LSE has recorded an outstanding season in sport, winning premierships in four different sports and jumping 15 places in the national British University College Sport (BUCS) league as a result of numerous promotions. Highlights included the men’s and women’s squash teams both winning their British and London Premier leagues this season, along with premiership wins by the football men’s 1st team, the badminton mixed team and the mixed hockey 1st team.
And Annual Fund donors can claim their own slice of credit for such sporting achievements, assisted as they were by two Annual Fund grants: the Ambassadors for Sport programme from 2012/13, and the LSESU Focus Team Programme from 2013/14.
The Focus Team programme provides funding for LSE’s highest performing teams, devised by the Students’ Union in order to bring LSE’s sporting rankings within BUCS more in line with the School’s excellent academic standing. Criteria for ‘Focus Teams’ include high levels of performance, a commitment towards increased participation and improvement, and a desire to promote sport across the School.
The Ambassadors programme sees a selected number of LSE’s most talented sportspeople win grants from the Annual Fund and in-kind support to balance their sporting commitments and academic work. This may be for training camps, physiotherapy, travelling costs or equipment. In return they act as ‘Ambassadors’, representing the School at major sporting events and promoting the value of the scheme on campus. Thirteen students, covering sports from fencing and tennis to hockey and taekwondo, have been selected for 2014.
One of the original founders of the project, Ollie Cook (BSc International History 2012, pictured), is a member of the Great Britain Olympic rowing squad. He started the programme alongside Professor David Marsden while in his last year of undergraduate study at LSE, and continues to be involved in an advisory capacity, as his full time training allows.
“It is immensely exciting to meet the current Ambassadors, they're a very ambitious and inspirational group of individuals. When I started the programme, I felt that LSE already had some very talented and aspirational sportsmen and women, but I felt that the School provided little support for its top athletes, unlike other universities,” he said. “I really wanted to start something which would help the School to support them and in turn provide a platform for these students to act as role models for LSE.”
Ollie considers the scheme a huge success, and believes it has been a significant factor in this year’s sporting achievements. “Huge credit belongs to the athletes who achieved their success, but also to the growing support structure that acts behind the scenes to make it possible,” he said. “From the feedback I’ve had, the Ambassador’s programme has been really helpful. For example, the LSE Tennis Club has been brilliant this past year under the leadership of Chris Angelov who is also supported through the Ambassador's programme, providing him with funds to compete internationally and purchase new equipment.”
Ollie is grateful to Annual Fund donors for their support. “I attended the Annual Fund donor reception last year and it was brilliant to meet some of the donors and the passion they have for LSE. Its work is vitally important and has been absolutely critical to both the start and success of the Ambassadors for Sport programme; and from a personal level, it has helped me hugely in my rowing career. Without a doubt LSE Ambassadors for Sport would never have started without the financial backing and support of the Annual Fund.”
Hannah Richmond, Activities and Development Officer LSESU, said: "LSE really punches above its weight when it comes to sporting talent – to have 13 elite athletes at such a small university is an amazing achievement and the Sports Ambassador programme is largely responsible. Providing support which allows students to continue performing at such a high level is a massive privilege for the Students’ Union and it wouldn’t have been possible without Annual Fund support."
Hannah explained that the Ambassadors programme inspired the Students' Union to set up the Focus Team programme. "Focus Team has allowed our top performing teams to access even the most basic of sporting provisions such as balls and bibs, to having a fully qualified coach lead a training session and even getting the technology to film games to allow for post-match analysis. It has already had an impact on our team's performances and we can’t wait for next year when we’ll be able climb even higher and instill a real sense of pride of our amazing sporting achievements across the whole university."