Sports writer Timon Burford previews the Battle of the Sports, as UoB clubs battle for lockdown supremacy whilst raising funds for breast cancer awareness

Student of History, President of BUAC Cool Runnings
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Content warning: This article contains information and statistics relating to breast cancer.

It has been a difficult year for those involved in sport at the University of Birmingham (UoB). Inducting new members, budgeting, and providing a social and rewarding experience have all posed unique challenges for committees during the first weeks of this academic year. COVID-19 has been a major burden for clubs but, despite the tough circumstances, sport can still provide rewarding moments. In all the mundanity and anxiety of studying during the pandemic, sport can provide much-needed escapism; allowing students to socialise and stay fit while feeling part of a welcoming community.

The Boob Team have already made themselves well known to those involved in sport at UoB

Unfortunately, the introduction of increased restrictions to combat the spread of coronavirus earlier this month has forced UoB’s sports clubs to suspend training once again. However, it will take more than a second national lockdown to bring a halt to the amazing work being put in by teams across the university. Nowhere is this more evident than the upcoming Battle of the Sports competition, as the Uni Boob Team has organised two weeks of challenges for club members while they stay home.

Birmingham’s Uni Boob Team conduct the highly commendable work of raising breast cancer awareness and challenging taboos surrounding the illness, while also fundraising for their affiliated charity, CoppaFeel!. The Boob Team have already made themselves well known to those involved in sport at UoB with their frequent collaborations with clubs. In previous years this has included memorable CoppaFeel fundraisers at Sports Nights which, as Boob Team events organiser Tasha Ashbridge told Redbrick, involve ‘lots of pink and men in bras.’ Due to the pandemic, these fundraisers have had to be altered this year, and most recently the Boob Team have organised a series of successful training-based events instead, teaming up with a plethora of sports teams.

The Battle of the Sports competition was originally envisioned by UoB Rowing Social Secretary Harry Shorthouse, who has been busy ‘brainstorming ideas to keep the members of rowing engaged and motivated throughout lockdown’, he told Redbrick. ‘The issue was introducing a competitive element which I thought we could do by bringing in other sports.’ Keen to expand the scope of the challenge and incorporate a charitable element, Harry reached out to Ashbridge and the Boob team who together formulated the event.

There will a wide range of challenges, with some being better suited to certain sports than others

The competition will involve two weeks of optional challenges to be completed as a club, with points being distributed for each one attempted, satisfying members’ competitive appetite. The full list of challenges remains secret until the competition begins this week. However, Ashbridge hints at an array of possible challenges: ‘for ideas we have got things like a virtual VK boat race, fastest 5K in slippers [or] crocs, best Sports Night horror story re-enacted, most creative use of a bra, [and] most creative workout.’ Ashbridge was also keen to emphasise that there will a wide range of challenges, with some being better suited to certain sports than others, with the idea being that they will even out over the two weeks to make it a fair competition.

Each club’s social secretary will have the responsibility of submitting a video of one of their team-mates attempting a challenge, with the Boob Team acting as adjudicators to guarantee impartiality. The competition will culminate in a Zoom finale with more challenges that will decide which club will come out on top in the eagerly-anticipated Battle of the Sports.

The competition’s importance goes beyond the sporting aspect

Although all clubs would undoubtedly love to be victorious, Shorthouse emphasises: ‘primarily it’s to help with the well-being of members by breaking up the lockdown monotony.’ He also addresses the competitive aspect of the competition: ‘the other side to it is that it allows sports to scratch that competitive itch left by cancellations of matches [and] seasons.’

But the competition’s importance goes beyond the sporting aspect. One in seven women will get breast cancer in their lifetime and some 400 British men are diagnosed with the illness each year, so the need for spreading awareness of this issue is of paramount importance. Events such as Battle of the Sports are a great opportunity not only for charitable donations to be raised, but also for participants to educate themselves on breast cancer, especially around the value of regularly checking your body for possible signs of the illness.

In a year where everyone’s well-being has been tested, the chance to boost morale through light-hearted competition, as well as the reminder to take physical health seriously, are qualities that ensure that Battle of the Sports will be valuable to all UoB sports clubs.

How to Get Involved, Donate and Check Your Breasts

To stay up-to-date with all things CoppaFeel!, follow the Uni Boob Team on Instagram @uobubt to keep up to speed with their progress. The team is always looking for new additions, and memberships can be easily attained through the Guild website, with members having the opportunity to help out with organising events, planning fundraisers, recruitment, and spreading the word of the CoppaFeel! ethos.

For the duration of Battle of the Sports, and indeed for the rest of this Academic year, the Boob Team have a JustGiving page where you can contribute towards their worthy cause.

For information on how to check your breasts, you can find guidance on the NHS website.

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