Issy Walker 2020
Issy is a fifth year Medical student at the University. After a tough first year, she began to embrace some of the sport opportunities open to her.
She is a real advocate for club sport, particularly the friendships and support they can offer students.
Issy is an active member of the Sailing Club and also holds a number of welfare roles on the club committee, through MedSoc and also on the Welfare in Sport campaign group.
She was recognised for her dedication to her roles in 2020, when she was received the Vice Chancellors award.
How have you been involved in sport, fitness and volunteering at University?
I’ve been part of the sailing club since the second year. I didn't do any sport in my first year, which I really regret. I made lots of friends in the club – people I felt that I was able to talk to. Following on from this experience I decided to go for welfare officer on the committee 2019/20. That sparked an interest in welfare and from there I joined in with the Welfare in Sport campaign group.
I found that the more I got involved with Sailing welfare and Welfare in Sport, more opportunities became apparent and that has been really good for me. To have the ability to try new things, but not have the pressure of being perfect or amazing at them has had a positive impact on my University life. I like not being the only person trying something for the first time. In terms of volunteering, I’ve enjoyed connecting with likeminded people from other clubs, like swimming, equestrian and handball.
I have also accessed the supported fitness sessions with one of the University's fitness instructors - Zoe.
I accessed these through the Disability Sport Officer in my second year and she linked me in with an instructor. When I was well enough, I was going once a week and I really looked forward to it. I find new places like the gym very overwhelming and to have someone there to show me the ropes was really helpful. Zoe also tailored the session to me and how I was feeling. She knew that I found the gym challenging, so we went to Jubilee Sports Centre in the quieter times and I found that so much more enjoyable. Those sessions were the kick start in helping me to enjoy sport again.
How did you get involved?
I’ve sailed since I was 10 years old, but during GCSEs and Alevels I didn’t really sail as much. I thought that I wouldn’t have any time at University, but I quickly realised that I needed the time out from my studies. I went along to chat to the club at Welcome fair and also had a friend who was a member, which helped. Talking to the Sailing welfare officer at the time really helped and she gave me the confidence to run for a club committee position.
What have you enjoyed about your experiences?
Being able to build up a group of people who care about the same sorts of things – that University sport isn’t all about being the best. I’m not the only one who doesn’t feel like that.
It does help to be able to make a difference – be that support for other people and actively doing something to support the development sport welfare. It has given me a sense of purpose, away from the academics and shown that I can do other things. I can still develop myself. Feeling happier has given me more energy and the ability to put more in to my studies. Finding something you enjoy really does help and that’s shown in my grades. I have achieved a better work vs life balance – giving my brain a break was really important.
What has been your highlight so far?
Attending my first Empower (Canoe polo) session – although it was terrifying, I enjoyed it so much. I went with my housemate and made some new friends, who I am still in contact with now. It was more manageable and easier to engage with. I went to a Girls Night In and found the size of it a little too overwhelming for me. Empower was a more tangible opportunity and I’m pleased that I pushed myself to go. Next year I’m considering getting involved with it again.
What have you found challenging?
At first I found getting the work life balance was hard. Finding the confidence to go to and use the bigger spaces like the gym and the pool was overwhelming, but with the slow introduction at my own pace really helped me to access those facilities in a way that I felt comfortable with.
How do you think things could be improved / developed to enhance the student experience?
I think encouraging clubs to be more accommodating to beginners and for those who don’t want to compete, would be a good start. You can’t compete at a sport if you don’t really enjoy it – an essential building block to develop the clubs.
I'd also like to see Welfare Officers and club committees being actively engaged with their members and actively showing the ways that students can get help. Your teammates are your teammates even when you’re not playing the sport. Consider your sport as a friendship group – likeminded people doing the same thing. It’s not just about results it’s about enriching your time at University.
What would be your top tip for new disabled students coming in to University?
Don’t be afraid to ask – whether that’s for help or information about opportunities for you. You’re not going to spot the opportunities if you don’t actively look for them. Put yourself out there and let people cater for you. You shouldn’t have to adapt to fit in, they should be willing and able to adapt for you.