*UPDATE: To see a full album of pictures from the night, click here.*
De Montfort Students’ Union (DSU)’s sports teams packed out the Athena for the biggest night in De Montfort University (DMU)’s sporting year on Friday at The SULETS Colours Awards 2016.
More than 600 students and guests were in celebratory mood at a heaving Athena theatre, and from equestrian and football to cheerleading and squash, almost all of DSU’s 36 sports teams were represented at the biggest ever celebration of DMU students’ sporting success and by definition the largest DSU awards night ever.
The night, hosted by DSU’s Sports Development team of Ross Harrison, Jake Betts and Sam Davis plus outgoing VP Student Activities Dan Winney, was set against a Las Vegas theme and saw 11 awards handed out as well as British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) league trophies for men’s football firsts, netball thirds, women’s football firsts and both men’s badminton firsts and seconds.
Women’s football were the big winners on the night, with chair Abigail Battisto picking up the Sports Personality of the Year Award, the first-string side scooping the Team of the Year Award and saw coach Matt Lawson recognised with the Coach of the Year Award.
Abigail – also known as Batts – said: “I'm over the moon. I was up against some of my friends so I would have been happy for them, but it’s amazing to get it [myself].
“I think this year I have just spoken to everyone I possibly could from different clubs. I have made some of the best friends this year from all over the place which is nice.
“And going up on stage [with the club] for the award was such an incredible feeling to have our achievements recognized. To go up with the people that you have done it with throughout the season is even better.”
Batts, who as goalkeeper was pivotal in her side’s penalty shootout success in their Varsity match against the University of Leicester, continued: “Going back to my Freshers Fair I was so nervous to sign up to football. I hadn't played in a while and my gloves were a bit dusty – but I’ve met the most amazing people being part of the club and having the fantastic opportunities that have come with being part of a sports team has really added to my uni experience.
“I would strongly recommend joining a club, even if it’s something you have never tried before. Being able to chair women’s football and take it to great heights with my best friends has been the best and I wouldn't change anything for the world.
“DMUWFC will forever hold a special place in my heart – big love to you all!”
Meanwhile Matt Lawson fought off coaches including Leicester City legend Matt Elliott as he was named Coach of the Year for his work with DSU’s female footballers. He said: “This is fantastic. This award is for all the players that have worked so hard, trained so hard and achieved a lot; we’ve got three teams and all of them have conducted themselves extremely well this year and for me to get this award is obviously a real honour.
“I was nominated last year, so just to get nominated again I couldn’t really believe it. I am really grateful to all of the girls and everyone at the university and especially the students’ union.”
Matt’s day job is working with the men’s, women’s and academy teams at Notts County Football Club and he brings the same approach to coaching DSU’s women’s teams. He explained: “We train hard twice a week with the girls and everyone turns up – everyone puts a shift in and we’ll look at technical stuff and make tactical preparations.
“From their strength and conditioning to their diet, they do everything they can to get those three points on a Wednesday afternoon. I am so proud of the group of players that we have got.”
Batts said: “Matt’s my main man and I wanted him to win this more than anything else. He puts his heart and soul into women's football and the journey he has taken our teams on this year is incredible. We are so lucky to have him.”
The full list of winners on the night included;
Best Newcomer Award – Archery
Most Improved Award – Swimming and Triathlon
Most Dedicated Club Member Award – Emilie Fairnington (Women’s Basketball)
Most Dedicated Chairperson Award – Charlotte Turner (Netball)
Most Charitable Club of the Year Award – Men’s Rugby
Individual Performance of the Year Award – Niamh Bailey (Athletics)
Sporting Performance of the Year Award – Tae Kwon Do
Coach of the Year Award – Matt Lawson (Women’s Football)
Sports Personality of the Year Award – Abigail Battisto
Team of the Year Award – Women’s Football (Firsts)
Club of the Year Award – Equestrian
DSU Sports Development Manager Ross Harrison spoke about his decade-long stint looking after DMU’s sports teams and noted how sport has grown from a handful of teams to the thousands of engaged students this year, and especially commended the increased participation in women’s sport. He also announced that that growth is set to continue, with ten new teams entered for BUCS competition next season.
Keira Rounsley, VP Welfare and Community, is a member of DSU’s netball club and also presented the Most Improved Award. She said: “I think it's great that more women are getting involved in sport and are having the confidence to try new things.
“It's so important for girls to empower each other, but it's also very important for the men within sport to empower them too.
“Sport can be life changing to students at university. I made a great group of friends and felt better in myself for getting active, and with the stresses uni can throw at you, it's great to get involved.”
Keira also saw netball chair Charlotte Turner pick up the Most Dedicated Chairperson Award. She concluded: “I am so proud of Char for winning the award. She definitely deserves it and I've seen first hand how much effort she's put into the club.”
Aaron Macdonald, chair of tennis, was shortlisted for the Most Dedicated Chairperson Award and was attending his final Colours Awards. He said: “It was a great privilege to be nominated and it is a nice feeling to know people appreciate and recognise the effort put in by all of the chairs, both nominated and not.
“Overall [it has been] a very strong season for tennis.
“It has been a pleasure to represent tennis for the last four years. I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute and it has made my time at DMU. I would encourage all students to join a sports club – you get to keep fit, play a sport you love and meet great people who become friends for life.”
The SULETS Colours Awards 2016 was the fourth of five awards ceremonies to celebrate the achievement of students throughout the year. To find out more about DSU’s awards season, click here. And to find out more about sport at DSU, click here.