Hull Sport: “We’re always looking to make sport inclusive and accessible”

[Above] Matty and Tom, ‘fresh’ from running a staff football session.

A regular at Hull Sport’s lunchtime football and futsal sessions, Nick Aitken, co-founder of translation specialists Onuba Comms, caught up with Sport Development Officers Matty Craven and Tom Dixon to talk promoting fitness for Hull University students and staff, the future of squash and the progress of their Football Leadership Programme.

Onuba Comms: Thanks Matty & Tom for your time. Can you tell me a bit about your backgrounds and roles here at Hull University?

Tom Dixon: Well, I’m a Sport Development Officer at Hull Sport and a lot of my role involves working with our student volunteers, helping them to help us support the delivery of our programmes and events. It’s key to discuss with them what their interests are, what they’re studying and what sport they want to be a part of, then we can try and find them roles with us here at Hull Sport or within the local community.

We’ll get a lot of students who are studying Sports Science or Coaching at Hull Uni, so they might have a clear idea of what they might want to do and where they want to go with it, but we do get students too from other degrees who’ve got an interest in sport and want to act on that. We always do our best to support them in their development and our collaboration with Hull Active Schools, who provide a lot of sports opportunities in local schools, is a big part of that.

We’ve also introduced multi-sport activities for children of staff and families here in Cottingham, to try and make life easier for working parents during half-terms and holidays. Plus, we’ve been offering free health screenings and advice for staff and those who attend our ‘Move for your Mind’ sessions, as well as planning and posting walking routes around the University campus, all under 30 minutes, to encourage staff to get away from their desks and be more active.

Matty Craven: My background’s in sport and I’ve played a bit of everything, but mainly rugby league, football and squash – with squash the sport I’ve probably played most since I was 16.

I studied a Sport, Health and Exercise Science degree here and I was a student activator with Hull Sport while I was an undergraduate, first of all as a volunteer and then a paid role – getting the chance to lead different sessions. After I graduated, I managed to get a full-time position, starting in January 2017, and now I’m the lead Sport Development Officer.

It’s my role to get more students and staff involved in recreational sport and physical activity, with the ‘Move for Your Mind’ programme a big part of that. It gives students and staff the chance to play a wide range of sports without needing a membership; you just turn up, pay for your session and enjoy!

We run Hull Sport leagues too, for five-a-side and 11-a-side football, a netball intramural league, and the Hull Sport Workforce Academy – an opportunity for students to develop their skills and employability as volunteers with us.

Plus, there’s a new Junior Squash programme, open to the community, in which we’re trying to get as many kids playing squash as possible. That’s in conjunction with the Hull Active Schools community and Active Humber, while we’ve contacted local schools and colleges, promoted it across local Facebook groups, the University staff e-bulletin etc. and we’re getting good numbers.

Our coaches are all England Squash certified and we’re fortunate enough to have six international-standard squash courts at the University. In fact, we’ve held the Allam British Open here, which is basically the Wimbledon for squash.

OC: Given there are a lot of other existing racket sports, plus emerging ones like pickleball and padel, how does squash hold its own?

MC: I’ve obviously grown up with squash and as a community it is very humble, everybody mucks in, we try and get as many kids playing as we possibly can. And if these children come here and see an arena like this, hopefully it’ll inspire them to be part of the next generation of squash players. I’d say too that in recent years, squash has been going through a bit of a revamp, and it’s been added as an Olympic sport ahead of the 2028 Games in Los Angeles. As a result of that, you’d hope England Squash get some more funding and Sport England gets more funding and channels it into squash.

OC: Tom, can you tell us about the Football Leadership Programme, which is funded by BUCS (British Universities & Colleges Sports)?

TD: Yeah, so we’ve put together a partnership with the East Riding FA and local grassroots club Cottingham Rangers, who have all their games and training sessions here at the university, and we applied for funding from BUCS. They chose our project to receive the funding, which has meant we’ve been able to put 15 students onto the programme.

There’s a nice mix of students participating; some are Hull-based, some are from across the country, and we’ve brought in some international students too. Everyone involved has had the opportunity to do their FA Introduction to Coaching Football courses, as well as safeguarding certificates, first-aid qualifications and refereeing courses.

We started out with an induction process, so everyone knew what was expected of them, and we brought in the Head of Refereeing at East Riding FA and the chairman of Cottingham Rangers to speak to them all. They did a lot of the theoretical content before Christmas and now they’re all out on their placements, putting the knowledge to practical use.

OC: Lastly, given the number of international students attending the University, how do you encourage them to engage with Hull Sport?

MC: We’re always looking to remove barriers and be as inclusive and accessible as possible; we have students from all corners of the globe coming to our sessions. Basketball is hugely popular with the international students, for example, and we’ve brought in pickleball too, which is massive in the US and is growing rapidly here too.

Recently in the 11-a-side league too we’ve had new teams joining the intramural league, including the Hull University Islamic Society, and a team called Boca Seniors, who are predominantly of African descent. They started as a brand-new team last September and they went on to win the league! They’re a great bunch of lads, it’s been a lot of fun working with them.

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the interviewee in question only.

Experts in sports translation and only using the best native-language translators, editors and copywriters, we at @onubacomms believe everyone in sport should have the opportunity to connect with their global audience.

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