Sasha Watson: Today I’m here with Teddy Wilkes, he’s your Athletics Union President. A little about him: he studied Film as an Undergraduate, he lived at Highfield Halls, and is an American Football National League Champion – Teddy Wilkes, welcome.
Teddy Wilkes: Thank you very much
SW: How does it feel to be AU President?
TW: It’s absolutely amazing, to be able to work in sport is a dream for anybody who plays sport, so it’s really great to be President. Some of it has actually been a little unexpected, but a lot of it is exactly what I hoped, and it’s been very fulfilling.
SW: The first thing you have been able to do is have two varsity matches – can you explain that a little more?
TW: Basically, we were hoping to have something with Solent University, but it got to the point where it was going to be difficult to facilitate, so we decided to approach a different angle with Chichester University. I got in touch with them a few weeks ago, and we’re now looking at having something at Wide Lane in association with Orange Rooms on the 10th of October.
SW: Last time there was a varsity match there was a lot of trouble with Bermuda organising it, there was even a facebook group asking for him to step down.
TW: Yeah I think I joined that.
SW: What have you noticed that he did wrong, and what will you do differently to make sure it all runs smoothly?
TW: I don’t think he did anything wrong, he can’t control the weather and unfortunately we have drainage problems at Wide Lane, which led to flooding. Obviously, it’s dangerous to play a sport like Rugby where you are going to be on the floor for a large part of the time when there are puddles; we don’t want any players drowning at the bottom of a ruck or something. One thing we have done though is to move the Varsity against Portsmouth further back into the year, to reduce the likelihood of bad weather.
SW: Is there anything else you have been up to, with regards to Wessex Sports? You spoke about Wilkes’ Wessex in your manifesto – how far has that come along?
TW: One thing I am really keen on is a change in culture in the AU. We’re currently ranked 19th in BUCS and if we want to reach the top 15 and above, I really think we need to have… not a change of heart, but a change in the way we do things. We need to push the performance of our athletes more and we need something in place that allows our athletes to better balance their time between sport and academics. Instead of being simply athletics students, where athletics is something that just happens while they are at University, we need something that allows them to pursue their development a lot more.
SW: One thing you were trying to change was the AU club night; You have come up with the idea of I love College – what is it?
TW: On a Wednesday evening throughout term, were launching a new club night at the Cube. It’s not specifically aimed at the AU Clubs or societies, were hoping it just turns into a big night at the union. We’re hoping to incentivise societies to come along with the lash4cash system. It is £2 on the door, and £1 goes back to your clubs coffers straight away; if you bring 50 people to the club you have £50 in your bank account the next day. It’s not specifically an AU night, because even if we were to fill the Cube with 800 AU students it wouldn’t feel full so we’re offering an alternative to other nights out, which hopefully students are going to love.
SW: The premier is this Wednesday and the theme is based around a rowdy American frat party. Do you think that even though it’s advertised like this it’s still too regulated for the AU clubs to come along, and maybe now it’s too raucous for others to come who would have done so previously?
TW: Not at all, I think that the fact we have brought people to the Union is a big step, and we know that Wednesdays can go down the road to getting out of hand; the union will be able to manage this much better than at an external bar for example. No one is going to tell you off for having a good time, it’s when things go too far and where other people are put in harm’s way that the door staff will be brought in. Other than that, we are happy to let Wednesday night be Wednesday night.
SW: Quite importantly then, if someone slam dunks on the beer pong table is that allowed?
TW: I think the guy or a girl will be a hero for about 15 seconds until they realise they’ve ruined a good game of beer pong. I think if it happens, it happens; we’ll put measures to make sure everyone enjoys a good game.
SW: You’re a very accomplished athlete, you’ve played across the board for the University – so much so that you have started training in Germany for American Football. Do you think that affects your ability in your role as AU President.
TW: Not at all, I spent my weekends playing football, having flown out Friday night, and back on Sunday night, so I didn’t miss any work time at all. Any work time I did miss, I took as holiday, so I have sacrificed my summer and winter breaks to do that so I haven’t taken any more time than anyone else. If anything, it has enhanced my performances as it has allowed me to view how things are run from a semi-professional view, and see how the structures used in a professional environment is able to help us over here in the University.
SW: Do you think that, because you are very focussed on national sports and the University ranking in BUCS, that the Intramural sports may be neglected as a result?
TW: I don’t think it will be neglected at all; there will always be a demand for social sport, and rightly so as it’s a great chance to meet new people, stay fit and have fun. I will never take that away from sport, as it’s in its very core. I see the intramural programme as a development league for our young athletes who are maybe not ready to make the step up to Wessex, or don’t even want to, and we are hoping to use that programme a lot more than we did last year. It will never be offered as an alternative to first 15 competition, but it will always be there for the social member.
SW: I’m a keen footballer on an Intramural scale, and my experience is that it has been very badly managed; there’s not been good organisation from top to bottom. If someone has an issue with Intramural, or how its run, what can they do?
TW: Sport and Recreation are running the Intramural leagues this year, and they have worked with Athletic support to revamp it, and we’re looking to work in tandem with them to ensure that there are sporting opportunities out there. One of the main things we are doing with our Participation programme, is that we are trying to break down the barriers to participation, and badly organised sport is one of those barriers; we are really hoping to make Intramural leagues better.
SW: Traditionally, the AU President is run by the Football or Rugby captain, and you mentioned at the start that there were things about the job you weren’t prepared for, what would these be?
TW: I was very uncertain about my role as a Trustee, and I think that is something any of the candidates would have been surprised by. I was under the impression that this was solely a job for the development of sport and the provision of it, but now that I have got into the bare bones of being a Trustee, I have really started enjoying it and looking out for the Union.
SW: With 100 days now gone, what do you aim to do for the remainder of your term?
TW: I am going to work more with athletes in clubs to make sure we can facilitate the change I have mentioned. I really want to push the Focus Sports programme, the Participation programme, the Athletic Development programme, and make sure I work with the new Student Activities manager on a BUCS strategy to come up with an almost scientific method in improving our ranking in BUCS. I’m also hoping to go out there and see as many new clubs and athletes play as possible.
SW: Thinking of the AGM at the end of the year, what would be your #1 thing to announce?
TW: I would love for Wessex to move to the South East league. Being on the border is a big step in getting into that league which would cut our costs in half, make our leagues more competitive, and I hope it would be something that gets us a clap and a cheer.
SW: At last year’s AGM, there were issues over whether AU clubs could have their AGMs at drinking venues, what is your stance on the matter?
TW: I think that individuals should have the choice of whether they have alcoholic socials or not. We have never said they had to have a drink before you went to the AGM, it’s up to the person’s choice. There is no reason as to why alcohol and the AU should go hand in hand; students come here to have a good time and to play sport, it just happens that sometimes sports teams also like having a good time. You can vote in the General Election whilst having a drink, and I think it has been really good that instead of societies taking a harsh stance on this, they have come along and understood our position
SW: Finally, out of the SABB team, who is the clumsiest?
TW: It’s a draw between Rob and Charlotte; Charlotte is very bad at leaving her Facebook on and generally tripping over, but when you get Rob on one of his granddad dopey days, he’s quite a clumsy lad.
SW: Thank you very much, Teddy Wilkes.