Category Archives: UAL Sport


From ice hockey to lacrosse: Jussi Grut’s sporting journey

Jussi Grut has a hectic existence as he balances being a full-time second-year Journalism student at the University Arts London in Elephant and Castle with a career in Premiership Lacrosse.

Up to the age of six he was living in Canada and playing ice hockey. “I when I was three and I carried on playing until last year pretty much ,but when I was about 14 or 15, I watched a game of lacrosse in Canada and thought ‘I want to give this a try’,” he recalled.

“It was something on the side that was more for fun as the Ice hockey was pretty serious for me, but when I realised that I had gone as far as I could with hockey, I just started playing more lacrosse.”

It was a sporting switch which has paid off, and the 22-year-old is now receiving funding from the UAL Sports Scheme for elite athletes, despite the university not having a lacrosse team.

Jussi, who plays as a goalie, explained: “I was playing on the England Universities Lacrosse team, and people were putting the team sheet on their social media feeds. One of the sports guys at UAL saw it someone’s Instagram and messaged that person to tell me to get in contact about signing up for us this programme the university has.

“I didn’t even know that it existed until I got this message on Facebook that said you should sign up and we will see what we can do.”


Growing up in Canada, where ice hockey is akin to a national religion, Jussi’s first sporting hero was Roberto Luongo, at the time the starting goalie for the Vancouver Canucks.

“Luongo was also Team Canada’s goalie,” he explained. “Every time I needed to get new leg pads, I would get the same ones as him, that kind of stuff, and he was just a nice guy. The way he talked to his team-mates inspired me, and that taught me how I’d approach talking to mine.

“When I started getting into watching professional lacrosse in the States, I started following a guy called Jesse Schwartzman, who is one of the best goalies in the Major League Lacrosse. Also, when I was about 16, I started going to training sessions with the Wales national squad, not with any hopes of making the team but to just to improve, and two of the goalies were really good guys. Not professionals who were playing in the States, like Schwartzman, but at the time it was like wow!”

With no UAL lacrosse team to represent, Jussi has been playing for the London Raptors, who are currently bottom of the table after four defeats in four games, most recently losing 11-5 to Hampstead, who won the league last season.

Though they will have a real battle on their hands to stay in the division after winning promotion last season, the Raptors can hope for a better 2020 as they have already faced Walcountain Blues, Hitchin, Spencer and Hampstead – three of the four finished in the top four last season.

A normal week for the goalie consists of going to the gym twice sometimes three times, then he has training with the London Raptors squad on Friday nights in Canada Water. Matches tend to be on Saturdays, while on a Sunday there are try-outs – he aims to attend those held by Wales.

‘The dream’

National recognition is on his radar, and when he discusses his biggest achievement so far he also lays out his ambitions.

“Getting scouted by Canada was big for me because that was the thing that I had set my sights on since I was a young hockey player. The dream was I want to get out of England and I want to play, and I did that. For lacrosse, though, I think it is just the next thing that comes along will be my greatest achievement.

“So far, it would be making the England universities team, or last year being in the Wales squad for the World Cup in Israel. I didn’t end up going because they took two goalies, not three, but it would have been a lot of money to go. I could have gone but I didn’t want to because it is self-funded and would have cost almost three grand to go and watch, basically.”

With the European Championships coming up next summer in Wrocław, Poland, the 22-year-old is hoping to make it again into the Wales squad but this time he believes he will be ready if he gets the call-up.

“I’m quite confident that I can make it, but as a goalie, there are a lot of different factors that coaches could take into account. For example, the first cut has already been done and they have cut it down to, I think, six of us, and I would say that I’m in a good position within those six. It depends whether the coach wants experience or a mix of younger and older players in terms of whether I make it to the tournament or not.”


On the global stage, the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) has met with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to lay out a way getting Lacrosse into the Olympic Games. Among followers of the sport, there is an expectation that by 2028, when Los Angeles host the Olympics, lacrosse will be back in the Games programme for the first time since 1908.

