Sports Editor James Sproston talks to Newcastle University Sepak Takraw Club Vice President Jack White about his sixth place in the Team Newcastle Sports Personality of the Year.
Why do you think you were nominated for SPOTY, and why do you think you came so high?
It’s not about me, it’s about takraw. We are the first people in the country to start this, and I’m the only person that’s been there from the start. It’s about the club, it’s not about me.
Tell us a bit more about the club:
The club started in my first year, and it’s got bigger and bigger ever since. We started with 12 people: six turned up each week, and the rest thought it was a bit of laugh. It’s great because every time new people turn up it doesn’t matter that they haven’t done it before- everyone has been transformed into competitive players by the end.
Why did you join in the first place?
I saw it on the SU’s twitter page. They’d retweeted ‘fancy football volleyball’. As a kid that’s all I ever did, lots of street football and keepy- uppies.
"It’s not about me, it’s about takraw"
You were Vice President from an early point, correct?
Yeah, there weren’t many people at the beginning, so practically everyone was a member of committee. It was more of a social thing to begin with, because every week I went round to the committee house to have a bit of input. I actually have an input nowadays, but I’ve still got the original vision.
You’re Vice President again this year. What’s changed in the club?
Last year the club was purely down to John. This year we’ve actually had to find jobs for people- it’s no longer a one-man operation. We’ve expanded as a club as well, which means we have to do more things. Our Facebook page epitomises how much bigger we’ve got- we’re now appealing to hundreds, rather than tens of people.
What are your priorities this year?
We need to make takraw bigger, so that everyone is aware of it. We’ve tried to do this with out GIAG sessions, and in the new year I’m going into some primary schools to try and get people involved from a younger age, we want them to understand how good it is. Even if people just hear of it and know what it is, that’s a success for us.
What have been your highlights?
Our 2016 tournament was a definite highlight. The guys we played against had played for 15 years, whilst we were a rag-tag bunch of individuals in ridiculous teams, who just didn’t take it too seriously. Getting a home-grown team to finish in the top three was great, we all got really competitive, and we beat two teams of lads from Malaysia.
"Getting a home-grown team to finish in the top three was great"
The 2017 tournament needs to be bigger and better. Although the date is up in the air at the minute, we can count on everyone from last year coming back again. We’ve got a much wider member base this year, from more backgrounds so hopefully they’ll come along and give it a go. We might end up having a preliminary round, and the football team could come along to see if they could prove to be competitive. It helps to boost our profile as a club.
How’s the future of sepak takraw at Newcastle looking?
I can’t see that there’s going to be much happening unless we get more people involved. Next year, when I graduate, that will be the last of the original guys gone. The people who took up the mantle from them will be gone too, so we’ve got to inspire new people to want to take it as seriously as we do. That could be the biggest challenge.
What’s on the agenda for you?
I join the navy in September, and there’s no takraw team. Within ten years, however, there will be takraw in the navy, even it it’s just my lads getting games going! There will be military takraw in this country, and we can have a reunion tournament with Newcastle in 2020!
"Jack has been so important in helping the Sepak Takraw Club progress, both performance and social wise. He’s dedicated and driven, shows fantastic sportsmanship, and is a real friend to all club members."
Sophie Matthews, AU Officer