Apr 09 2019

On Wednesday 27 March, many of our sports teams took part in our third annual Varsity event against the University of Surrey, at Surrey Sports Park. Dominic Newman, Sports Facilities Manager recently helped to organise our biggest sporting event of the academic year. 

1. Could you tell us about yourself and your role as Sports Facilities Manager?

I have been working for Royal Holloway since 2016 and am responsible for managing all the indoor and outdoor sports facilities on campus, including our recently refurbished gym and the new fitness studio in Jane Holloway Hall. During my career I’ve worked in local authority sports development, in the private sector of the leisure industry and have also spent a couple of years in visitor services at The National Gallery.

Having studied history here it has been hugely enjoyable to return to this beautiful campus and join the great team, including a number of other Royal Holloway graduates, currently working for Active Lifestyle and Sport. My role within the Active Lifestyle and Sports team has gradually evolved over the last year to focus more on physical activity participation, sports development, and sports performance, so if anyone wants to know more about the breadth of our department’s work, I can definitely help.

2. On Wednesday (27 March) our third annual Varsity against the University of Surrey took place. Could you tell us more about Varsity, and what goes into the preparation for the event?

Varsity matches are part of a long standing tradition within higher education sport and in 2017 we partnered with the University of Surrey to offer this great experience to Royal Holloway students. These matches can be run as a series but we aim to organise as many competitive events at the same venue on the same day as possible, alternating who hosts each year. On the Wednesday 27 March there were over 40 fixtures involving around 450 competitors, on top of that 150 supporters made the journey to support the Bears and take in the event’s festival atmosphere.

It’s not just about the traditional sports you’d normally expect, more and more societies are getting involved with groups like Chess, Ballroom & Latin, Gaming and Pole Fitness all now competing. One of my personal highlights was the all-important mascot race where our very own Colossus maintained an impressive 100%-win record.  

Our away Varsity with Surrey this year has only been possible due to a huge collaborative effort between the Students’ Union (SU) and Active Lifestyle & Sport. As ‘Royal Holloway Sport’ we have spent months working with our counterparts at Surrey, preparing fixtures, liaising with sports clubs and societies, finding solutions to hundreds of logistical challenges and preparing extensive communications campaigns. On the (very long) day we all did our best to ensure the event ran as smoothly as possible and that each sport was covered by our photographers and videographers across all of the SU and Royal Holloway Sport social media channels.   

Surrey have some great facilities and a strong sporting pedigree but despite a 25-12 loss we’re getting closer and closer to them every year and we very much look forward to welcoming them back to the home of the bears in 2020.

3. This year’s Varsity was another fantastic turnout from both universities. How does it feel to be involved in such a successful event?

We’re all very proud to see the continued growth and success of this event, some of the individual and team performances, against tough opposition, were incredible and very exciting to watch. The spirit in which the two universities have come together is credit to both sets of students and for some of them this year’s varsity would have been one of the best and most memorable days in their university life.

4. What events have you got planned for the summer term?

As well as running our biggest ever term three fitness class timetable, we are planning a number of other ‘stressbuster’ activities to help students and staff take a break during the exam period. Just before this year’s summer ball we are planning a Royal Holloway Sport recognition evening to celebrate the achievements of our sport scholars and volunteers, as well as thanking and welcoming all the outgoing and incoming club presidents. Finally, we will also be supporting our Hall Life colleagues in delivering pop up events to help celebrate the end of the academic year.

5. What do you enjoy most about working within the Active Lifestyle and Sports team?

We have built a very strong team over the last couple of years and every one of us strongly believes in what we’re trying to achieve. I enjoy the feeling that we’re all making a real difference to the student experience on a daily basis and that there’s a lot more to come from us as a group in the near future!

6. If you could challenge any sports star to a match in the sport they are famous for, who would you choose and why?

As a lifelong Arsenal fan, and a one-time ok footballer, I’d like to take a couple of penalties against our 2003/04 ‘invincible’ goalkeeper Jens Lehmann. He was quite an eccentric character (his autobiography is called ‘the madness is on the pitch’), so I’m not sure I’d celebrate too much if I scored.   

7. Who is you favourite sporting personality and why?

It has to be Jessica Ennis-Hill. I started my career as an athletics coach and having watched my sister compete against Jessica in a few British championships I’ve always kept a close eye on her progress and achievements. I’ve seen first-hand the dedication and hard work it takes to master all seven heptathlon events and how tough it is to peak at exactly the right moment. What really stands out for me is the mental strength she displayed to handle the enormous pressure of being the face of the London Olympics, and that she did so while remaining one of the nicest people you could wish to meet. My sister and I were lucky enough to get tickets to witness her greatest success in 2012, it was a special shared moment and an atmosphere I will never forget.