‘Swim, you what, you what?’ still echoes from our chants following the announcement of us winning ‘Club of the Year’ at AU Ball. We’ve always been the underdogs in the Athletic Union since we train off campus, we’re fairly quiet and we sort most things out ourselves. Coming runners up last year only fuelled our fire this year. And we did it. We actually did it.
KUSC has had its most successful year to date. We have continued to improve upon our strengths, whilst triumphing over our external threats and internal weaknesses. We set our sights high on ‘Club of the Year’ from the moment we were elected as the new committee in 2016. We were determined to be recognised.
We didn’t go at it light-heartedly and from day one, we’ve given it our all. Led by our Club Captain, Lauren Hudson, this year has been packed with recruitment fairs, charity events, swimming competitions, bus journeys, food stalls and a big shark mascot costume.
This time last year, we picked up where the ex-committee left off. Many of our third years graduated at the end of last year, so as a committee, our first aim was to replenish our team with some eager, fresh faced first years. Our taster sessions saw a record number of attendees and we managed to recruit 90 fully paid members throughout the year. As you all know, there is unfortunately no pool on campus, so transporting our members to three different off-campus facilities each week for training requires a huge amount of organisation, time and effort. However, our teamwork makes it happen.
We have a lot of fun, but we’re also extremely competitive. We have ex-regional, ex-national and two ex-British Championship swimmers within the club; which means that training is tailored to push members to their maximum (luckily you can’t see sweat in water). The Steel Cup kicked off the year, which allowed us to spot talent, but more importantly, highlighted how our summer barbeques and all-inclusive holidays made us very unfit. This spurred us onto compete in both major swimming competitions held at Ponds Forge; BUCS Shortcourse and Longcourse. In November and February, we ferried two mini-bus loads of swimmers through the peaks to Sheffield to compete in a weekend full of racing, a fancy-dress night out and a lot of food. With Charlie Madden, our Team Captain, motivating us with pre-race speeches, we have been highly successful, managing to finalise in BUCS Team Championships and place 6th in the national finals (one point off 5th). We were also 3rd in the northern qualifiers – not bad for a uni who doesn’t have a pool on campus and doesn’t even offer a sport degree! We organised, refereed and timed our new annual ‘Club Championships’; allowing our members to internally compete against their team mates. And of course, we left the best until last and secured our annual victory over Staffs in Varsity. We smashed it.
We’ve been involved in an immense amount of charity fundraising this year. Our secretary, Charlotte Hubble, has created a fantastic bond with our local charity, The Donna Louise Children’s Hospice. We started the year following national trends with our meal deal stall, followed by an iced bun sale, a charity quiz night, giving blood at the Stoke Blood Donor Centre, leg waxing and Lauren attaching herself to our charity bucket; bringing it to every training session and social. This is not to mention our 24 hour cycle and final event, our 3000 Footers Challenge in the Lake District. We have literally given blood, sweat and tears.
We are a self-coached team, with our five committee members coaching every session. Filled with lots of Lycra, we target technique, fitness and stamina, as well as our land training on a Wednesday. Seeing each other so often (and in very minimal clothing) means we have become a huge family and when one of us is down, we try our best to uplift their spirits through a tough set in the pool, a pint at a social or simply a chat on pool side. Our Social Secretary, Olly Atkinson, has thrown himself into his role and the enjoyment is demonstrated by the consistently high weekly social attendance. Weirdly, his quiz (when we can interpret the questions through his Sheffield slang) is one of our most popular, although nothing will beat our Toby Carvery Christmas Dinner; paired with our Secret Santa. Due to high demand, Olly and I took it upon ourselves to take our fun abroad this year. We took 23 members into Italian territory (and through France and Switzerland if you count the 30 hour bus journey). We all made it back in one piece and enjoyed a memorable week of sun, swimming and swanter (‘swimming banter’).
Did we really deserve ‘Club of the Year’? I can honestly hold my hand on my heart and say, yes, we did. I can’t emphasise enough how busy this year has been. At times, I forget that my role as Treasurer isn’t actually a full-time job and in reality, I’m a student volunteer with my own life and own degree to achieve.
As we reach the last stretch of the year, we are in the process of recruiting our next committee. There’s no debate; leading, coaching and being responsible for such a big team is a challenge. Balancing my own personal challenges with the club’s demands isn’t for the faint-hearted. But being a driving force in something so special – your legacy, your ideas, your policies, your friends, your team mates, your home away from home – is an unbeatable feeling that will stay with me for a life time; just like those echoes of ‘Swim, you what, you what’. We are one committee, one team and one Club of the Year. We worked for it. And we did it.