OpenLearn: Women in Sport

In May of this year we launched a Women in Sport portal on our OpenLearn platform showcasing a wide range of articles about womens involvement in sport. Many of these articles have been authored by members of the OU sport and fitness team, including our central academic team and associate lecturers.

These articles include:

  • Stories from grassroots cricket – by Jim Lusted
  • Transgender males to females in sport: is this fair to sportswomen? – by Jan Graydon
  • Leaving no stone unturned in the pursuit of female athletic performance – by Emma Ross
  • Are women leaders the key to growing women’s sport? – Tanya Martin
  • Managing motherhood and sports participation – by Candice Lingam-Willgoss & Jess Pinchbeck
  • Why is it so difficult for Muslim women to play sport? – by Rukhsana Malik

To access the Women in Sport articles on OpenLearn click here

Sure it’s only P.E.

Authored by Bethany Gurr & Emily McDonald, edited by Emily McDonald & Melanie Paterson, researched by Thomas Botfield, Pamela Fabbreschi & Katerina Kubienova, Team Leader: David Senior and Team Moderator: Christine White (E119 19J students)


This blog was written as part of a collaborative team work task by students studying E119. They had to select a topic and then decide on what roles each person would perform in the team, such as researcher, writer, editor and leader. This blog was chosen as one of the best blogs from around 80 blogs that were produced.


https://pixabay.com/photos/sport-child-school-ball-basketball-858206/

Ahhh Mrs Hampton, I won’t forget her. She was my Primary School Physical Education (PE) Teacher and she knew all 625 pupils’ names. We had PE twice a week, the whole year of girls and boys for roughly 45 mins each and I LOVED IT. My mother kept me active as a child, which is why I’m sure I’m not obese now (with the amount I ate!) and remain an active adult years later (yes – I still love my food!). My sister on the other hand despised PE. She was the child always forgot her PE kit, (it was always in the cloakroom) had a headache or felt ill… whereas I opted to wear my sports t-shirt daily, sporting trainers and shorts under my skirt. Everybody is different and has preferences, but Primary School age is where fundamental basics of health are cemented which lead on into adolescence and later adulthood.

Children love to be active, exploring their bodies and what they can do. As a parent of three young children, I’m curious where they get their energy from (perhaps they suck it from me). So, what makes children, like my sister, hate PE? What can teachers, schools and parents do to ensure children meet their daily recommendations of physical activity (PA) and enjoy it?

Luckily for me I was proficient at most sporting activities I attempted, blessed with a competitive nature, gifted with good reflexes and speed with massive determination to be able to do what the older kids could (persuaded my Mother to teach me to ride my bike without stabilisers when my sister did – I was only 3). Yet I understand what it must be like for children with poor reflexes, not-quite-there gross-motor skills, lack of co-ordination and lacking in self-confidence, because that child is my son. Why should I, as a parent, ensure he avails of all PE classes, if he’s not really that good? (Forgive me for telling the truth) … What are the benefits obtainable from PE in schools? Why should children do it?

Apart from health and well-being benefits, these hurdles he and many other children face, can be overcome. From strength, to balance, to hand-eye-co-ordination, bringing forth confidence with each accomplishment achieved. Proven to be beneficial to not only their physical health it encourages social, emotional and mental health development (Moray House School of Education and Sport, 2019) and is integral to future wellbeing.

Those team games were not in vain!

Kelsey E via Flickr Creative Commons https://www.flickr.com/photos/kelseye/786999279

Further to this, research has shown PA induces chemical changes within the brain, encouraging new cells to form which in turn increases the size of the hippocampus, in simple terms the part of the brain that regulates emotion, learning and memory (Human Kinetics, n.d.). These changes are long-lasting, impacting how children think and behave socially, promoting learning which will not only compliment other areas of their education but will also see memory recall improvements.

Let’s explore some more…

The Department of Education recommends children receive as a minimum, 2 hours of PE per week and it is compulsory in the primary curriculum, BUT it is at the school’s discretion how much time they invest in it (Department of Education, n.d.). Luckily my children attend a school that adheres to these minimum requirements but what about quality? Unfortunately, Mrs H (whom I thought didn’t like children very much with her vigorous PE sessions) is no longer a PE teacher and like many other schools, there are no ‘PE teachers’, so who delivers them? The class teacher, yes, teachers are required to conduct their classes PE sessions and it’s reported that they receive on average as little as six hours training during their teacher training on how to deliver PE (Youth Sport Trust, 2018).

SIX HOURS!?!

Surely that cannot be enough to equip any person to undertake an hour-long session with 20 – 30 children?! While that may not be congruent within all schools and to each individual, it is a shocking number to see.

The Daily Mile

https://pixabay.com/photos/marathon-sport-children-run-autumn-1797898/

This sounds torturous to someone who isn’t fond of long distance because of their desire to get things done hastily, resulting in not-so-pleasant regurgitation at completion… (me – a sprinter). This initiative was introduced in 2012 (McIvor, 2018) and research shows that those who partake (walking or running) are significantly healthier than those who don’t. Schools are facilitating children’s ability to surpass the minimum 2 hours of PE in schools!

Some more figures for you…

A shocking 20% and 23% of 5-12-year-old girls and boys respectively, meet the recommended 60 minutes of activity per day and even more alarming is the fact that 1 in 5 children enter primary education overweight or obese! (Public Health England, 2017).

