Evan Whyte

Do Sabbs Actually Do Anything? – VP Sports

I am now six months into my term as VP Sports Development, so it is probably right that I update (I apologise in advance for the length of the blog!) you as to what I have done so far.


My role can be separated into three areas:

– My day to day sabbatical activity e.g. trying to fix issues affecting my student groups, answering emails, meeting with the relevant committees and Student leaders.

– Trustee: Looking at the organisation from a viewpoint that isn’t VP Sports Development, to ensure that SUSU is sound in its finances and reputation.

– Project work: Which requires you to try and power through the manifesto and sabbatical plan that you put forward to the voters and to Union Council. For me, it is this part which sabbaticals can have the biggest impact and make changes.

The first two points are not easily judged, unless you have been in contact with the sabbatical directly, so I will take a look at the latter point and see what projects I have completed/ worked on so far.

It is important to note that as a sabb you get an incredible amount of help from staff and from SUSU volunteers- the officers and club presidents I have worked with have been unbelievable this year, meaning I have had much more time to focus on making bigger changes. Therefore, I hope that the time and effort that has been put into the projects I have led, reflects the hard work of my Sports Zone team (plus AU committee and IM Committee).

So, what have your representatives in the Sport Zone done?

I will break down our work into the 3 goals of the zone – some of the achievements have yet to be formally announced so please keep an eye out for further updates:


Create a strong sporting IDENTITY:

TeamSoton logo


Unifying team colours – Team Southampton

My biggest achievement to date has been unifying the team colours of our Athletic Union clubs. Lucy Dowdall and I have managed to secure £30,000 from KPMG (to be our playing kit sponsor) and £18,000 from the Uniersity’s Education Enhancement Fund to bankroll the process. 40 of our clubs will be in the traditional AU colours of Burgundy, Navy and Gold at this year’s Varsity.  We have also worked closely with Under Armour who are the Athletic Union’s playing kit supplier, in a deal which entitles any student to a 20% discount on any of their products.


Team Southampton in the community
The local perception of our AU is particularly poor in the local community.  But why?  It really frustrated me that this was the case when we have the resources and skills to inspire the youngsters in the local area. As a result, we have developed relationships with two local schools to provide after school sports sessions for their students.  I hope this will improve our relations within the local community, whilst offering our students the opportunity to obtain coaching qualifications, free of charge.


I am also very please to announce that, after a lot of work with Claire Gilbert other local organizations (Southampton City Council, Saints Foundation and Southmapton Solent University), we will CO-HOST this years Southampton SPORT RELIEF mile. Again, this will display the benefits of having our students in the local area, and give students the opportunity to participate in sport in a fun environment.


Establishing Intra-mural within SUSU’s plans

This year has seen the formation of the inaugural IM committee, who act to advise Sport and Wellbeing on any issues regarding leagues/ competitions.  They have been pivotal in ensuring that this year’s IM fixtures and leagues have run as smoothly as they have. We have seen the creation of an Intra-mural Officer student leader, who will be elected in the March elections, to raise the profile of IM and give the needed support to students who participate.


Creating a Vision for Sport

I had the pleasure of writing the Sports strategy for SUSU at the beginning of last summer. The strategy focuses improving the student experience by ensuring we have support for all students, regardless of ability. It also depicts that we should support our Athletic Union clubs so that they can improve their performances in external competitions. It also paved the way for us to create the Team Southampton banner for student that represent SUSU.


In partnership with the University, we have started to outline a joint vision. We are looking at how we can work together to improve the student experience. So far we have work on and completed the Sports Experience Agreement which outlines the support our AU clubs get from the University. Over the next few months we will do the same for IM and recreational sports members.


Making sport more accessible:


Removing the barriers for students with disabilities

Within the Athletic Union we have elected an officer who will work alongside the Sports Participation Officer, to remove the barriers which prevent students from participating in sport. This year the committee have focused on disability (with great success). We will focus on driving participation in Archery, Athletics and the Boat club, as we have the resources and experience to support students in these sports. By the end of the month we will have a report on how we can improve participation, and what support our clubs need from the Union/University to improve accessibility.


