Sport Editor Kit Shepard speaks to the clubs whose emphasis on equality and diversity earned them a nomination for UB Sport’s Pride Award
One accolade at Friday’s UB Sports Awards has nothing to do with performance in BUCS competition. Recognising the clubs who have improved equality and diversity within their societies, the ‘Pride Award’ is not even about sport at all. Yet while it does not celebrate athletic dominance or individual achievements, no prize carries a greater meaning.
The three clubs nominated; Sailing, Women’s Cricket, and Ice Hockey, take their responsibility to make every member feel welcome very seriously.
Sports Awards 🏆 | It shortlist time! Up first, here are the three deserving nominees for the ‘Pride Award’. This award acknowledges and celebrates the diversity and inclusion of sport within our fantastic clubs. pic.twitter.com/d9WJRhPJWE
— University of Birmingham Sport (@UBSport) May 22, 2020
‘From the very first session we make it clear that we have a zero-tolerance policy for any discrimination,’ says Philip Hagelberg, the new president of UoB Ice Hockey. New players are given ‘an introductory talk where we establish the expectations of members to uphold the ethos of our club.’
Hagelberg is also ‘immensely proud’ of the gender balance in his club. Just under half of all members are female, a statistic he attributes to ‘dedicated advocation of female participation.’
For Emily Eagles, the out-going president of the women’s cricket club, focusing on ‘causes that are important to our members’ has been key. The team has prioritised tackling discrimination and stigma around mental health, participating in fundraisers for Beat, Stonewall, and Mind.
Likewise, Ice Hockey has staged events in aid of Stonewall and Young Minds. This month, after their national competition in Sheffield was cancelled due to coronavirus, and in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests that have swept the globe, they decided to collectively walk the distance from Birmingham to the Steel City and back for Show Racism the Red Card.
Given the surge of anti-racism activism in recent weeks, the Pride Award has an added layer of importance. ‘The current events have only highlighted the importance of [equality and diversity] and it’s to UoB’s credit that they already had this award in place,’ says Eagles. Cameron Massey, UoB Sailing’s new commodore, hopes the award can ‘showcase some of the things that sports clubs could do to help promote equality within their clubs.’
Massey knows all too well about the challenges his sport can pose for certain people. During the past season, a returning member was fighting a ‘serious illness,’ which made them ‘unable to sail in a conventional dinghy,’ Massey reveals.
The club, however, refused to be content leaving a member stranded on dry land. By earning a British University Sailing Association development grant, they were able to purchase the dinghy needed to make it safe for the individual to return to sailing. Massey, epitomising the spirit and selflessness of the Pride Award, says ‘it has been fantastic to see them on the water again and being an integral part of the club.’
The squad have not been on the water for some time, though. The COVID-19 crisis cut the season short in March, and most team-mates have not seen one another for month. ‘A lot of people are still trying to come to terms with the fact that they may not get the end of university experience that they thought they would,’ reveals Massey.
Ice Hockey’s year also ended prematurely, while the outdoor cricket season never got the chance to start. The virtual awards, then, offer clubs an opportunity to celebrate their efforts and connect with one another however they can. As nominees for an award that champions compassion and inclusivity, each team knows just how valuable Friday will be.
‘The awards are important in recognising people’s efforts this year, especially due to the difficulties’, believes Hagelberg. Massey agrees, stating that ‘It’s really special that, despite all this, sports clubs are still able to celebrate their successes and hard work.’
As friendly and as egoless as all three clubs are, they are still sports teams, and they all love to win. ‘Winning this award would be really rewarding for us all and would prove an amazing example of how involved complete beginners can get within a club,’ believes Eagles.
Hagelberg admits that winning the Pride Award would ‘mean a lot,’ as the prize epitomises the values that the entire ice hockey community aspire to. ‘The fans of the sport are some of the most accepting people I have met, and this culture is something we try to mirror in our club.’
The accolade would be invaluable to the sailing club in the coming years, especially after their first-hand experience of the marginalisation that can be overcome within the sport. According to Massey, winning ‘would be a fantastic boost to the club to win this award and a real encouragement for the future of inclusivity within sailing.’
Of course, the award is important, but it is not essential for any of the clubs. Each of them have gone above and beyond to make their societies open to all and making it onto the shortlist alone is a special achievement.
‘Whatever the outcome, we will keep making the club as welcoming and inclusive as possible,’ says Eagles. ‘But hopefully with more cricket involved next year!’
To find out who wins the Pride Award, tune into the UB Sport YouTube channel this Friday at 7:30 pm.
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