What’s going on?

To put it bluntly, children aren’t meeting their daily activity requirements and childhood obesity is AN ISSUE! Although children are receiving 2-hours PE in school per week, 5 hours are lacking and there’s no other way to say this but that it is on us.

So, should PE classes be compulsory in Primary school?

You have to agree PE is an absolute must. If it’s the only 2 hours of PA some children see a week, how can we contend its importance? Don’t we want our children to grow into young healthy active adults? Educating children on vital social skills, developing personal skills that will hold strong throughout their lives is vital. What is even more important is that parents promote healthy life choices, encourage activity, whether that be walking or cycling to school, family walks on a day out, or extra activities outside school hours like football, gymnastics or swimming.

What remains to be seen is how the Government and Schools implement guidelines. How they develop alternative approaches to how PA is delivered, to provide efficient, more enjoyable times spent in shorts, and ultimately encourage our youngsters to choose themselves to be active.

References

Department of Education. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.education-ni.gov.uk/articles/statutory-curriculum

Human Kinetics. (n.d.). How physical activity and exercise enhance children’s cognition. Retrieved from Human Kinetics Europe: https://uk.humankinetics.com/blogs/excerpts/how-physical-activity-and-exercise-enhance-childrens-cognition

McIvor, J. (2018, May 10). BBC News. Retrieved from BBC: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-44053387

Moray House School of Education and Sport. (2019, July 24th). The University of Edinburgh. Retrieved from https://www.ed.ac.uk/education/rke/centres-groups/pe-research/importance

Public Health England. (2017, July 17). Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/news/number-of-children-getting-enough-physical-activity-drops-by-40

Youth Sport Trust. (2018, May 29). Retrieved from https://www.youthsporttrust.org/news/teachers-need-more-support-nurture-love-pe-and-school-sport

Join our team: Lecturer in Sport and Fitness

Salary:  £41,526 – £49,553
Location: Milton Keynes
Reference: 17329
Closing date: 8th June 2020 (midday)

Note: This post is available as a full-time post or two 0.5 part-time posts.

We are seeking to appoint an enthusiastic Lecturer in Sport and Fitness to join our vibrant team and undertake responsibilities that include:

  • the development and delivery of Sport and Fitness modules and resources
  • writing and updating distance learning modules and resources, including print, audio, video and information/communications technology materials
  • contributing to the Faculty’s programme of research and scholarship and to the academic development of the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies at The Open University.

The successful candidate will have:

  • a higher degree or equivalent professional knowledge in Sport and Fitness or a related field as well
  • proven experience of curriculum development and course design
  • an understanding of different approaches to studying Sport and Fitness
  • evidence of engagement in research and scholarship through a variety of activities such as publications, gaining of external funding and/or widely recognised and disseminated contributions to learning and teaching in Sports and Fitness
  • a strong record of research and/or knowledge exchange that is commensurate to the position.

For more information click on the links below:

Job Description

Information about Sport and Fitness qualifications at The Open University

Information about the Sport and Fitness team at The Open University

Click here for more information and to apply

2020 Insight: do your recruitment and retention strategies need to change to suit a modern sport and physical activity workforce?

By Ben Oakley (The Open University) and Steve Mitchell (Sporting People)

Reproduced with permission of Sport England (image without words)

Central government (2015) and Sport England (2016, 2017 and 2018) have both indicated their desire to see more focus and funding invested into developing the sport and physical activity workforce. But what does this mean for your organisation and the people you employ now and in the future? This is particularly important if you are a public organisation or a club that is interested in receiving taxpayers’ or National Lottery funding beyond 2020. In this article we illustrate four examples of workforce development in action and consider what further transformation might look like. But first: why is change needed?

Figure 1 A timeline of main strategy announcements from Government (2015) and Sport England (2016-2018) indicating a direction of travel for policy and funding.

Why change?
Approximately 900,000 people are paid, many part-time, in supporting, or coaching, others in sport or physical activities (Sport England, 2018). They represent, in effect, a significant social movement. Yet, research suggests their approach to working with marginalised groups, and engaging inactive communities is often sub-optimal (e.g. London Sport, 2017).

The training of this workforce is also inconsistently delivered, assessed and benchmarked against other professions and regulated sectors. The CEO of Sport England suggests that claims about inactive groups being ‘hard to reach’ is unjust; the current approach of organisations to engage many inactive or marginalised communities has been poorly informed and executed.

Therefore, if we all agree to:

a) increase the number of physically active people we need to better prepare our ‘people’ by developing them with the skills and confidence to work towards this.

b) And, in order to maintain the confidence of the general public, and for the public health, justice and education sectors to invest in our work, we need to change how our learning and development operates. We need to demonstrate that our sector has sufficient quality development experiences to ensure safe practice that is both accessible to all and effective.
Some might say ‘our sport and people are just fine as they are’. Yes, we can continue the status quo but if you value public confidence and funding in our sector then keep reading to see some ideas you should be considering.

Four examples of recent people initiatives
These examples, with online links for further context, have emerged from organisations creating innovative solutions to workforce gaps or needs. To date there has been little coordinated sector effort … but there could be. Do any of these stimulate ideas relevant to your own organisation?