In addition, Adam Proudley and Jake Bradley, with staff support, have put in a bid of £16,000 to Sport England to improve our offer to students with disabilities. One of the main ideas, should we be successful in our bid, is to start a wheelchair basketball club for ALL students to increase participation. We have also worked with Hampshire Council to discuss how we can tailor our sporting offer to enable access for a wide range of disabilities, as well as wheelchair users. This will see us run an accessibility workshop in the AU training at the end of the year to provide our clubs with information they will need to include students in the club or to sign post them to a local sports group.


Reducing the pressure on the jubilee gym

Due to the increase in student numbers this has been a particularly hard thing to achieve. However, as we have expanded the number of Focus Sports teams to 5 some pressure has been removed as we have a number of gym users at the Team Southampton gym. Moving forward, the Team Southampton gym will be renovated to make it more appealing and the new Mayflower halls will have an on site gym (the opening date is yet to be confirmed).


Improving the performance of our student groups


Creating a funding system driven by performance

This year, as part of the student groups  project, the sports zone defined the criteria for funding in each pot. 2 of the 4 pots were specifically for clubs who could demonstrate how additional funding would improve their performance or how increasing participation would lead to an increased performace in the future. On the whole this was well received and has led to the zone granting over £187,000 directly to it’s student groups – which has seen the biggest investment  in coaching for several years. The feedback on our funding allocations and criteria has been well received, with Athletic Union reps playing a key part in explaining to clubs what they can apply for and how they can improve their applications.



Our clubs have performed very well in BUCS thus far. Although we sit in 30th position (our points total is affected by relegations last year), 17 teams sit in the top 2 positions in their respective BUCS leagues and as we have some of highest performing clubs yet to compete this year, I am confident we can make a strong challenge to get back into the top 20. We have also seen great performances from Dodgeball, Volleyball, Paint-balling and Sailing (who represented us at the World Student Games)


Increasing the Sponsorship revenue of the Zone

As mentioned above we have secured a £30,000 deal with KPMG for our playing kit sponsorship, but we have also agreed an addition £10,000 over the 2 year period for the AU to promote the company at our events. We have also managed to agree a deal with ILOVETOUR which should generate around £4000. Lastly, we had our first Team Southampton fundraiser (organized by Alex Khawam – AU socials officer)back in November which made over £1800 and saw over 650 people attend.

This extra revenue is vital in ensuring we can lower the cost of sport to students, to make it more accessible and consequently ensure that we have our very best athletes representing Team Southampton (so money is not an object, where possible).


Expansion of Focus Sports

In line with the zone goals, it was decided that we should expand the number of teams that are on focus sports from 3 to 5. Investing in the strength and conditioning of our most able athletes will undoubtedly see an improvement in how these groups perform.



Additional things:

varsity win 2012 smaller

Varsity – The competition will take place on the Sunday 9th March (as stated in an earlier blog of mine). Lucy, Matt Ward (Varsity officer) and I have worked on a Varsity rulebook and have nearly confirmed all the teams that will be involved. More information and promo about the event will be released next week!

AU Ball – The date of the event has again been confirmed (Friday 2nd May) and the budget will be approved by AUC this week. If you have any suggestions about the event please email Lucy Dowdall, AU Officer – auofficer@soton.ac.uk

Team Southampton Tour – For the first time we have a centralized tour to Salou. With 300 people going it promises to huge! Ensuring that our students get the best deal possible and that any problems they have had have been solved has largely been down to the Tours and Sponsorship Officer, Katie Emma.
Thank you for reading!


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8 Comments on "Do Sabbs Actually Do Anything? – VP Sports"

  1. evanwhyte
    Jill Spoakes
    26/01/2014 at 11:17 pm Permalink

    Evan! I think you are doing an absolutely fantastic job as VP sports development – you are an asset to this university.
    I for one really appreciate your hard work, enthusiasm and dedication.
    Congratulations and keep up the good work!!!

