University of Leeds: Social Sport

Image Credit [Will Pickworth]

The Gryphon spoke to George Hewetson, captain of Free Entry Before XI, about the benefits of participating in a Social Sport league.

Playing sport at university can be intimidating or unreachable, so it is testament to the University of Leeds that they provide opportunities for participation through Social Sport leagues. 

They run netball leagues and 5, 7 and 11-a-side football leagues. The majority of these teams in the various leagues are societies such as Business, History and Engineering departments. However, there are a few, and in what seems to be a growing trend, non-societal teams competing amongst the societies. This week, The Gryphon spoke to George Hewetson, captain of Free Entry Before XI, who play in the Wednesday Football 11-a-side league. 

Free Entry are predominantly made up of fourth years who have returned from placement years or years abroad. Hewetson saw the opportunity to play “officiated 90-minute competitive games of football with your mates on exceptional university sports facilities” as one too good to miss, citing the alluring £150 sign-up fee compared to hefty prices to play at other places such as Powerleague or Goals. He was aware of interest from some other friends about setting up a side who were similarly “frustrated at a lack of competitive sports opportunities” and, once inquiring about the opportunity he “jumped on it.” 

In terms of organisation, Hewetson acknowledged that the initial effort required in “organising kit, collecting funds, setting up a Facebook page and sorting training slots” was time consuming. However, he pronounced the effort as “so worthwhile”, labelling Wednesday afternoons as “the highlight of the week”, seeing the opportunity to play competitive football as a “great break away from a hectic final year workload.”

Looking at the highs, Free Entry finished in fifth position out of 10 teams last semester and are currently in fourth place this semester, just three points off current leaders, Leeds Medics & Dentists. From a team that was unfamiliar at the start of the year, with a variety of mutual friendship groups, the captain takes great pride at the “drastic improvement in the level of performances coinciding with the increased togetherness of the group”, with the team securing some fantastic wins along the way. A core group of players has now emerged from the team which Hewetson “considers amongst his closest mates”, demonstrating the social and physical benefits of organised sport. 

As is the case with a group of mates setting up a team, there have been socials that have enabled a great team spirit to be built, with an Otley Run capping off their season this semester.

Social sports often suffer with low turnouts as other priorities crop up throughout the university term such as deadlines. Nevertheless, Hewetson believes a successful team can be built through providing “minutes for everyone, while maintaining a competitive, will-to-win mentality, which creates a team spirit and means that there are no issues with regards to turnout.”

His only regret is not setting up a team sooner during previous years at university and advises anyone thinking about doing so to be organised and ready to enter as spaces in the league are highly competitive, so soon fill up. Ultimately, he believes the key to running a team is to “find a core group of mates who are keen, as no doubt others will soon show further interest.” 

The story of one of the University’s flagship social sport teams, Free Entry Before XI, is fascinating and should be a great example to anyone thinking of setting up a team. At its core, It shows the great opportunities that the University of Leeds provides for its students that want to play sports competitively, enjoy themselves and build lasting friendships.