1. A National Governing Body (NGB)
Great Britain and England Hockey has transformed its coach training model to become better at developing appropriately skilled coaches. They have introduced a far wider coach development pathway involving many more specific and online development opportunities and built in more flexible assessment methods to support people to completion. The NGB’s consultation suggested courses “need to have maximum ‘pitch time’ and more online home study opportunities to allow for coaches to learn in their own time.” This has reduced the length and cost of courses, including travel costs.

2. A Community Activator Apprenticeship
Coach Core’s vision is that communities can benefit by having young relatable role models who could progress, not just their own life chances, but improve the lives of others around them too. They create a meaningful education and employment programme for 16-24 year olds funded through the Apprenticeship levy on larger businesses that was introduced in 2017. They focus on young people that need the opportunity the most in deprived inner-city communities and pay a wage during their Apprenticeship. This suggests that coaching related Apprenticeships are a valuable modern training option and pathway into sustainable employment.

3. Quality online coach learning and development
The Open University identified a need for new CPD learning for those that support and develop coaches; very little opportunities currently exist and promotion to the role is currently based on experience, rather than education. Using our expertise in coaching and distance education we launched a free online ‘Coaching others to coach’ course that has attracted 1900 participants in seven months. Learning that is open to all, 24/7, means people can learn at a time that suits them with a quality assured digital badge upon completion. Other CPD opportunities are being explored and the OU have also launched a similar, free ‘Communication and working relationships in sport and fitness’ course.

4. Active partnership: health professionals and leisure centres
Sport for Confidence programmes place health occupational therapists and specialist coaches into leisure centres, to provide inclusive sporting opportunities to people who face barriers to taking part. For instance, those with learning disabilities, mental health issues, dementia, autism or disability. The model works by using mainstream environments and delivery adjustments alongside breaking down barriers to ensure sport and physical activity is more accessible and can deliver occupational outcomes for public health and social care.

Final thoughts
Momentum is building with the Chartered Institute for the sector (CIMSPA) and UK Coaching refreshing quality standards for the sector and developing products to support coach development. In the future you need to be actively investing in your workforce, more so than at present. Perhaps it is timely to start to think about creating a ‘people developer’ role to prepare for the challenges ahead. But, for us, this far more than a coach education lead or HR specialist. How will these people developers be prepared for their important new role? Who has the insight on recruiting this talent and ensuring it is ready for the challenge?
We await feedback on this post and if there is interest, we may continue to write more on this intriguing topic. We think it is a puzzle to be solved in several ways.

References
London Sport, (2017) Bigger and Better Workforce Review, August 2017. Available from: https://data.londonsport.org/dataset/vdkjm/bigger-and-better-workforce-review.

Sport England, (2017) Working in an Active Nation: a Professional Workforce Strategy for England. Available from: https://sportengland-production-files.s3.eu-west-2.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/working-in-an-active-nation-10-1.pdf

The Authors
Ben Oakley and OU colleagues, have developed online CPD provision for those who develop coaches along with resources for other groups.

Steve Mitchell
sits on an Active Partnership board and holds various Directorships across skills and training.

A level playing field – Should Transgender athletes be allowed to compete in the category that matches their gender identity in the 2020 Olympics?

By  Rachael Pugh, Hannah Lake, Sula Douglas, Daniel Breacher and Ryan Williams (E119 19J Students)


This blog was written as part of a collaborative team work task by students studying E119. They had to select a topic and then decide on what roles each person would perform in the team, such as researcher, writer, editor and leader. This blog was chosen as one of the best blogs from around 80 blogs that were produced.


 

The participation of transgender athletes in Olympic competition raises issues not just about sport regulations but of society’s overall attitudes to gender. The whole subject of transgender people can still be divisive and misunderstood in our society. Many people have limited or no contact with transgender people, this can cloud their judgement leading to fear and rumours. From anger over which bathroom people can use, to which clothing a child gets to wear, it is a contentious subject. Transgender participation in sport is a complex issue and may well become more so in the future with the rise of gender neutrality. Sport has long had issues of discrimination and many sports’ governing bodies are working hard to provide fairness and reduce discrimination. Sport in general and the International Olympic Committee in particular, needs to find a way to make participation fair for everyone; transgender athletes as well as cisgender athletes.

One of the main points involved in this discussion is providing equality and equal opportunity for everyone. By excluding transgender athletes from participating in high level events such as the Olympics, we are not promoting equal opportunity. When looking at transgender participation not only high-level athletes need to be considered. Young people often look to athletes as role models. One role model is Laurel Hubbard, a transgender weightlifter, who transitioned from male to female.  After her transition, she went on to successfully compete in the commonwealth games, achieving a record breaking performance in the women’s weightlifting category (Brown, 2018). Kristi Miller, a transgender athlete and activist stated, “Hopefully Laurel’s given some hope to some young trans kid sitting around the world” (Davidson, 2018). Having visible transgender role models for young transgender people is very important – it gives the young people someone to look up to and as a consequence, helps to promote participation in sport for everyone.

