TNSPOTY Runner-up: Ben Smith

Lucy Brogden spoke to Ben Smith to get his view on why he placed 5th in our TNSPOTY

Lucy Brogden
12th December 2016
Without a paddle: Ben Smith excels at both competing and coaching in NUCC. Image: Tom Clare

Sports Editor, Lucy Brogden, interviewed 5th-placed Ben Smith, who gave us an insight into why he's thought of so highly.

How do you feel to have finished in the top six?

It’s very nice! It’s nice to have been nominated- that’s the best bit. The fact that someone had the thought to nominate me is the most touching.

Why do you think you placed so high?

Erm, because I’m nice, and people like nice people?

When did you start canoeing?

I started in my school club when I was 14. Before doing my undergraduate degree, I took a year out and got some canoeing qualifications. When I was at Durham, I coached and was a member of their club for three years. I was never on committee, but was the unofficial coach.

What do you like about canoeing?

I like it because I’m good at it! Although that’s not a very good reason. I like it because it’s good for people who aren’t good at other sports- people who aren’t on a hockey or rugby team. It’s a good sport for gathering the rest of us together, and it’s social and fun.

"It’s very nice! It’s nice to have been nominated. That’s the best bit"

What sorts of things does NUCC involve?

We do white water racing, slalom racing on a short river and canoe polo at Newcastle. Slalom is my favourite, and our big competition is in February, so we’re training for it at the minute.

Any notable performances/ moments?

Last year, I won a bronze and a silver at the white water BUCS event, and we won as a team last year.

What is your role within the club?

This year I’m slalom captain, and I’m the club’s unofficial coach. We have pool sessions every Tuesday where we teach everyone the basic skills, let everyone get to know each other, and introduce people to the club. We have early morning sessions twice a week in Newburn, and my job involves organising that. I arrange getting transport to the river at 6am, coach the session, and have to make sure we get people back in time for lectures. We spend more time travelling than we do on the water- there’s a lot of faff.

Why do you coach?

I enjoy coaching, and I get a lot of satisfaction from it. I like seeing people get better, and seeing how satisfied they are by their improvements. I also like being in charge!

When did you join the club, and why do you like it?

I joined last year- my first year at Newcastle. I like NUCC because everyone is very keen and very friendly. We’re a sociable club, and I’d happily sit and talk to anyone there- everyone’s really friendly.

"I arrange getting transport to the river at 6am, coach the session, and have to make sure we get people back in time for lectures"

What’s been the highlight of your NUCC career?

I liked how happy everyone was at our BUCS competition earlier this year. It was a miserable river to throw new freshers down, and everyone was really happy about being there- there was such great participation and willingness from everyone.

A personal highlight was winning medals at BUCS. I also like trying new disciplines. So, last year I tried a C2 for the first time, and we came 2nd and 3rd. We came 8th this year.

What are your plans for the future in terms of canoeing?

Canoeing is a hard sport to continue, but I’ll definitely try and be part of the club again next year. I’d like to do the same role as this year- I enjoy the coaching, and I enjoy developing the club. When I leave, I want to leave behind a club with a really strong base for the future- one that can coach themselves. The club’s already really self- reliant, but I want to make sure this continues, and to get more people into the sport.

Personally, I want to work on my own paddling, and not just coach. I also want to get training for next year’s BUCS early.

Any final words?

It’s so nice to be thought of. I’m not fussed where I finish- just the thought of being nominated is nice.

"Ben is an all round athlete that has shown the ability to strengthen the bond between the Canoe club members and ensure the safety, wellbeing and happiness of all club members in all situations."

Sophie Matthews, AU Officer

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