Bill Shankly did not get much wrong when managing Liverpool Football Club. One thing he did get drastically incorrect was his assertion that triumph in sport went above issues of mortality. This summer, a family and the community here at the University of St Andrews were reminded of the primacy of life when Steven Sims, aged only 23, a BSc (Hons) graduate in psychology passed away as a result of the blood disease, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura. Hearing about Steven and his life, there is no other way to describe his passing than as a tragedy.
Steven was widely lauded for his solo pipe band drumming exploits, reaching the world top ten at one stage, but in the arena of sport, Steven was passionately involved in rugby, becoming over time treasurer and captain of the University 1st XV. Even before arriving at University Steven displayed a keen passion for the sport, with his former Principal at Stewart’s Melville in Edinburgh, David Gray, told me of a young player with great drive and skill, along with an eye for a try and the odd conversion too. Speaking with Steven’s friend and teammate Sean Murchie, his legacy as a man and as a player is tangible; “He was an inspirational leader and a great talent. He was the one that I would always look up to both on and off the pitch – everything he did, I would try and emulate”. These qualities of leadership were also reflected upon by Stewart Coleman, another of Steven’s friends, who said that his ethos was simply that while he did not expect to win every time they played, but that the team would play to win no matter what. This infectious desire sums up one the basic principles of sport, that passion and a desire to enjoy yourself are the essential qualities that encourage so many people to take part. Sean spoke warmly on a victory that the team enjoyed against Aberdeen in 2011, where he asserts that without Steven’s guile, skill and leadership on the pitch, the side would have lost, while Stewart’s use of the words warrior sums up quite effectively that Steven was an essential member of the rugby team, as a player and evidently as an inspiration.
The illness which took Steven, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, or ITP for short is a particularly cruel disease, affecting only a fraction of the population according to some studies. It causes the immune system to destroy platelets, which are essential to allowing blood to clot. There are treatments available for boosting the individual’s platelet count; however, the cause of ITP is unknown.
In the aftermath of Steven’s passing, it was decided that he would most be appropriately remembered through the medium of rugby, with donations being made to the well-established rugby charity, The Wooden Spoon, which since 1983 has sought to raise funds to help disadvantaged children across Britain and Ireland, with donations being used to support projects as diverse as minibuses to hydrotherapy pools, with no Their Honorary President, the former Scotland international Gavin Hastings said “Steven was clearly a young man who loved his rugby, and by implication he held true all the values that the great game espouses. I’m sure that he would have approved of all we seek to do to help others less fortunate than ourselves, and especially the way in which the rugby fraternity bonds together in fun and friendship to do so”. The University Community have rallied round this cause in the only way that they know, with wholehearted enthusiasm and dedication. The Tennis Club recently held an event with all proceeds going to the charity, with the proceeds from Sinners’ Sport also being donated. Any society or individual that is interested in getting involved with the charity should visit www.woodenspoon.com.
Despite not knowing Steven, by speaking to those who did, it is clear that he was an individual who has touched the lives of many people, not only via the medium of rugby where he was an inspiration and friend in equal measure, but as a person. If any good can ever come out of circumstances such as this, then it is that he has some legacy, and if that legacy is a charity connected to the sport that he loved being able to help disadvantaged children getting some hope and joy in their lives, that is a commendable legacy indeed.