However, Laurel’s wins and participation have created some controversy amongst other female competitors and their coaches. Jerry Wallwork, Head Coach for the Samoa weightlifting team said, “A man is a man and a woman is a woman and I know a lot of changes have gone through, but in the past Laurel Hubbard used to be a male champion weightlifter” (Davidson, 2018). Wallwork’s comments illustrate the issue of how gender is viewed in society and how often transgender people are not accepted. If more transgender athletes were allowed to compete – this would result in society being exposed to more transgender people in the media.  This exposure would allow them to become more accepted and allow young transgender people to be inspired and participate in sport.

Conversely, there is the issue of fairness for female athletes – how being transgender may give athletes an advantage over other female competitors particularly in the case of Laurel Hubbard who used to compete as a male weightlifter.  “The athletic advantage that Hubbard herself gleaned suggests as much. As a man, the Kiwi scarcely registered in the sport at international level. Today, as a woman, she is a world-beater,” (Brown, 2018).

Currently athletes who have transitioned from female to male can compete without restriction (BBC, 2019). However, for an athlete who has transitioned from male to female it is much more difficult. This is mainly because officials are trying to make it fair for all the female cisgender competitors and there are many physiological differences between males and females. These physiological differences are why we have separate male and female categories in sport in the first place. On average women have two thirds the strength of men, have smaller bones and a lower oxygen carrying capacity (Latham, 2018). The benefits of these physiological differences mean that men are usually stronger, faster and bigger. Not all of these physiological differences can be managed in the medical transitional process, therefore some of the advantages of being born male, remain in the transgender athlete.

When examining the difference between male and female bodies the issue of testosterone is often discussed. In order for a transgender athlete to compete as a female the IOC guideline from 2015 states “the total testosterone level in serum must be kept below ten nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months” (Ingle, 2019) however this is controversial as “women’s testosterone levels tend to range between 0.12 and 1.79 nmol/l, while men’s are typically between 7.7 to 29.4 nmol/l.” (Ingle, 2019). This means that transgender athletes, even those following the IOC Guidelines, could have testosterone levels up to 5 times higher than most female athletes. Higher levels of testosterone increase muscle mass and reduce fatigue both of which are important when competing at a high level of sport (Pietrangelo, 2016).

Many high profile athletes feel passionately about the potential damage to female sport when transgender athletes compete. Sharon Davies, the internationally renowned and celebrated swimmer, said ““I believe there is a fundamental difference between the binary sex you are born with and the gender you may identify as. To protect women’s sport, those with a male sex advantage should not be able to compete in women’s sport.” (Ingle, 2020). These higher levels of testosterone and other physiological advantages mean that cisgender women could have a disadvantage when competing against transgender women.

To conclude, on the one hand society now recognises peoples’ right to change gender however it is very difficult to create a level playing field in some areas and competitive sport is very much one of these. The question of how transgender people compete in Olympic events raises issues of equality of opportunity and fairness of competition. The sports’ governing bodies are attempting to address the issues of physical fairness through regulation but this is not a straight forward process. Scientific development may be ahead of society’s ability to regulate for its consequences in this area. Given the diversity of genders and people in our society this may be an area for adapting and compromising in 2020 and beyond.

 

REFERENCES

Davidson, H (2018) Transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard’s eligibility under scrutiny (Online) The Guardian. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2018/apr/09/transgender-weightlifter-laurel-hubbards-eligibility-under-scrutiny (Accessed 28 January 2020)

Latham, A (2018). Physiological difference between male and female athletes. (online). (last updated 28 June 2018). Available at: https://work.chron.com/physiological-differences-between-male-female-athletes-20627.html (Accessed 27 January 2020)

Pietrangelo, A (2016) How testosterone benefits your body (Online)  Healthline. Available at https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-testosterone (Accessed 29 January 2020)

Brown, O (2018). Transgender weightlifter under strain: Laurel Hubbard’s exit may be blessing in disguise as eligibility debate rages (Online) The Telegraph. Available at https://www.telegraph.co.uk/weightlifting/2018/04/09/transgender-weightlifter-strain-laurel-hubbards-exit-may-blessing/ (Accessed 29 Jan, 2020)

Ingle, S. (2019). IOC delays new transgender guidelines after scientists fail to agree. [online] The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2019/sep/24/ioc-delays-new-transgender-guidelines-2020-olympics [Accessed 28 January 2020].

Eliud Kipchoge: Breaking Barriers

By Sean Byrne, Sam Cross, Anthony Delaney, Ashley Groombridge, Katie Hickson, Louis Hunter (E119 19J Students)


This blog was written as part of a collaborative team work task by students studying E119. They had to select a topic and then decide on what roles each person would perform in the team, such as researcher, writer, editor and leader. This blog was chosen as one of the best blogs from around 80 blogs that were produced.


 

 On the 12th October 2019, Eliud Kipchoge, the current marathon world record holder, became the first person to run the marathon distance under two hours (1.59.40). This incredible accomplishment has been hailed as one of the most monumental milestones in running history, alongside Sir Roger Bannister’s sub 4-minute mile and Usain Bolt’s 9.58 100 metre sprint world record.

So how did he achieve this remarkable feat? Natural talent, dedication and a gruelling training programme, with 140 miles per week, are the understandable foundations of success. Indubitably, the support from an assembled team of skilled coaches, physiotherapists, physiologists and nutritionists overseeing his training, physiological testing, hydration and nutrition strategies (INEOS159challenge , 2019) contributed immensely but what specifically turned his previous failings at the Nike Breaking2 Project, into triumph?

