Zooming into 2021: how have our sports clubs coped with a move to online training

The Courier Sport takes a deep dive into how Newcastle University sports clubs have dealt with a move to digital practice

Lauren Marshall
18th January 2021
Featured Image Source: PIXNIO
What better way to end a long day sat in front of a screen watching lectures than to attend your favourite HIIT class, or play a friendly rugby match?

For many, sport can be an escape, a hobby or a lifestyle. However, in the year when a global pandemic struck, sports teams and societies were forced to revert to technology to keep them afloat and, well, end people's days the same way they started: in front of a screen! 

The rules and regulations put in place against ‘in-person’ play posed many problems for sports teams and societies alike. Our sports teams had many tough decisions to make and I wanted to know how helpful technology was in making these decisions. 

The nature of Team sports such as netball and rugby does not transform well to being taught online. Since their focus is the sense of community and the building of new friendships, it is imaginable that technology did not entice sports such as these to pull them through lockdown. 

Newcastle’s Womens Rugby team were fortunate that they were able to train in person at the start of the year, doing their best to make it the safest environment possible. This gave them and their newcomers the opportunity to get to know one another, from a safe distance of course! Sadly, their fortune did not last long and when the time came to take their sport online, they found much difficulty in doing so. 

Womens rugby used Zoom as a platform to conduct online workouts and socials for their girls. However, they told the Courier that “it’s never going to be the same as the training we’re used to”, and it's safe to say this is a far cry from their usual 5 sessions a week. With that in mind, the girls have high hopes for next year to give their freshers the experience they deserve! 

Some teams at Newcastle have not had as much success as Womens rugby with the transition. After speaking to the Medics netball team, it is apparent that some sports truly do not get on well with online coaching. The Medics netball team were heartbreakingly unable to offer their members any online training throughout the pandemic and only turned to technology for Q&A’s and committee meetings. 

However, despite technology not proving useful for Netball, England Netball gave the go ahead for the game to continue with slightly modified rules. This meant our Medics did get to play some netball after all and on top of this great news, also got some new people involved! 

Nevertheless, the ‘COVID transition’ was not doom and gloom for all our sport here at Newcastle. The HIIT society (along with many of us now!) were already familiar with Zoom which allowed them to continue their much-loved HIIT classes, albeit in a different format.

In fact, technology even made some things a little easier for the HIIT society. This included more sessions a week due to only one member leading each session, a wider variety of content on different nights of the week and meant that even if members were not in Newcastle themselves, they could still join in with the classes from home. As well as the classes being successful, participation numbers did not take a hit despite the change and the numbers provided by the society showed the they still had a “fair uptake” of members for the year. Of course, there was the massive negative of not being able to meet the members in person, which the society misses the most. Despite this, the use of technology for the HIIT society can be considered an overall success! 

The overall opinion on how useful technology has been in aiding our sport at Newcastle over the lockdowns is a mixed bag. Some sports leant themselves quite well to the idea, whilst others are best kept to the great outdoors (or sports halls!). All in all, despite the successes and the failures of conducting sport through technology, I think we will all be glad to see our team mates back out there in person when it is safe to do so! 

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