Jussi says: “I think if that happens then you never know how far the sport can grow. People might see it and be like ‘Oh yeah, let’s give that a try’. Team GB would be good team, and if it was on TV and kids in the UK saw British players competing against the best teams and doing well, then that would encourage them to start.”

For any interesting in giving lacrosse a go, Jussi says: “Just give it a go. I understand that it is not for everyone, but just go into it with an open mind. You might have to put up with a bit of stick to start with, and it is not something that you can pick up instantly. I remember when I first started, it was really frustrating because of the skillset that you need to even begin to start playing competitively.”

He added: “Once you get past that hurdle, it is amazing. It’s best if you can try and find clubs that are accommodating. Find one that has a second or a third team with its own training session, or even go and play with some of the mixed lacrosse teams. There is one called Rainbow Rexes, I think they play on Clapham Common every Sunday afternoon and it is just a pick-up, no contact, just throwing the ball and having a good time playing lacrosse.

“Once you have mastered the basics then you can look to move up into a bigger team, but if you don’t know how to throw or catch, then a Premiership team doesn’t want you there.”

Lacrosse photo by Doug Schveninger via Flickr Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Should netball be in the Olympics?

As part of the annual ThisGirlCan Week, which celebrates and encourages female participation in sport, UAL offers people the chance to have a go at a range of different physical activities.

I opted to try netball as it is a sport that has always caught my eye and intrigued me because it is not played in my home country, Spain. The closest thing we have to it is basketball, but there are many differences: size of teams, type of ball, more markings on the court, and many different rules.

In fact, the two are only seen as sibling sports because they both involve passing a ball with your hands from player to player and scoring points by placing it through an elevated net. But, like American football and rugby, they are related, but only distantly.

Although netball was originally called women’s basketball, things have changed. The first netball match in England was played at Madame Ostenburg’s College in 1895, and the sport quickly spread throughout what was, at the time, the British Empire but is now the Commonwealth.

For more than a century it was viewed mainly as a game for schoolgirls, played during Physical Education lessons, with little or no interest from the media or wider public even at international level.

However, as more funding became available in the UK – particularly for sports with a good chance of medal-winning success – elite netball took its first steps towards being semi-professional. England won gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, and finished third in this year’s World Championship, and netball’s Super League is now televised by Sky.


During the try-out session, I realised how inclusive the sport is and how accomplished players need to be. UAL has two big, strong teams that play every week against other universities, and to play at an even higher level must require a huge amount of skill and determination.

The other thing to note was it’s not just for girls: there were boys in the training session, too, and they love the sport. Yes, they can be more aggressive, looking for more contact, and maybe their passes are stronger, but the game is really about being strategic and quick with the ball.

Whatever the perceptions outside of the sport, the reality inside it is that everyone supports everyone and gender isn’t a problem. More than 80% of the girls wanted more boys in the team as it is a mixed team league.

Perhaps, making it mixed at the highest levels would add to its overall appeal and improve netball’s chances of becoming an Olympic sport.

According to the International Netball Federation, netball remains very popular in many Commonwealth nations, specially in schools, and predominantly played by women. It is played by over 20m people in more than 80 countries. In the UK, it is the No.2 female participation sport after football, with approximately 1.4m women and girls playing it in 2018, compared with 8.2m who play football, according to England Netball

The UAL players I spoke to were all certain that it is a sport that deserves more attention – and perhaps the ultimate accolade of Olympic status.

Alexandre Hor said: “I feel like sometimes netball is not taken as seriously as it is a female sport and does not have as much status when compared to the ‘male’ sport equivalent of basketball and the NBA.”

Lauren Barrett said: “I would like to see more media coverage and money put into it as I feel its quite overlooked compared to other team sports.”

Maybe if it was in the Olympics, more people would know about it therefore more people would play it – Patricia Beja

Lauren Hillsdon added: “What I loved most about netball in primary school is that it was completely mixed, and teams were based on performance only, not gender. I found this so much more fun as there was no ‘netball is a girls sport’ and ‘netball is just rubbish basketball’ stigma. I didn’t even realise it was a ‘female’ sport until I got to secondary school and it was female only. It was considered ‘cool’ to play netball in primary, and everyone wanted to make the A team.”