Course selection

The Pater, Vienna, Austria was selected as the perfect location. As one would expect, the route was carefully chosen to eliminate any directional or incline changes to maximise the runners’ economy but Team INEOS’ analysis didn’t stop there. They also considered the altitude and climate; low temperatures (around ten degrees Celsius is considered the benchmark) and low humidity is conducive to running a fast marathon due to the body working harder to regulate its temperature in hot conditions (Sharkey & Gaskill, 2013). It is also believed that running shoes lose grip during humid conditions. (INOES159challenge, 2019). The location also had to be at low altitude, even though Kipchoge lives and trains at high altitude (2400m), science suggests preparing at altitude enables the body to be better conditioned (Fudge, et al., 2018) and racing at a lower altitude whilst acclimated to high altitude will see an increase in performance (Fudge, et al., 2018)The final factor in choosing the location was the time zone difference, Vienna is just one hour behind Eliud’s home time zone- which means his sleeping, eating and training patterns would be minimally affected.

Hydration and Nutrition

 As anticipated, running a marathon requires an enormous amount of energy, this energy is provided by fat and carbohydrates, metabolised aerobically. Fat is supplied from the muscle triglyceride and plasma free fatty acids (FFA), that are mobilised from adipose tissue and transported to the muscles by the circulation (Sharkey & Gaskill, 2013).  Fat is the most abundant source of available energy – enough to fuel muscles to run hundreds of miles but it is slow to break down (Wright, 2018), therefore, as the intensity level increases so does the carbohydrate usage, becoming predominant at high levels of intensity (Sharkey & Gaskill, 2013) i.e. running a marathon at pace.  Carbohydrate is available as glucose in the bloodstream and is also stored in skeletal muscles and the liver as glycogen (Girard Eberle, 2014). Kipchoge’s carbohydrates were topped up during the race by consuming sports drinks and energy gels produced by Maurten (Maurten, 2019).

Rehydrating during the marathon is crucial, dehydration in excess of five per cent of an athlete’s bodyweight results in a decrease in strength, endurance and work capacity (Sharkey & Gaskill, 2013). The ASCM et al. (2016) state that even though exact sweat rates vary from athlete to athlete, most athletes partaking in exercise will require an intake of 0.4 – 0.8 litres of water every hour. Kipchoge rehydrated by drinking Maurten sports drinks, a benefit of consuming a sports drink over water, is that sports drinks contain electrolytes including sodium and potassium – minerals that are crucial for the control of the flow of water in and out of cells and are vital to ensure fluid retention. Furthermore, research has shown that isotonic drinks can be absorbed faster than water alone (Wright, 2018).

Pacemakers

Sir Roger Bannister’s name is entrenched in running history, his exploit legendary yet he couldn’t have achieved the remarkable feat without being paced by friends and teammates. Eliud Kipchoge also enlisted the help of teammates, forty-one of the world’s best middle and long-distance runners to be precise (INEOS159challenge, 2019). These runners rotated at the end of each six-mile lap, followed an electric car with adapted cruise control for greater accuracy. The car projected a laser beam onto the road to keep the runners on the required pace. After extensive aerodynamic research conducted at TU Eindhoven, the pacemakers ran in a reversed V shape, with two runners running behind him, this led to a 85% reduction in air resistance (Eindhoven University of Technology, 2019).

The controversial running shoes

Nike created a bespoke, improved version of their previous Vaporfly Next% running shoes – the AlphaFLY. The AlphaFLY have four chambers containing pressurised fluid, three carbon plates and ZoomX – a lightweight foam, providing cushioning (Roe, 2019). Nike claim the shoes improve running economy by four percent and this claim has been verified by an independent study (Barnes & Kilding, 2019). A variation of the shoe has been worn by the top 10 finishers in the mens’ race at the Chicago Marathon, the following day. In addition, Brigid Kosgei, who broke Paula Radcliffe’s long standing women’s marathon world record in Chicago, also wore the shoe. Subsequently, a group of athletes complained to the IAAF about the shoes, prompting them to establish a working group to analysis the issue.

Spectators

After evaluating the Breaking2 Project’s failed attempt at Monza Racetrack, Italy, Kipchoge bemoaned the lack of spectators to support his phenomenal effort. Positive support from spectators can lead to increased performance (Lavellee, et al., 2012). During his attempt at the INEOS 1:59 Challenge, the route was lined by masses of supporters cheering him to greatness.

Unfortunately, his Herculean effort is not recognised as a marathon world record by the IAAF, due to the delivery of hydration and nutrition by bicycle, lack of open competition and rotating world class runners, working as pacemakers (BBC, 2019) but now the barrier has been broken, it’s only a matter of time before an athlete runs sub two hours during a race.

References

American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), 2016. American Dietetic Association (ADA) and Dieticians of Canada (DC) (2016) Joint Position Statement, ‘Nutrition and athletic performance. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 48(3), p. 543–568.

Barnes, K. R. & Kilding, A. E., 2019. A Randomized Crossover Study Investigating the Running Economy of Highly-Trained Male and Female Distance Runners in Marathon Racing Shoes versus Track Spikes., Bethesda MD: National Center for Biotechnology Information.

