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New year, new rules - the perspective of a student society president and the Covid-19 challenge

Updated: Oct 18, 2020

Unsplash - Coen van de Broek @ocen

My name is Morgan, Social Media and Marketing Assistant here at Neon Caffeine, and I am at the University of the West England (UWE) studying Economics. I've been presented with a new challenge for my final year, and I want to share it with you.

This academic year I have become the President of UWE's Cycling Club after being a member for three years. My final year as a member is going to be very different from the rest. Why? Because Covid-19.

The University is introducing new measures to ensure we study and live in a safe environment. This means the way in which our student society operates to tackle the Covid-19 challenge.

Here's my thoughts on what new improvements I am going to introduce to ensure our society offers a positive experience.

How is cycling and our society affected by Covid-19?

Cycling is very diverse as a sport and it has a variety of disciplines; road racing, mountain biking, cyclocross and time trials. As a club, we pride ourselves on being very personable and inclusive to people of all abilities.

Fortunately, participation in our sport can be undertaken independently, and still comply with the social distancing rules in place. However, we're suddenly faced with a challenge of how to recruit new members which is typically done face to face. Our biggest opportunity to recruit is at the freshers fair, this is where we typically sign up 30 new members, and we host our freshers ride. Typically we would go on a large group ride with two groups of 20 riders, this will now change.

Despite professional road cycling starting again as a club we have come to the conclusion that our rides will be reduced to a maximum of six people in order to remain safe. This is in line with British Cycling guidelines.

How we've been preparing for the new academic year

Throughout August, our students' union have been sending us regular updates that detail the changes to the freshers fair. It's going virtual this year.

This obviously brings along some challenges because typically freshers are curious and use the fair to decide on which clubs and societies to join. There's also the well-rooted expectation of the fair as part of becoming a new university student.

In the past, we would approach students at the fair, answer questions, and make our club stand out above the rest in the hope they sign up. Without face to face contact, we need to come up with new ways to stand out.

We don't see this challenge as completely negative, on the contrary, there is an upside, freshers are also shy and avoid talking to final year students. With our freshers fair online, those with less confidence can now avoid the awkward face to face interaction, and communicate with us online.

Additionally, our club had a Zoom meeting with the students' union to discuss how to safely return to the sport. Having this level of personal interaction with the centre for sport means that as a club we can be professional in the way we conduct our training sessions and team races. 

Introducing a new virtual cycling club

As a team, we have come up with a variety of ways to attract new members.

  1. Reduced membership fee Students are very sensitive to prices and joining three clubs during freshers week can add up! We will be significantly lowering our price to ensure all students can join in.

  2. Increased social media activity We will be constantly on social media. During lockdown using social media has meant that we have been able to communicate with our current members and prospective students about what the future holds. We'll be able to use our channels to post user generated content, and quickly communicate changes to Covid-19 rules at UWE.

  3. Apps Our main rule will be that everyone who joins the club has to use the track and trace app to join in with club rides. This ensures that our club members are safe and can be alerted if they have come in contact with someone who has contracted Covid-19. In addition to the track and trace app, our club will utilise Strava Clubs to display all our individual and group rides. This will help aid build a sense of community where we can share new rides and help new riders understand the best roads in Bristol. 

This new academic year is going to challenging but with the change, there is a chance to grow and prosper from these new adaptations. As a society member I believe that if the contact between the University and students is regularly updated and easy to understand, implementing a new Covid-19 safe system will succeed.

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