Patricia Beja said: “I don’t think netball is a sport only for girls. I understand that it started as being just for girls to play, but in the 21st century I don’t think it makes sense to have sports categorised by genders. Everyone should be able to play whatever they want to.”

In terms of its potential Olympic inclusion, the main thing holding it back is perhaps its status as a Commonwealth-only sport, but Kirsty Shannon said: “It definitely should be in the Olympics. I think it’s not because people think it’s only a women’s game, but men can play too – mixed netball is fun and I think men would enjoy it if they had a go.”

As Patricia Beja put it: “Maybe if it was in the Olympics, more people would know about it therefore more people would play it.”

Photos courtesy of UAL Sports.

Harriet Stallard: combining football with a new passion – cheerleading

Although its inclusion at Tokyo 2020 is not yet guaranteed, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has given cheerleading provisional status as an Olympic sport.

In this video, Harriet Stallard – who recently joined UAL’s cheer team – tells Elephant Sport why people should give cheerleading a chance to establish itself as a sport. Stallard, who plays football as well, also talks about how cheer has given her the opportunity to meet new people and improve her fitness.



AUDIO: The Elephant Sport Podcast – Varsity Edition

As Varsity 2018 approaches, the Elephant Sport Podcast brings to you a special edition from the LCC studios.

Hosted by Sam Taylor and Harry Dunning, the boys preview the upcoming games whilst chatting to a few prominent figures at UAL Sport.

All making their final Varsity appearances, Danny Olashore, Ed Kraurup and George Mitchell feature in the discussion. Each contributing to paint the Varsity picture.

Soccer Painters — the club curing post-university blues

Mental health issues can affect both new students and those who have graduated. Which is why LCC graduate Connor Winks set up Soccer Painters FC last August in an attempt to beat the university blues.

It can be a big step to leave your home and camp in a grubby death-trap for £190 a week. So it’s understandable to feel slightly lost and isolated in your first few weeks. This can also be the case for those who have left university, with ever decreasing job markets adding further pressure.

Photo: @g_daughtry

“I’m sure if you asked others who helped me set this up you’d probably get a few different answers. It’s quite a personal subject for me as the project was born out of quite a dark place,” says Winks.

“I suffered from post-graduate depression when leaving university after being in education for all of my life. I found it really difficult to adjust.

“I moved back home to Hastings and felt completely cut off from this whole life I had built for myself. Whilst I kept in contact with my closest friends I found I had stopped talking to a lot of friends I had made playing for Arts.

“I was struggling to rekindle those friendships with the lack of time I got to spend in London, really having to pick and choose who I saw when I was up.”

‘I found a few of the boys who had graduated felt the same; a little bit isolated and a little bit lost’

Winks was heavily involved in UAL Football during his time studying in Elephant and Castle and captained the now disbanded third team to undoubtedly their best season in recent memory. Those UAL sporting connections meant that when visiting London from Hastings he found that many of his former teammates and friends who had graduated also felt the same.

A dark place

It can be especially isolating in London, where the housing market is relatively impenetrable for new graduates unless you get a well paid job immediately. Winks, a Sports Journalism graduate, found it difficult going into a thinning media job market and was left feeling puzzled at what to do next.

‘It’s amazing what a couple of hours with your pals not thinking about anything other than football can do for your mental health’

“When visiting London I found a few of the boys who had graduated felt the same; a little bit isolated and a little bit lost. There’s such little research into post-graduate depression and a real lack of support for something that is so prevalent and affects so many.

“I felt that doing this would not only help me and the guys who had mentioned it, but maybe a few of the other boys who might have been having trouble but didn’t feel comfortable talking about it.”