BBC, 2019. Eliud Kipchoge breaks two-hour marathon mark by 20 seconds. [Online]
Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/athletics/50025543
[Accessed 27 January 2020].

Eindhoven University of Technology, 2019. TU/e wind tunnel helped break the marathon’s two-hour barrier. [Online]
Available at: https://www.tue.nl/en/news/news-overview/tue-wind-tunnel-helped-break-the-marathons-two-hour-barrier/#top [Accessed 27 January 2020].

Fudge, B., Pringle, J., Maxwell, N. & Richardson, A., 2018. Altitude training in endurance running: perceptions of elite athletes and support staff. Journal of Sports Sciences, 37(2), pp. 163-172.

INEOS159challenge , 2019. Eluid’s Team. [Online]
Available at: https://www.ineos159challenge.com/team/eliuds-team/
[Accessed 26 January 2020].

INEOS159challenge, 2019. Pacemakers. [Online]
Available at: https://www.ineos159challenge.com/team/pacemakers/
[Accessed 26 January 2020].

INOES159challenge, 2019. Why Vienna proved to be the outstanding candidate to host the Ineos 1:59 Challenge?. [Online]
Available at: https://www.ineos159challenge.com/news/why-vienna-proved-to-be-the-outstanding-candidate-to-host-the-ineos-1-59-challenge/
[Accessed 27 January 2020].

Lavellee, D., Kremer, J., Moran, A. & Williams, M., 2012. Sport Psychology: Contemporary Themes. 2nd ed. London: Red Globe Press.

Maurten, 2019. SHOP SPORTS FUEL. [Online]
Available at: https://www.maurten.com/products/gb
[Accessed 27 January 202].

Roe, D., 2019. Everything We Know About Eliud Kipchoge’s Barrier Breaking Shoes. [Online]
Available at: https://www.runnersworld.com/gear/a29447426/eliud-kipchoge-shoes/
[Accessed 27 January 2020].

Sharkey, B. J. & Gaskill, S. E., 2013. Fitness & Health. 7th ed. Champaign: Human Kinetics.

Wright, N., 2018. Unit 29 How nutrition fuels the athlete’s body. [Online]
Available at: https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=1287358
(Accessed 18 May 2019).

 

Can surfing improve mental health?

By Chris Bodell, Jennifer Brand, Archie Collins, Paul Downing, Charlie Edwards and Clare Elliott (E119 19J Students)


This blog was written as part of a collaborative team work task by students studying E119. They had to select a topic and then decide on what roles each person would perform in the team, such as researcher, writer, editor and leader. This blog was chosen as one of the best blogs from around 80 blogs that were produced.


So, can surfing help improve our mental health? Let’s take a look and see how it turned
Jessica Cox’s’ life around.

Jessica Cox revealed in an interview with the BBC (2018) that she had suffered from numerous mental health issues throughout her life including anxiety, family bereavement, post- natal depression and bullying. She explains that she got in with the wrong crowd from an early age of 11, leading to drug and alcohol issues.”I would absolutely say I was at a turning point where if I had got in one more bit of trouble at school I would have been expelled; if I had got arrested one more time I would have got taken into juvenile prison.” (BBC, 2018)

Jessica says the sea saved her and has turned her life around. Jessica sourced a board and
wetsuit and began surfing, “You feel afterwards the feelings of vibrancy and life; it is
unexplainable. You’re just at one with nature, and nature never judges you” (BBC, 2018).
Jessica went on to gain qualifications to teach people to surf, spreading her love of surfing.
“You can feel tired of life and all the things that are going on, and you get into the water and
it literally washes the anxiety away… you feel this release,” (BBC 2018).

Seeing first-hand the positive effects the sea and surfing can have on the mind, mixing the
calming nature of the ocean with the physiological benefits of surfing, Jessica took her
experiences and knowledge and founded Sirens. Sirens offers surfing lessons and retreats to
women of all ages and abilities. They work with other charities to reach out to vulnerable
women and organise community events aimed at people suffering with mental health
conditions, it allows people to get involved in yoga and even learn how to surf. Sirens is a nonprofit organisation meaning that any profits made go back into the company, making them
able to offer their services to disadvantaged or vulnerable women and girls.

You can find out more about Jessica’s own journey, along with her journey helping others by
visiting: https://www.inspiresirens.org/

There are many examples on how mixing the benefits of the physical activity of surfing and
being in the ocean are having positive effects on a person’s mental wellbeing!
The Wave Project is a community interest company that aims to change young people’s lives
through surfing, it started as a NHS funded project where 20 young people, diagnosed with a
range of mental health disorders, met on the beach for a surfing lesson. After surfing
participants felt less angry, calmer and more connected with one another. One person who
had been diagnosed with selective mutism even began speaking freely again! The wave
project has over 900 volunteers and has joined 6 other surf therapy programmes around the
world to form the International Surf Therapy Organisation (ISTO)! (Waveproject, 2020).
An initiative called Blue Health analysed 35 scientific studies of how blue spaces, i.e. ocean,
lakes etc, benefit our health and wellbeing. They found that interaction with blue spaces has
a positive effect on mental health, especially reducing stress.

