summer of sport and further inspire and excite the nation.