The University of Gloucestershire’s Sports Officer, George Berry, has written a letter to MP Alex Chalk highlighting the importance of university sport on the wellbeing of students.
Sport has been shut down at university level due to the COVID-19 pandemic but Berry believes that the effects of stopping exercise and team activity could have a worse impact than allowing sport to continue with restrictions in place.
With being stuck at uni away from their support bubbles, student being able to do things that are important for their MH & well-being is crucial.— George Berry (@gdberry12) November 5, 2020
Sport is one of those, we have been doing it safely since September. If unis can be open, uni sport can happen. pic.twitter.com/2SeiuyuAcD
“I’m in this job because I got voted in to do what I think is right for the students,” Berry said when asked about his letter.
“I think what is right for our students is that if you are going to keep students at university away from their support groups then they need to have their support groups up here and for a lot of us that’s sports clubs and sports teams.
“Running around and being active doesn’t only help your mental health, it also helps your physical health and if you’re physically fit you’re less likely to get illnesses that are going to trouble you anyway.
“If you look at the way cases have spread, very few of them have come from being outside at a safe distance. A lot more have come from being sat in classrooms.”
There is no denying the importance of sporting activities. It has been scientifically proven that exercising releases endorphins and the benefits are endless. With mental health having a big impact on society, sport has never been so valuable.
“It’s such an outlet,” he continued.
“I mention in the letter about my own personal experiences and the two sports teams when I was at my lowest point, my sports team back home, the cricket lads I still speak to back home in Devon, having those people and those links that you’ve built. Especially with rugby. What you go through on the pitch next to each other you become thick as thieves, you’d do anything for each other. At 3 am when you’re struggling those are the lads who you can come to when you need it.”
Life is hard for everyone at the moment and sport is the perfect medicine for many to help lift their spirits. It offers a release from what can be a tough time for students who are away from home, cramped in student accommodation with no real certainty over their future.
“I referee rugby union and it’s so weird that my biggest stress relief is running around on a Saturday refereeing a game of rugby. 30 angry blokes on a pitch that you’re trying to control and all you’ve got is a whistle! It’s weird how that is my stress relief but it’s because from the time I turn up at the ground to the time I blow my full-time whistle, I’m focusing on anything other than the rugby and what’s going on in front of me, then people will get hurt or something will go wrong.
“You need something else to put your brain on for a minute so that you’re so much fresher.”
Berry believes that university should be about so much more than just getting adegree and feels that without sport, many are missing out on what the university experience should be.
“Getting your degree is the main reason to come to university. But, that degree is such a small portion of your university experience and if you’re not enjoying being here you’re not going to get the best out of your degree.”
Students across the country will hope that the message is heard and that sport, with the right protocols put in place to make it safe, can continue and that they can get the full university experience that they have signed up for.