AU Presidential hopeful Jenny Ritchie has a vast sporting experience at St Andrews, representing both the swimming and hockey team; it is that experience which she believes will assist her in the position.
Having been first XI hockey captain this year, she believes she has the necessary leadership and communication skills to improve the sporting experience at the University.
One of her key ambitions is to improve the promotion of sport within St Andrews, which she hopes will lead to increased engagement from the student body. To do this, Ms Ritchie aims to “promote all clubs equally” and educate on the values of the AU. She also suggests more advocacy for fitness classes and gym sessions. In making these sessions more well-known, she also wants to upgrade the accessibility of the gym with a “buddy scheme,” where new members are paired with more experienced gym-goers to reduce anxieties and benefit gym experiences. Ms Ritchie also suggests increasing the scope of the Saints’ media team, possibly live-streaming events, which she hopes will create a culture that celebrates all sports clubs.
Live-streaming sports fixtures is a excellent means of increasing exposure, although there are logistical issues of covering all 60 clubs on which she does not elaborate. Likewise, whilst the buddy system is a commendable suggestion, it is unclear how this would be implemented.
Ms Ritchie’s experience with two different clubs is evident from emphasis on developing communication between herself, the AU, and individual clubs. She stresses that each club has varying needs, and to solve this, her door will always be open. She also seeks to develop this through meetings with heads of clubs throughout the year.
Being as transparent as possible in communications sounds fairly straightforward but it has been a problem for previous AU presidents. Ms Ritchie’s commitment to maintaining the early meetings could well see those issues alleviated.
Ms Ritchie wants to establish a working relationship with Student Services where struggling students are encouraged to do sport or attend the gym as an outlet. She also talks of creating an “established pathway” between the AU, student services and module coordinators so students can enjoy sporting commitments without any anxiety.
Creating a relationship with Student Services is a new idea and an encouraging when more students are struggling with mental health issues. However, missing classes for sport has been addressed in the past to little avail and it is not clear how she would approach this differently.
Ms Ritchie references the issue of kit, arguing the needs of every club should be considered at the end of the academic year. This would involve focus on those “niche and specialist sports” whose needs are often not met by the typical kit-providing packages.
Whilst focusing on specialist clubs is important to creating a collective sporting environment, no mention is made of how she would involve herself in the negotiation process with the kit providers themselves.
Ms Ritchie concludes her manifesto by discussing transportation, which has consistently been one of the most important issues for the AU President. As the AU now has a fleet of its own vehicles, she puts her emphasis on streamlining the booking process for transport to make it easier for clubs. Similarly, she also seeks to address issues of student safety by making the driving test easier to apply for and a less daunting experience.
Making the tests easier to take and streamlining the booking process are both commendable suggestions for making transport more accessible, but again there is not much clarity of exactly how she would go about implementing these measures.
Overall, Ms Ritchie’s manifesto may be a little lacking in concrete details but it is full of enthusiasm and provides a real vision for what she thinks sport should be in St Andrews. Her focus on the wellbeing of students is clear throughout and her experience of sport at this University puts her in good stead to improve the athletic experiences of fellow students.