A Performance Athlete in Lockdown: Blog Takeover with Beth Doughty

As my self-imposed exile manifested into a government-enforced necessity, I felt confident that I’d have enough things to tackle and enough support around me that “I would be fine”.  

Let me not delude you into thinking I wasn’t feeling overwhelmed by uncertainty and stress – I was. Psychologists say that isolation has profound effects on the body and mind – anxiety, paranoia, depression etc. But I promised myself I must keep a strong sense of perspective throughout these changes.

An essential constant we all have, which I wish to emphasise is community.

While the pandemic has physically isolated us from each other, our ingenuity and resilience ensure that we can still forge a sense of community with each other. No matter where I am geographically, or the limitations I have, I am still a member of my communities; my family, my friends, my teams, my university, and my workplace, to name a few. 

While travelling back to Wales to be with my family – for an indefinite period of social-distancing – I began planning.

I set my agenda for each day, and week. I found this simple process of tracking my targets for the day an easy resource to keep me sane. They say Newton incepted his theory of gravity, Shakespeare wrote his best plays, and Hugo finalised Les Misérables in a time of quarantine. I knew I wasn’t going to emerge from lockdown with any ground-breaking new theories, but I pledged that this will be a time for reflection and revision (something I am not very good at).  

As a hockey player for Wales and the University I felt betrayed that my season had been cut short and cheated out of the international Hockey scheduled for the summer.

But as I reflected, I reminded myself of my good health and the physical condition I was in. I reminded myself of the goals I had set and how these were transferable and adaptable to the current climate. I focused on my original goal for the season and created a “plan for quarantine” – to get fitter and keep getting stronger.

Beth’s home-gym set up!

I miss the pitch; I miss the atmosphere and dynamic and I miss the team environment. But I am lucky that this is something I am coming back to and I reminded myself that this is only temporary. 

In the interim, everyone’s desire to keep the momentum of our seasons going has meant that both coaches and athletes in the squad are using their imaginations to set wild and wonderful targets and challenges!

We all sympathise with each other’s seasons coming to a halt and these humorous, yet valuable, engagements have allowed us to keep some consistency within the squad. As athletes, we do not train because people are watching and tracking our success. The motivations for me are internal, and I train to achieve my own goals. It is at times like this – when my training is behind closed doors in my family home in Newport – that I can focus on my own personalised training programme.

My educational endeavours have now shifted online.

As a final year student, I am in a huge phase of finalising my degree and moving onto my law conversion in September. This is obviously extremely stressful, but I am confident that the University will install measures to prevent anything out of my control causing detriment to my hard work. Circumstances aside, my dissertation is not going to write itself and it gives me all the more motivation to steal my place on my MA!

It is a peculiar time not to be receiving emails about lost property items or upcoming fixtures of the week from the Staff Team. The support of S.E.H is something I will welcome with open arms as this all settles down. Yet, there is no feeling of disconnection – technology connects us! In all of this I recognise the power and feeling community brings, no matter the size and no matter the affiliation. Be it virtual gym sessions (or online pub trips) it’s all a matter of making the time to stay in contact and ‘normalise’ the situation in this unprecedented time.

As I think about my future, I break it down into short-term and long-term goals and expectations.

In all of this, my strive to achieve is internal, but also driven by external factors and fuelled by my engagement with my communities. Academically, as I look to go onto my masters come September, the University and the Squad act as a major support network in securing this. The Performance Squad is not just a collection of achieving athletes, but a foundation and team where, as individuals and as a group, we can grow and develop to become the best student athletes. This is both in our sporting successes, academic performance, mental growth and as an ambassador for all that we represent – the University, the Squad, our sporting teams and ourselves.

Juggling both academics and training priorities at a time of uncertainty is of course difficult to maintain. With consistent distraction and anxiety, it is easy to take your foot (or stick, in my case) off the ball. Within the Squad, we have a phenomenal sense of accountability for each other – this is complimented with compassion and determination, which ensures we always have someone to confide in. It is the bizarre circumstance we are currently in, where the Squad can be seen at its best with an overriding togetherness and amity.

“When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal, you do not change your decision to get there”

Zig Ziglar

During a difficult time in my sporting career this has reminded me to broaden my perspective and step into reality. Every athlete has difficulties, every student has things to manage, every colleague is balancing demands and priorities. But everyone in my communities have things they desire to achieve. When external controls change your ideal path, it is essential to re-calibrate and find a new one.

My goal to go to the Commonwealth Games will never change, but my path to get there through these current circumstances, has changed. All in all, it is about acting on what I can control; communicating with my team and managers, training to the best of my ability with the resources I have, and always learning and growing wherever possible. Sport is all about physical attributes, but equally about your mental ability to lead, cope with stress and manage. It is in this time we can all grow as individuals and as athletes with the people around us.