“It’s amazing what a couple of hours on a Sunday morning with your pals not thinking about anything other than football can do for your mental health. Now I hope it can carry on for anyone who might be feeling the same coming out of UAL We want to be welcoming as many graduates from Arts as possible and hopefully get something really special going.”

Soccer Painters play their football in Hackney and Leyton Division 4, with all the games at Hackney Marshes. The name reflects the players’ University of the Arts background. Winks has found the experience immensely positive.

“The main thing is everyone is still enjoying it. We marketed and ran the club at minimal cost, meaning we only charge exactly what it costs to run. It’s London, so the boys have had to put their hands in their pockets a little bit, but I would imagine we are one of the cheapest teams in the league to play for.”

Fitting in with football

Winks believes the UAL sports teams prove a vital tool for those struggling to fit into their chosen school and more could be done for those who take on the responsibility of captaining and running a side.

“The students who are voluntarily running the clubs need more support from paid employees of the SU in terms of reaching students and keeping them in the societies. Are there fliers in every uni? Every hall? Could you have a scheme helping members struggling to pay memberships but who do want to play?

Ex-UAL student Oliver O’Callaghan captaining the side. Photo: @g_daughtry

“London can be a lonely place and I know the football club at uni really helped me adjust and settle when I first arrived. Most of my friends and best memories come from being involved with the sports societies and it was a huge part of my three years at UAL.

“It would be sad to think someone would not be able to experience that because there wasn’t room for them as there is no third team anymore or they just simply don’t know the university has a football team.”

Soccer Painters are a club ultimately wanting to expand, so opportunities for a game are expanding. Winks encourages those post and pre-graduation to contact the club if it you would like to get involved.

“We definitely have bigger plans. I’d personally like to get to a point where we have recruited enough graduates to have a Saturday and Sunday team and try to enter the proper English football pyramid at the bottom.”

The future looks a bright and lasting one as the club aim to utilise some of those skills he learned whilst studying at UAL.

“On top of that a few of the boys have some really interesting ideas on how to establish Soccer Painters as a brand.

“Coming from UAL we have a hugely talented team of people in terms of stuff like graphic design and we do want to utilise that. I think we’ve seen such an upturn of Sunday League teams getting huge publicity, such as teams like the The Gun, and it’s something we’re exploring currently.”

@SoccerPainters on Twitter for more info

Photos courtesy of Gabriel Daughtry – @g_daughtry on Twitter

‘There’s more to beach volleyball than tight clothing’

This edition of ES TV sees reporter Daniel Racheter interview University of the Arts London’s women’s volleyball player Francisca L. Dias.

Francesca discusses her experience of beach volleyball and the stereotypes surrounding it

She also explains that although British volleyball faces uncertainty at international level, with its funding drastically cut, the spirit and competitiveness in the university game is high – although UAL’s recent results haven’t been great…

 Produced and edited by Daniel Racheter and Shan Gambling

Watch the full interview here:

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Meet Heiner Alzate: UAL women’s volleyball coach

Elephant Sport’s Oliver Norgrove, Shan Gambling and Daniel Racheter visit a UAL women’s volleyball training session to speak to the team’s new coach, Heiner Alzate.

Originally from Colombia, Alzate played professionally for 10 years before turning to refereeing and coaching. He hopes to instil in his young players the tricks of the trade that he learned as a player in South America.

Norgrove asks him about the transition from playing with men to coaching women, comparisons between volleyball in Colombia and the UK, the challenges that the sport of volleyball faces, and how UAL’s season is progressing.

The video can be watched in full below. You can also find out more about the UAL women’s volleyball team here.

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Report – The Arts Cup 2016

The big day on the UAL sports calendar had finally arrived. Varsity seemed to come and go just like that, but what a day to be a part of.

UAL and Goldsmiths met at Haberdasher Aske’s sports ground in Nunhead, south London for the first time in Varsity history. The sun was shining and crowds were beginning to appear, with both sides hoping to go home with The Arts Cup.