  2. evanwhyte
    27/01/2014 at 6:20 pm Permalink

    Evan, the following is not aimed at you personally, in fact I think ideas such as sport in the community are excellent and to be commended and it sounds like you have been working hard within the AU. I write this as an alumni who was a club president and sat on AUC, now at a rival university in the south west. It is an observation on Southampton’s attitude towards performance sport in general. To put it bluntly, Southampton tries to do too many sports and ends up being average the vast majority of them rather than focusing on being really good at a narrower selection of them. A process towards correcting this began a few years ago, but as with many things at SUSU it lacked proper investment and support to become what it should have been – a fully funded high performance program. During my time at Soton my club went from a very poor base to achieving by far and away it’s best set of results in many, many years where it was winning medals on a national level and picking up plenty of BUCS points – mainly because it was lucky to get excellent coaching on a voluntary coaching basis. This coach left at the end of the year as he could not carry on coaching on a voluntary basis and results have now returned to being pretty average. In the same time scale, the club for same sport at my current rival south coast university has gone from a similar or worse level of results as its Soton cousin to being one of the top university clubs for the sport in the country. The reason – it it one of the High Performance Program clubs at my current university and so has attracted significant investment from the Athletic Union AND university (equipment, performance support, but most importantly, it has a fully paid coach). The results of the investment are clear to see within 18 months of the program starting.
    I would suggest that one reason performance sport has never really taken off at Southampton is because it is not a vote winner for the AU President candidates come election time. The other reason I would argue is that the AU and Sport and Wellbeing (or whatever it is called now) operate as two totally separate entities with minimal amounts of joined up thinking and action, to the detriment of both organisations. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this and the likelihood of a fully funded performance program being implemented in Southampton.

  3. evanwhyte
    Evan Whyte
    04/02/2014 at 1:01 am Permalink

    Josh, thanks for the comment.

    I do think our approach to performance sport has led to us dropping behind many other universities. However, I disagree about us trying to do too many sports (as it is this diverse range of sports that genuinely makes us unique!). However, I do think that how you fund these clubs should reflect what you aim to achieve from that funding. THis year my team and I have tried to implement a variety of things, that are directly within our control, to improve performance, in fact it has been our focus. The zone strategy outlines our motto ‘play to win’ and recognises the need to support our most able athletes and how we have to develop athletes internally to avoid big drop offs in performance year to year. We have introduced refined funding criteria that are aimed towards performance, which is reflected in the factor highest achieving clubs have had a large amount of support this year. In addition, we have expanded focus sports and introduced Team Southampton to raise the profile of elite sport both internally and externally. We have invested heavily into coaching and I would like to fully implement a system where we can source top coaches level 3 an above, for our clubs before I leave. Additionally, I would like us to grow our student coaching force, as I think investment is needed not only at are very best athletes but at the levels below to ensure we have people to step up to our 1st and 2nd teams when students leave. I am very confident that over the next three years we will see Southampton rise back up the BUCS rankings and see our standings improve in national comps.

    In terms of S&W, we have been working very hard over the last 6 months to improve relations and set out a vision for Sport at Southampton. However, I do not foresee the University investing the money needed to run a high level performance programme. But, the conversations we have had thus far look very promising in terms of obtaining more support for our own programmes which are Union led.

    My vision for sport here is that we enable students to develop to their fullest potential, we have to focus on developing sportspeople as we won’t attract people solely based on the University’s sporting offer. If we continue to invest similarly to this year, I do not see why we cannot reach the top 15 in BUCS as we have a diverse range of sports and good depth in our squads. The raising of our sporting profile is key to this, as it will enable us to get other deals similar to that of KPMG.

    Hope that helps!

  4. evanwhyte
    03/02/2014 at 11:37 pm Permalink

    Hi Evan,

    Looks like you’re doing a good job this year, keep it up! Quick question – any indication of when Old Boys / Alumni sports day will be? Need to book some time off work and get my request in early!

    SUMHC 2005-2012

  5. evanwhyte
    Evan Whyte
    04/02/2014 at 12:08 am Permalink

    Hi Andrew,

    Cheers! We have the date pencilled in for the 3rd May – I have a meeting this week with the Alumni office, so hopefully something will get round confirming that soonish.

  6. evanwhyte
    16/02/2014 at 3:28 pm Permalink

    Hi Evan – is this date now confirmed? Need to book holiday and flights!

  7. evanwhyte
    Evan Whyte
    16/02/2014 at 3:54 pm Permalink

    Hi Andrew,

    It is indeed! Saturday 3rd May, the Alumni office should be in contact soon.

    See you then,



  1. […] rest of the Sabb team (you can read their mid-year blogs here – Beckie, Dave Martin, Claire, Evan, Oli,…

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