As the Easter break comes to an end it’s a time to keep up the momentum of my goals, to keep encouraging my squad and peers, and to keep learning, developing and reflecting (and raiding my bookshelf)!

As of yet, I still have an U23’s invitational this Summer for Wales Hockey, I have a team to go back to, and I am where I need to be in these circumstances. I still have a degree to complete and masters to achieve, and a University where I will thrive and develop academically and professionally as a student and athlete.

Beth 🙂

Hosting An Online AGM: Blog Takeover with UBWRFC Captain, Frankie

COVID-19 can be seen everywhere in the news today, in fact it’s almost impossible to open up social media without seeing an article about it. However, at UBWRFC (Women’s Rugby), we didn’t let the fact our members are all hundreds of miles apart get in the way of everyone’s highlight of the year – the AGM.

The aim of our AGM was to make the best out of a bad situation and to ensure newly elected committee don’t miss out on the experience of this important event in our club calendar.

I hope to share with you some tips to ensure every club is able to host a successful, fair but most importantly inclusive, virtual, AGM for their whole club.

Our AGM

  • 65+ members voting
  • 70+ people watching along
  • 11 newly elected committee members
  • Accessible to both members and coaches

Our Tips

Choose an appropriate media platform!

As silly as it sounds, the choice of platform you decide to host your AGM on can really detract or enhance everyone’s experience. An application such as house party is in accessible to a lot of members and quite frankly rather messy-especially for a group of rugby girls. Our solution was to use Facebook live stream as we were able to broadcast the event to everyone without having to make a new group, ensuring everyone was included…coaches too!

Keep it as true to a real AGM as possible

Admittedly this years’ AGM aren’t exactly going to be the same as normal, however by making it as realistic as possible makes the night seem as if it is no different. In our AGM we included speech videos to watch together and live facetime calls to record the newly elected committees’ reaction of the best moment of their life. Additional to this, we had a committee stick man drawing in the background, so that as people were elected their paper faces were moved up, gradually forming the committee as the meeting went along-this even made a new committee picture possible. Play about with this, plus it makes the night more memorable.

Keep everyone involved

As well as live facetimes on the night, club members were also able to comment along and express their thoughts and feelings throughout the night making sure everyone was included.

Be prepared

Even on a regular AGM night, there is bound to be an unexpected curve ball that needs to be dealt with. In our case, a vacant committee position was opened up on the night and people put themselves forward for the position. Ensure you have the ability to deal with situations like this, i.e. be able to make a voting medium quickly to cater for these changes.

Let’s just say these alternative, virtual AGM events will be remembered by club members for years to come but remembered as an event that continued to unify the club even during the craziest time of our lives!

Bristol GBBO Star, Briony Williams, announced as Great Bristol 10k University Ambassador

The University is delighted to announce Briony Williams as their Ambassador for this year’s Great Bristol 10k in May.  

Briony, who lives in Bristol and studied for her post-graduate qualification in teaching at the University, became a household name when she starred in the 2018 series of the Great British Bake-Off, making it all the way to the semi-finals.  

Briony went on to win the 2019 edition of The Great Christmas Bake-Off, and it’s also been announced that she has joined the presenting team of Channel 4’s  ‘Food Unwrapped’. As well as her TV appearances, Briony writes regularly for food magazines and features at food-festivals around the country! 

So, where does running fit in? We wondered the same!  

When she’s not creating masterpieces in her kitchen, Briony admits be being a keen runner. To date, she has taken on several 10k races and a couple of half-marathons, with more lined up for this year.  

This year, the University Bristol 10k campaign is focusing on the benefits that running, and being more physically active in general, can bring to our mental health – something Briony is a huge advocate for.  

Announcing her ambassadorship on Instagram, Briony wrote, “I’m really excited to be championing two things I care about so deeply: running and mental health” 

https://www.instagram.com/p/B79Cb2whXid/

We are thrilled that Briony will be running alongside our students, staff and alumni in the gigantic University Wave, and working with us in the lead-up to the event to encourage everyone on campus – runners and non-runners alike – to get active to support more positive physical and mental health and wellbeing at the same time as raising awareness and funds for the University’s B:Active Healthy Minds initiative. 

Almost 500 students, staff and alumni has already signed up to this iconic Bristol event! Get up, get together, and get active by lacing up your trainers and joining #TeamUoBristol for this year’s Great Bristol 10k on Sunday 3 May.   
 

Sign up for the University Wave

If you are University of Bristol staff, Student or Alumni, you can sign up to run the Great Bristol 10k with discounted entry.

Race Report: University of Bristol Boat Club Head Race 2019

Guest post written by: Iwan Rees (Press and Publicity Officer, UBBC)

University of Bristol Boat Club joined forces with their Nonesuch Alumni rowers!

Last Saturday (30 November 2019) the University of Bristol Boat Club hosted our annual Head Race. Over 150 crews from a range of University Boat Clubs came to Bristol’s Boat House in Saltford, and took to the River Avon to battle it out to be the fastest crew down the course!

