Redbrick Sport Editor Sam Price met up with Luke Peel and Sam O'Connor of the University of Birmingham Lifesaving club, to find out more about a lesser known competitive sport.
'It takes elements of lifesaving skills, and turns them into competitive races.' This was the description I got of the sport lifesaving from Luke Peel, club captain of the University of Birmingham Lifesaving Club. Lifesaving is a vital skill, but few people are aware that it is a competitive and physically demanding sport in its own right.
The University of Birmingham club is one of the elite, having finished third in the British Universities Lifesaving Clubs' Association (BULSCA) 'League A' two years running. There are 12 league competitions a year, as well as a three-day National Championships in March, in which Birmingham picked up a bronze medal in 2010. Lifesaving includes a lot of swimming, and the lifesavers are assessed on different disciplines with a points score, including the Swim and Tow, the Mannequin Carry and the Line Throw. Dry-side rescue skills such as Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and First Aid are also part of the assessment, and the team that picks up the most points overall win the competition outright.
Peel added, 'We go to the competitions in teams of four and the idea is to deal with the situation put in front of you. The scorers are looking for teamwork, communication, speed and efficiency. The amount of points you can score for a rescue varies with different incidents, often depending on the type and position of the casualty.'
Third year Computer Science student Peel and fellow lifesaving club member Sam O'Connor were extremely successful two weeks ago when competing for their local club Crawley, coming back from the European Lifesaving Championships in Alicante with gold medals, a fantastic achievement. O'Connor explained, 'We have a great set-up at Crawley and a brilliant coach (who also coaches England), but we didn't think we'd win. There were around 40 teams, with some of the German and Spanish teams as the favourites, but we performed to our best and got the sequences correct.'
With such elite performers at its disposal, the University club is in especially good health ahead of the new year, and Peel is aiming as high possible. 'We currently have six national standard lifesavers; this experience helps raise the club standard. This year, the aim is to win BULSCA League A and the National Championships.'
The club itself is open to absolutely everyone and you can choose which training sessions to attend, a fact that Peel and O'Connor were keen to stress. Peel explained, 'We train in the Munrow three times a week. Wednesday is award training, Friday is competition training and Sunday is fitness. Our club ranges from complete beginners to people who have been competing for years.'
Peel would encourage first-year students to get involved as early as they can. 'Freshers is the perfect time to join the club, as everyone starts on the same platform. There is a big event coming up, the freshers competition in Southampton, in which 20 to 30 teams take part. We'll be sending three teams down, and competitors can decide for themselves whether they enjoy it.'
The omens are good for the new year and with such experienced hands at the club they can expect to thrive and improve. There seems to be good camaraderie among the club, which is stimulated by competing at other universities. Peel said, 'BULSCA is a unique set-up, and creates a really friendly environment, with socials following every competition.' After an influx of freshers and a successful taster session, the club can continue to expand and challenge for silverware this campaign.