The first game of the day was the Men’s football 3rds. A quick start from the Arts saw them go 1-0 up in under a minute, but Goldsmiths managed to grab one back to set the scene for a competitive day.

UAL scored two more before half-time, which almost put the game to bed. However, Goldsmiths came out for the second half all guns blazing, managing to get another goal back to make it 3-2.

UAL dug in deep to avoid conceding again and in turn scored soon after the Goldsmiths goal. With Goldsmiths heads held low, the Arts scored three more before the final whistle, with striker Marley Nesbitt hitting a hat-trick. The game finished 7-2 to UAL and an exciting day was up and running.


There were two match-ups at 11am, with Badminton and Netball 2nds the second and third games of the day. Wins were shared as UAL won the badminton against a strong Goldsmiths side, and Goldsmiths Netball 2nds won 26-22. In the sole noon start, Arts triumphed 15-8 over Goldsmiths in Ultimate Frisbee.

“A moment of genius from Arts midfielder Nan Xie saw him produce a mesmerising run through what seemed to be five Goldsmiths players”

Men’s football 2nds kicked off at 12.10pm with UAL raring to add to the 3rds’ victory, particularly against a Goldsmiths team which hadn’t impressed in the league this season. There were glimpses of some good football in the first half but no stand-out performances from either side, so it was 0-0 at the break with all to play for.

The game looked to be going to penalties, with last year’s shoot-out still fresh in the mind of both sets of players. Then a moment of genius from Arts midfielder Nan Xie saw him produce a mesmerising run through what seemed to be five Goldsmiths’ players and then stroke the ball past the opposing keeper. With just minutes to go, Arts’ must have thought it was all over.

However, a late Goldsmiths shot forced a save from Arts’ keeper James Hoang, but no-one was able to stop the rebound. So the game went straight to penalties, and a tense shootout resulted in a Goldsmiths’ win – unlucky for a hard-working Arts side, but credit to Goldsmiths’ 2nds who refused to throw in the towel.


With crowds beginning to build for the later games, fans watching the Netball 1sts match were treated to a thrilling contest as Goldsmiths’ emerged victorious 16-15.

Arts won the mixed hockey fixture

UAL hit back with wins in women’s basketball and women’s football in the early afternoon. In the mixed hockey match, a strong Arts side proved to be too much for Goldsmiths to handle as they won 3-2. As 2pm rolled around, Goldsmiths’ cheerleaders and Rugby 1sts prevailed over UAL.

With the score tied at 6-6 before the final game of The Arts Cup 2016, tension was high for both camps.

Every game of the day apart from Men’s football 1sts had finished and both sets of fans were in full voice. Both sets of players knew how much a win would mean to their fellow students and, after losing the cup last year, Goldsmiths’ seemed to be out for blood.

The pitch had taken quite a battering after hosting three football matches that same day, so while the game began with some good movement and passing, it soon descended into a welter of late, scrappy tackles and long balls up field.

It was clear that both sides were capable of a higher quality of football but the pitch would not allow it. After three minutes, a slip from an Arts centre-back Luke Cooksey allowed a through ball to reach the Goldsmiths striker which was put straight past goalkeeper John Pownall.

Just when UAL seemed to be getting a hold on the game, a scrappy piece of play on the edge of the UAL area resulted in an outrageous goal from a Goldsmiths’ midfielder, a volley from an awkward angle into the top right hand corner.

UAL finally managed to get a grip and had some great opportunities through striker Will Mowbray and winger Kovi Konowiecki. But some well-organised defending and a stupendous display from the Goldsmiths’ keeper kept Arts at bay for the remainder of the game which finished 2-0 to Goldsmiths.

That meant Goldsmiths lifted The Arts Cup and earned themselves bragging rights for the next 12 months. A great day finished at the Goldsmiths student union where all players joined for an enjoyable evening.

Varsity 2016 | My first and last

Unlike in the US, college sport here in the UK is low-profile not seen as a big deal – unless you actually play it.

Due to committing myself to a football team outside of UAL for the first two years of my degree, I’d never had the opportunity to represent the university until this year when I decided to take a break from weekend and midweek games.