Our senior squads took to the water in morning with both first eights looking to defend the headship. As the first boat down the course, the Men’s 1st VIII had a clear course on which to make their mark.  

“After much anticipation, and a dominant display at the BUCS Indoor comp, the Men’s 1st VIII was fired up and rearing to go in search of their third consecutive win at UBBC Head Race.” – Simran Gill, Cox Men’s 1st VIII

Simran Gill was the Cox for the Men’s 1st VIII. For those who don’t know, the Cox (aka Coxswain) in a rowing crew is the team-member who sits in the stern of the boat and is responsible for steering, and coordinating the power and rhythm of the rowers. Simran he told us:

The boys got up to the start with confidence in their strength, with five members already having featured in winning crews over the previous two years. After settling into the loose rhythm they had been honing during training, they maintained this through the s-bends. Once onto the ‘Salford Straight’ they drew from practice and went all-out to secure Bristol’s Men’s Championship Medal for another year.

Men’s 1st VIII came away with a gold medal and an impressive start to the winter racing season!

Up next, the Men’s 2nd VIII stepped up, to follow the 1st VIII to a medal winning time. Isabel Burridge is the Coz for the Men’s 2nd VIII, and she spoke to us about their performance on the day:

“From our progression in sessions, we felt confident going into head race and were aiming high. The race itself went pretty well and the guys rowed fantastically, despite a few hiccups with the cox box and a last-minute manoeuvre! As a team we produced a good time, putting us first in our category and finishing sixth overall – a wonderful result that we as a crew can be proud of.”

The Women’s 1st VIII was the next crew down the course, and were another team looking to defend their headship from last year. They adapted well to new combinations, introduced by new Coach, Holly Stead, and the team put their training progress to use.  They finished in with a gold medal and an impressive 10 second gap between themselves and Bath University team, who finished in second place.

Our Men’s and Women’s Intermediate 4+ crews were the last of the senior boats to race. Both were filled with relative newcomers to the senior squads, but despite this put in a really strong effort, with Women wining Gold and our Men’s crew winning Bronze. We spoke to each crew about their performance on the water:

Motivated by the home crowd we saw a big shift from the dynamic middle pair to overtake the crew out in front at 750m, with a sprint to the finish – we were all exhausted but delighted with our performance as a team.” – Rose Scotton, cox Men’s 4+  

“We went into Head Race with a strong race plan, setting out our goals for the race developed during our training sessions. Once onto the bend after the final bridge, we had to take a wider line due to a capsized four but, after a quick technical reset, we got back into our final focuses for the straight and held our focus on strong grip through the water till the end, achieving first place in our category. – Ophelia Morley, Women’s 4+ crew member.

To finish the day, in Division II, the Novice Squad made their racing debut. This came just weeks after their selection and with very limited time on the water beforehand.  

The Men’s Beginner VIII were first down the 1km course, aiming for a smooth race and to build on the basics they have worked on in training. They finished ninth in their field, but felt positive after the race with Anna, the Men’s Beginner VIII cox, said that despite her nerves:

“The atmosphere and buzz of race day was incredible. I am so pleased with how we did and the resilience demonstrated by everyone. Bring on the next race!”

The Women’s Beginner VIII followed, and finished in eighth place. Overall they were very pleased with their performance as a full crew, having done very little full crew rowing in training. 

We were really happy with our first race, we were energised by the crowds cheering [and] there was a high feeling of morale and team spirit – everyone was very pleased” – Kirsty Partridge, Cox Women’s Beginner VIII

To end the day the Beginner 4+’s raced with an equally impressive debut – our Women’s Crew came third in their category and our Men’s crew finished in ninth (despite a collision into the bank at one point)!

“Our Women’s Beginner IV got off to an excellent start in their rowing career this weekend. During the race they rowed at their very best, and ended the race pushed on by cheering support from the bank. We are very happy with the result and excited to build on this strong foundation going forwards.” – Mollie Cornell, cox Women’s Beginner IV

Ultimately, the day was a huge success for the club. We want to say a huge thanks to Simran Gill, our Events Officer, who organised and executed the day flawlessly. Also, a huge thanks to our Alumni Club – Nonesuch BC – for coming down and giving us a good run for our money!

We now look forward to the rest of the season and to next year’s UBBC Head Race!! 

Find us on Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date with the club activities!

Full results – MENS:  

Championship VIII – Gold
Intermediate VIII – Gold
Intermediate IV – 3th
Beginner IV – 10th
Beginner IV – 9th
Championship I – 2nd
Championship II – 2nd

Full results – WOMENS:  

Championship VIII – Gold
Intermediate IV – Gold
Beginner VIII   – 8th
Beginner IV – 3rd
Championship I – 4th
Championship II – 5th

Full results – MIXED:  

Championship II– 5th