YORK SPORT UNION’S President-elect Zac Sheppard has stressed the need for integration with the local community, greater inclusivity in sport, and better refereeing on campus ahead of his assumption of office.
Speaking to Nouse Sport ahead of his term in office, he spoke of the recent successes in college and university sport and of his vision for the next academic year. Closing the gender participation gap by championing women in sport is at the heart of his manifesto, with blueprints for women’s-only gym sessions and a women’s sports day during the next ‘This BUCS Girl Can’ week.
Building on his work as a College Sport Officer, where he expanded women’s netball leagues, Sheppard also wants to set up women’s college football and rugby leagues.
“Making sure that clubs understand that it is important to offer equal provision for both men and women in sport is a strong drive of mine,” he told Nouse Sport.
This comes at a time of heightened pride for women in sport, with England winning gold for the first time ever in netball at the Commonwealth Games 2018 and developments in women’s football and rugby at national level.
On the topic of greater inclusivity, the current BUCS and Sports Assistant also wants to make university sport more accessible throughout the year. An avid and committed tennis player himself, Sheppard has found it hard to try his hand and sign up to other sports outside of Freshers’ Fair.
“A big thing that I’ve found is, I chose my sport (tennis) at the start of the year, and then it’s very hard to dip into other university sports part way through the year.” He believes that providing a weekly timetable of sporting opportunities and more pay-as-you-go club sessions for beginners will facilitate this goal.
The quantity of qualified referees in campus sport, particularly at college level, has cast a sizeable shadow over the integrity and quality of sport at York, with referees not always possessing official qualifications. Current York Sport President Laura Carruthers has admitted to it being a problem that has permeated successive presidents – a record which Sheppard wants to stop by instigating a Student Coach and Referee Development Programme aimed at qualifying students at York.
“College and university sport relies on passionate volunteers who are giving up their time to referee a sports match. It’s not the easiest of things to do when it’s pouring down with rain and you have 22 people on a pitch yelling at you for an hour and a half in a football match.”
With subsidies to make the courses more accessible to York students, it is effectively a win-win situation. Students doing a course will gain life-long skills and qualifications which can be used both on campus and externally; meanwhile, sport at York would benefit from a larger quantity of available qualified referees.
Linking York Sport Union with a local charity for the year and setting bigger fundraising targets is another development present in Sheppard’s vision; whilst still permitting clubs to choose and fundraise towards other charities. His new fundraising ideas including ‘A Question of York Sport.’
Amongst the biggest achievements he has seen in college sport is the launch of the ProTeam app in October 2017. Despite its mixed reception, Sheppard hopes to continue usage and development of the app: “ProTeam is definitely not perfect and we’ve had a few issues with it, but it’s building towards a place where we know that anyone can access results.”
Whether York Sport Union decides to continue use of ProTeam or not, Sheppard wants to provide a centralised point from which to view league tables, fixtures, and results without having to be in a private Facebook group.
“If we don’t go forward with ProTeam we have to look at another way that we can get across results, whether that is having our own website or app.”
Sheppard wants to bring the greater accessibility and transparency of college sport at the heart of ProTeam to university sport as well, through greater development of the York Sport Union website.
“At the minute, the website is non-existent. The only time I have used it in my 3 years is to pay for events. There’s no information on there. I can’t use it to see when a session of sport is, how well the tennis club is doing at this, or what events are coming up. I think that’s what a website should be for,” he said.
For Zac’s full manifesto, visit https://elections.yusu.org/candi-dates/56.