One study that blue health completed involved using technology to bring 360-degree videos
using a virtual reality headset to those where natural blue spaces were inaccessible. This
technology was also able benefit elderly or disabled people or those with certain medical
conditions (Bluehealth, 2020).

The Blue Mind Theory explains the mildly meditative state we enter when we are in, near or
under water, comparative to the Red mind state which describes our state of mind while
suffering from mental health problems. Scientists are evaluating the physical and
“Siren’s aim to offer a supportive, all female environment where you can be inspired by your own abilities, other women, and the environment that surrounds us.” (sirens, 2017).

When researching the psychological effects of water, they found that being by the coast leads to an improved sense of physical health and well-being. Livni (2018) states that “contact with the water induces the meditative state that makes us happier, healthier, calmer, more creative and
more capable of awe”.

“The idea water is medicine will be mainstream within 10 years” (Nicholls, W. 2015).

Surfertoday, a surfing magazine is aimed at current and prospective surfers and promotes the
health and physiological benefits of surfing, but may well be biased. But as we can see earlier
in the blog, there is research and real-life evidence showing: –
“Surfing not only improves your physical fitness, but it also clears your mind and acts as an
emotional stabilizer. Its Zen effect soothes the mind and balances your emotion’s. Those who
actively engage in surfing, know that it reduces stress, boosts our mood, and even helps us
overcome loss nor grief.” (Surfertoday, 2020).

For more information about how surfing can improve your mental health, visit Surfertoday’s
article at: https://www.surfertoday.com/surfing/how-surfing-improves-your-mental-health

Competing in Saudi Arabia: A Moral Controversy

By Lucy Kafourous-Smith, Daniel Morrison, Sam Hughes, Kyle Murray, Sean Gilfillan, Rebecca Murphy and Sam Hughes-Finn (E119 19J Students)


This blog was written as part of a collaborative team work task by students studying E119. They had to select a topic and then decide on what roles each person would perform in the team, such as researcher, writer, editor and leader. This blog was chosen as one of the best blogs from around 80 blogs that were produced.


 

Vision 2030: Saudi Arabia’s ambitious, pervasive overhaul of its economy and society put into motion since 2016. It paints a picture of a nation keen to refurbish its global image and integrate itself with the western world – no small feat considering its historical rejection of western culture, and strict implementation of Islamic laws and values. Aggressive investment into sport has particularly attracted mass media interest as the nation strikes deals for world-class events, such as the boxing rematch of Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr held in December 2019, the European Tour for golf, as well as F1 gearing up for Saudi participation in the coming years. The speed at which entirely new venues are being constructed for these events, also reflects the extent of this ambition. Construction of the Diriyah arena for Joshua v Ruiz began a mere two months before the fight.

However, the kingdom’s political track record has roused many sceptics and caused a controversial backlash. Sporting organisations and athletes are facing waves of scrutiny, often being accused of supporting the ambitions of a nation that has an extensive list of human rights abuses under its belt. Human rights group Amnesty International (2019) describes such acts including – but not limited to – repressing government critics, and human rights campaigners with prison sentences; extensive use of the death penalty and state-imposed torture for conduct that isn’t recognised as crime under international law; and continued discrimination against women, LGBTI groups, and the Shi’a Muslim minority. Not to forget the widely reported murder of Arabian journalist Jamal Kashoggi in Istanbul back in 2018, for which the Saudi government were held responsible (Aljazerra News, 2019). Amnesty’s critique resulted in them coining the term ‘sportswashing’ to describe the perceived attempt to use high-profile sport to furnish over these offences. Despite that, purely focusing on historical events would limit the chance of successful future sporting events, and any positive cultural change, however uncomfortable the decision may be.

Prior to his fight, Anthony Joshua was interviewed on the decision to fight in Saudi Arabia, where he simply stated: “My only focus is just the boxing”, but incited scrutiny by commenting that “the country is trying to do a good job politically”(BBC 2019). It would seem he desires to stay politically neutral and is happy to fight and promote his sport wherever it may take him. However, when asked about the possibility of ‘sportswashing’, he replied: “…I would be bothered” (BBC, 2019). He also admits that the decision to fight in Saudi Arabia was a collective one taken by his organizers, as well as his promotor, Eddie Hearn, admitting that the choice to fight there was primarily motivated by the sizable financial offer, leading many to believe that he is being manipulated by money.

Conversely, golfing superstars Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods opted out of participating in the Saudi-hosted European Tour, but state that their decision was not politically influenced. Despite this, McIlroy commented that: “…there’s a morality to it as well” (The Guardian, 2019) but makes the interesting point that there are other countries with political stains where these events are held. Woods notably defended golf’s participation in Saudi Arabia by saying: “I understand the politics behind it but also golf can help heal a lot of that too” (Gray, 2019). Interestingly, Woods turned down a $3m appearance fee offer (Gray, 2019), and McIlroy refused to deny that a similar offer of $2.5m was made to him (The Guardian, 2019), causing many to raise sceptical eyebrows at the copious financial offers in place to persuade key players to simply participate.

