Interview, Sport

Interview with UEA Sport’s James Raywood

What is your role at UEA?

Student Sport Operations Manager

What are your ambitions for UEA Sport this academic year?

We are looking forward to a ‘normal’ year in terms of sport and physical activity where the lifting of covid restrictions should allow a full programme to take place. We are excited to reinstate our Active Campus programme of physical activity, wellbeing, and participative sport, with some new additions such as the Quest app, Equipment hub hire service, Inclusive sport ,and dedicated post-grad sport programme. We also look forward to welcoming back our 57 student-run sports clubs who will open their doors to all students regardless of ability and are a great place to meet new friends and have the chance to represent the UEA in competitive sport.  

What achievements related to UEA Sport are you most proud of?

We have been successful in recent years in receiving some national awards from BUCS (the governing body for HE sport), namely the Participation Programme of the Year, Physical Activity Excellence Award and Workforce Programme of the Year, for our Volunteer Academy programme. I’m also very proud of the department for our response to covid and how we worked with the student body to offer a comprehensive programme of remote and virtual activities to keep people engaged and active during the last 18 months.

What are the potential challenges that you see for UEA Sport going forward?

I see the main challenge for the year ahead around students having the confidence to commit and engage in actual in-person activities again after being restricted for so long. There are of course lots of options for people to get active by themselves, but there are lots of benefits from doing things in groups, especially for students looking to build new friendships and social networks.  

How would you encourage students to become more involved in UEA Sport?

Take a look at our website (www.ueasport.co.uk) – we have something for everyone regardless of their experience, ability level or confidence with sport. To name only a few…you can get points for every step you take through our UEA+Moves app which you can redeem for prizes such as coffees on campus; go for a dog walk every Wednesday afternoon; explore the Norfolk countryside on our day trips; or compete against other schools of study through our Ziggurat Challenge.

How can UEA Sport be more inclusive?

Inclusivity is something we take very seriously and work closely with our sports club committees to ensure that every club is as inclusive as possible. All of our Active Campus programmes are open to everyone, and we now have the staff expertise to launch a dedicated inclusive sports programme which will be coming soon. We would encourage any questions or concerns about inclusivity of any of our programmes to be directed to studentsport@uea.ac.uk so we can assist as necessary.

For those new to university sport, can you explain what BUCS is?

BUCS stands for British Universities and Colleges Sport and is the National Governing Body for FE and HE sport. Most of our sports clubs compete in BUCS leagues and competition against other institutions, and BUCS also provide support and guidance for other elements of student sport and physical activity.  

What are the benefits that you see in being involved in sport in any way?

The benefits of being involved in physical activity and sport are huge and there is lots of research to back this up. The British Active Students Survey reports that those students achieve better grades,are more employable, have better physical and mental wellbeing, and are less socially isolated. We want every single UEA student to be active for these reasons.

What is your own sports background?

I have loved sport for as long as I can remember! After graduating from Brunel University with a degree in Sport Science, I have always worked in sport and physical activity, firstly as a gym instructor before then running my own personal training business. I then spent a few years as a PE teacher, before moving to the UEA almost 10 years ago and since have become the Head of Department of the amazing uea+sport team.

What is your earliest and/or favourite sporting memory?

One of my earliest sporting memories was scoring the winning goal in a primary school football competition (but that is a very long time ago), but some of my favourites over the years have been when working as a teacher, personal trainer or in my current role when helping people who are not traditionally ‘sporty’ gain confidence and happiness from being active and trying something new.  

Who are your sporting heroes and why?

As a Man United fan, one of my sporting heroes was Eric Cantona – I loved his swagger and the things he could do on a football pitch. Although for the record, I wouldn’t condone karate kicking a fan in the chest! I also admire Andy Murray – to achieve what he has in the current era of greats in men’s tennis is remarkable and his dedication to compete and come back after the injuries he has sustained is something we can all learn from!

If you could have competed at Olympic level in anything, which would be your dream sport?

My favourite sports to play are tennis and golf, so to win a grand slam or Olympic gold in either of those would be my dream! Sadly at 36, I think that ship may have sailed – luckily, I have two young children to now live vicariously through!


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14/09/2021

About Author

Oscar Ress



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