We talk to two University of Stirling sports graduates, Catherine Kerr and Amy Beattie, who were instrumental in creating the University’s #BeConnected event programme, which launched during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Catherine Kerr completed her BSc (Hons) Sport and Exercise Science in 2014, and currently serves as a Senior Fitness Officer at the University of Stirling. Amy Beattie completed her BA (Hons) Sports Studies in 2012, and is now a Student Sport Experience Officer at Stirling.
What brought you to Stirling?
Catherine: I’m originally from Leicestershire, so the thought of going on an adventure and living away from home is what drew me to Stirling. That, coupled with Stirling’s reputation for sport and the campus environment, made it a firm decision for me. I have family roots in Scotland. My grandma was from Edinburgh, so really it’s come full circle in that the family is back up in Scotland!
Amy: As Stirling was, and still is, the place to be for studying and getting involved with sport, Stirling was always my number one choice. After visiting the campus, I was blown away with how beautiful it was, and knew that Stirling was where I wanted to be for my university experience.
What was it like to go from studying at Stirling to working here?
Catherine: Before I came to Stirling, sport and staying active were a passion of mine, and I have a firm interest in biology – this inspired me to start my degree in Sports and Exercise Science.
My working life at Stirling first started during my 2nd year of studying. I applied for a position as a part-time Sports Assistant, and I continued to work in this role and as a receptionist right up until I graduated. After graduating in 2014, I must admit that I was slightly lost as to what I wanted to do next. But I’m glad I stayed and continued to gain invaluable experience working at the sports centre.
I was considering a Masters, so I volunteered with the School of Health Sciences and Sport to help collect data in the labs. I was soon seconded into an administration role, which I did alongside studying for my Gym Instructor and Personal Trainer qualifications. I learned an incredible amount about higher education sport and fitness during this time, which further pushed me to advocate for fitness, wellness and all the amazing benefits being active brings.
An opportunity came up to work part-time as a Fitness Officer whilst completing a Masters degree. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful in getting this position, but I don’t regret how things worked out in the slightest. My resilience and patience paid off later down the line, and I was successful when I applied for the position of full-time Fitness Officer. Not long after starting in this role, I was promoted to Senior Fitness Officer and have since played a key role in the development of the University’s fitness offering, and designed the brand new fitness suite and strength and conditioning that has recently opened.
Amy: After graduating in 2012 with a BA (Hons) in Sports Studies, I decided that I wanted to combine my passion for sport and travel. After working within an American summer camp as a Watersports Leader, I eventually secured a job as Sports Staff onboard Royal Caribbean International Cruise Ships, which I fulfilled for three years. I was also given the opportunity to be one of the first staff to be trained as an Indoor Skydiving Instructor. With these skills, I later took a position with Indoor Skydiving Australia, moving to the Gold Coast for a year.
After a great experience living in Australia, I made a move back to the cruise ships before deciding to return to Scotland. I made this decision as a back injury was hindering my enjoyment and ability to carry on instructing. I also had the desire to seek a career in sport where I could make a real difference to others and wanted to rekindle my passion for student sport.
Outside of work, what are your favourite sports?
Catherine: I’ve always loved athletics, and the multidiscipline aspect of the different events – I used to compete when I was younger. Sprint, triple jump and long jump were my favourites. I’ve also played football, rugby and done a bit of sailing.
Amy: I’m a bit of a sport fanatic, as you can tell. I’m into most sports. Football, surfing, mountain biking, snowboarding, tennis and F1 are my favourites.
How did #BeConnected come about, and what was it like to be involved in?
Catherine: Just before the first lockdown happened in March, the fitness team and I were thinking of ways in which we could help the University community stay engaged in physical activity. With the prevalence of a global pandemic, it was apparent that it was even more important for people to look after their health and wellbeing!
We began initial discussions about moving our fitness provision online through a mixture of social media posts and live online classes. It was a monumental effort from everyone involved to move to an online world. As we designed our virtual offering we were approached by Student Support Services to contribute to the #BeConnected programme, which focuses on the five ways to wellbeing including Be Active.
It has been an incredible campaign in which to be involved and something I’m very proud of. I’ve learned so much by adapting our usual ways of working. Witnessing first-hand how much of a positive impact the programme has had on hundreds, if not thousands of people, has been extremely fulfilling.
Amy: #BeConnected was a collective effort across University services and departments to ensure our staff and students had opportunities to connect via a programme of online events during the initial lockdown from March. It was great to assist our fitness team with any support that was needed to ensure that we could provide an opportunity for our staff, students and community to stay active during such a difficult time. It was rewarding to witness the benefits that our classes were having throughout the University community.
Who do you find inspirational – in sports or in life?
Catherine: In sport, I find ambitious and driven women particularly inspiring! However, the people who inspire me the most in real life are really quite ordinary, but to me are extraordinary.
Amy: I take inspiration from females leading the way in sport, fitness and exploration, whether it’s those who I work with on a daily basis or key sports personalities such as Stephanie Gilmore, Tyler Wright, Megan Rapinoe, Jenny Jones, Alex Scott and Serena Williams.
The new sports centre looks amazing – which aspect are you most excited about?
Catherine: Engaging more students in a more meaningful way. Taking part in physical activity is not only imperative for our physical health, but it translates into the rest of our lives. I would love to see students using the facilities as an outlet, an escape and ultimately a way to grow in all aspects of their university life. And of course, playing on all the new equipment!
Amy: I’m most excited about using the new facilities to create new engagement programmes that could have an influence on a wide range of students, from those already active to those that need that extra bit of encouragement. With the sports centre being such an amazing addition to campus and having more space to facilitate activity, I’m excited about the opportunity it presents to engage with a higher number of students.
Why does sport and fitness matter so much to you?
Catherine: It helps me be a better version of myself for everyone around me and it’s really as simple as that.
Amy: Sport and fitness are key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It gives me great enjoyment, provides a challenge and pushes me outside of my comfort zone. There is always something new to learn and improve on, which gives me a focus. I also love how sport and fitness brings people together, especially when an achievement can be celebrated. I’ve made lifelong friends through sport and fitness which I’ll forever be grateful for.
What sport would you love to try that you haven’t had the chance to yet?
Catherine: I’d love to learn how to play golf and/or tennis. The pros make it look so effortless and like so much fun.
Amy: I would love to try kitesurfing and learn how to sail. They both look really fun and challenging.
To find out more about #BeConnected [and to join in!] visit the University of Stirling website.