“I was struggling to buy into the intensive hype leading up to the ‘Big V’ “

So whenever I’d previously heard excited talk of ‘Varsity’, I was pretty sceptical about its hallowed status on the UAL sporting calendar.

For those not in the know, Varsity is the day when UAL teams go toe-to-toe with local rivals Goldsmiths and compete in a range of sports from football to ultimate Frisbee to cheerleading to determine this year’s champion.

As it drew closer, all the chatter was about the importance of not losing to our south London rivals and winning bragging rights for the next 12 months.

If I’m being brutally honest, I was struggling to buy into the intensive hype leading up to the ‘Big V’  – after all, it’s only a game of football at university (although I wouldn’t dare of said that to anyone involved leading up it).


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UAL footballers (left to right) Oliver O’Callaghan, John Pownall, George Thomas and Will Mowbray

Come the big day, and the first thing that struck me was the atmosphere of camaraderie between all the UAL football teams.

All three men’s sides met at 9am for breakfast together, a fitting way to build up to the big occasion. There was no divide between them, a friendly and positive environment to set the tone for the rest of the day.

The Men’s 3rds kicked off at 10.30am, meaning everyone else had to go and support them.

My first thought was ‘that means I’ll be there five hours before we kick off’, but it didn’t take me long to buy into what this was all about. It’s more than just your one game, it’s the occasion, so regardless of whether you’re playing in the morning or afternoon everyone is expected to get behind each team.

It didn’t take long for the netball teams, cheerleaders, rugby all to join the party either which made it even more evident that it’s about more than just playing your sport.

I was looking at it from an outsider’s point of view as I only knew people from my team, so seeing everyone embrace the occasion was something special and a testament to everyone who puts in work behind the scenes of the university’s sports clubs.

It seemed like a tight-knit family throughout the day which is something that will stay with me.

Perception change

At the start of the week, I was thinking ‘it’s only a game’. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to win, i just didn’t grasp how important it is to some people.

I certainly did after just half hour – you only have to see the reaction to a goal. UAL Men’s 3rds gave Goldsmith’s a 7-2 drubbing although the celebrations from players and spectators didn’t change once from the first goal to the seventh. It was at that moment I realised how big Varsity is.

“It certainly got to me and now I realised why everyone was so fired up by the occasion”

If the 3rds victory was an eye-opener, the 2nds’ shoot-out defeat was another. After UAL had taking the lead midway through the second half thanks to a fantastic solo effort from Nan Xie, Goldsmiths scored late on to take the game to a penalties where they prevailed. Cue glum faces of disappointment.

Our game was the last of an intense Varsity programme, and due to events that happened earlier it was the decider as to who won Varsity 2016.

As kick-off got closer, the tension increased. If someone said to me as I left my house that morning I would get nerves prior to kick-off, I wouldn’t have believed them.

But after witnessing a day of ups and downs it certainly got to me and now I realised why everyone was so fired up by the occasion.


A soggy pitch with one end a mud bath near the penalty area had certainly suffered after three hard-fought matches.

“To come off at full-time with people praising your performance despite our losing effort was a highlight of my university days that I won’t forget”

We found ourselves 2-0 down after 20 minutes, and despite knocking on the door on a number of occasions with Kovi Konowiecki and Will Mowbray strikes, a determined Goldsmiths back line couldn’t be breached, meaning they won the game and more importantly won Varsity 2016.

It surprised me that I was genuinely gutted about losing. However it made me realise I’d embraced Varsity: going to the breakfast, dressing up smart, supporting each side that’s playing, socialising with other members of the university, all the finer details that make it what it is.

On reflection, it made me wonder why I didn’t pursue playing for the university from the start. Yes, I had other commitments, but I don’t think I enjoyed them half as much as I did turning out for UAL. Playing with this group has restored my appetite for the game.

To come off at full-time with people praising your performance despite our losing effort was a highlight of my university days that I won’t forget.