In football, the Spanish Super Cup has gone as far as significantly changing its format for the foreseeable future as it holds its next innings in Saudi Arabia. Moving from a 2-team to a 4-team line-up and holding the event in January instead of the pre-season Summer, caused a stir. Yet again, the main motivation for such a shift is believed to be the amount of money flowing. As stated by the BBC (2020) the Spanish media reported a yearly worth of 40m euros. Despite Barcelona benefitting from a 6m-euro cash-in, the team’s coach, Ernesto Valverde, expressed discontent as he preferred the old format from a sporting point of view, and affirms that the 6m offer was the deciding factor for the change (BBC, 2020). However, this deal came with the condition that women were allowed to attend the event – an intriguing outcome from a country that has typically segregated women. Similarly, the Italian Suppercoppa showed positive developments, by allowing women to enter the stadium, albeit form the family enclosures only (Burnton, 2019). But this move signalled the start of culture change, which would allow women the same rights as men, even if it is for a 90-minute game of football.

Formula 1 also has its sights set with a $50m per year Grand Prix deal on the table which could kick off as early as 2021, with a purpose-built circuit being constructed for 2022 (Benson, 2020). Mcevoy (2020) identifies The Grand Prix event is no stranger to countries with unfavourable human rights records as it has previously been hosted by the likes of Abu Dhabi, Russia, and China, but it attempts to deflect criticism by insisting that it is politically neutral. Part of the “vision 2030” plan includes Saudi Arabia holding the desert round of the new Extreme E championships -electric off-road SUV (Auto sport 2019). Criticism to holding it here is defended by its founder, Alejandro Agag, who supports the positive changes occurring in Saudi Arabia, and how it can help strengthen the sporting pillar of vison 2030.

With a variety of perspectives to consider, we may justifiably ponder if the Saudi government is heart-felt in redeeming itself from past mistakes, or if they are leveraging their great wealth to simply ‘gloss over’ its most fundamental flaws. Regarding the athletes themselves, do we judge them as aiding a possibly dishonest regime change, or do we praise them for attempting to bring positivity, and culture to a troubled country?

Reference list

Aljazerra News (2019) ‘Khashoggi’s murder: one year on, here’s what we know’, Aljazerra, 1 October [Blog]. Available at https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/09/year-jamal-khashoggi-murder-190930100740798.html (Accessed 6 January 2020).

Amnesty International (2018) Saudi Arabia 2018 [online]. Available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/middle-east-and-north-africa/saudi-arabia/report-saudi-arabia/ (Accessed on 6 January 2020).

BBC (2019) ‘Joshua v Ruiz II: Anthony Joshua responds to ‘sportswashing” Saudi human rights claims’, BBC, 5 December [Blog]. Available at https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/boxing/50633807 (Accessed 7 January 2020).

BBC (2019) ‘Joshua v Ruiz II: 15,000-seat Diriyah Arena venue revealed’, BBC, 26 November [Blog]. Available at https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/boxing/50557116 (Accessed 8 January 2020).

BBC (2019) ‘Spanish Super Cup – who, why and where?’, BBC, 8 January, [Blog]. Available at https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/51013150 (Accessed 8 January 2020).

BBC (2019) ‘Spanish Super Cup: We are in Saudi Arabia because of money, says Barcelona boss Valverde’, BBC 8 January, [Blog]. Available at https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/51042079 (Accessed 8 January 2020).

Benson, A. (2020) BBC [online]. Available at https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/formula1/51137520 (Accessed 17 January 2020).

Burnton, S. (2019) The Guardian [online]. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/football/2019/jan/13/supercoppa-controversy-rages-saudi-arabia-treatment-women-jamal-khashoggi (Accessed 16 January 2020).

Grey, W. (2019) Golf channel [online]. Available at https://www.golfchannel.com/news/report-tiger-woods-turned-down-appearance-fee-saudi-arabia-event (Accessed 7 January 2020).

Kalinauckas, A. (2019) Auto Sport [online]. Available at https://www.autosport.com/fe/news/146900/saudi-arabia-to-host-extreme-e-desert-round (Accessed 28 January 2020).

Mcevoy, J. (2020) Daily Mail [online]. Available at https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/sportsnews/article-7882935/F1-poised-join-Saudi-sportswash-50m-year-deal-table.html (Accessed 16 January 2020).

Ordonez, V. (2019) ABC News [online]. Available at https://abcnews.go.com/International/clash-dunes-saudi-arabia-fights-overcome-criticism-controversy/story?id=67562255 (Accessed 28 December 2019).

PA Media (2019) The Guardian [online]. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2019/dec/10/rory-mcilroy-says-morality-played-part-turning-down-saudi-arabia-event-golf (Accessed 3 January 2020).

Saudi Gazette (2014) Al Arabia[online]. Available at http://english.alarabiya.net/en/perspective/features/2016/04/26/Full-text-of-Saudi-Arabia-s-Vision-2030.html (Accessed 8 January 2020).

Meet some of our inspiring honorary graduates

Over the last few years we have been privileged to have a number of honorary graduates from the world of sport join #TeamOUsport

We thought it would be nice to share their inspirational words with you in the videos below.

Tony Wright, Milton Keynes Degree Ceremony, 1st November 2019

Judy Murray, Glasgow Degree Ceremony, 27th September 2019

Paul Sinton-Hewitt, 21st September 2019

Dame Sarah Storey, Manchester Degree Ceremony, 5th October 2018

Dame Katherine Grainger, London Degree Ceremony, Friday 21st September 2018