Diversifying the sports scene at the University - OU Pole Sports Launch

8 Oct 2018

Robin De Meyere giving a demonstration of pole sports
Photo of Robin in New College gardens, by Sophie Greenfield

Postgraduate student Robin de Meyere (2017, DPhil in Materials) has recently set up a new University Pole Sports Society and is keen to encourage more people to try out the discipline, which is fast increasing in popularity. He is part of a new era for the sport, in which he has competed nationally, and has already completed the instructor qualifications that are the first step towards his goal of becoming an Olympic judge for the sport. The International Pole Sports Federation (IPSF) is working hard towards inclusion in the Olympics and to change attitudes about the performance sport, which is a combination of dance and acrobatics on a vertical pole, requiring great physical and mental exertion: strength, endurance and flexibility.

Thanks to Robin for writing the following article to explain more about his involvement in Pole Sports and the new University society.

When one would mention 10 years ago that pole dancing was being included in fitness gyms as an alternative form of exercise, people responded with scepticism and discerning looks. Fast-forward to today and the general public in the UK has now started to link pole fitness to any other physical discipline – and it has even now obtained GAISF observer status as a next Olympic sport for the 2024 Games. Oxford, however, is lagging behind on the pole scene despite pole dancers being around in the city for more than a decade. Most universities around the UK have already implemented club systems tailored to students with affordable classes, regular socials and a strong competition culture – all have joined the NUPA (National University Pole Association) who run pole sports nationals called the IUPDC (Inter-University Pole Dance Competition), a series of yearly competitions akin to varsity which started in 2011 (before I even started my undergraduate studies in London). Cambridge, Oxford Brookes and Anglia Ruskin all already benefit from pole clubs booming in their expansions.

My personal pole story started at university as it was the first club I signed up to at the Imperial College London Freshers’ Fair in 2013. I fell in love with the sport instantly despite not having done any form of exercise before my undergraduate studies. In my second year I had already taken the role of president and subsequently remained on committee with various roles for the entirety of my studies. It has now been 5 years since learning the first basic spins and I have competed at national level, placing in the advanced category at nationals (IUPDC) and placing at Mr. Pole Fitness Semi-Pro. I have also completed instructor qualifications to advanced level – including my first steps to being an Olympic judge with the IPSF (International Pole Sports Federation) Code of Points level 1. Teddy Hall has helped me integrate pole into sports culture at Oxford with my win at last year’s Teddy Hall’s Got Talent and my Masterclass Award from the College, which will fund the rest of my IPSF Olympic judge training.

Setting up a club in Oxford has been the highlight challenge of my first year – and that takes into account all the problems I faced during my first year as a DPhil student in Materials for Aero-Propulsion. Before starting the application, I requested support letters from club presidents at the major London universities with whom I had trained and had contacts with (including national champions and my alma mater Imperial College Pole & Aerial, and UCL, LSE, and KCL) – as well as the University of Cambridge’s new pole society. This was in addition to support letters from the president of our national governing body PSUK (Pole Sport UK) – however, these efforts were initially in vain due to Sport England not yet recognising pole amongst its sports. Finding, forming and coordinating a committee added to the difficulties of venue hire and organising the trailer (featured on the club’s website) from scratch were also no easy tasks. Despite all these challenges, I am extremely pleased with how the club has turned out with a fully-functioning committee and regular classes scheduled in a beautiful venue added to numerous performances opportunities, competitions and socials.

Oxford students and staff can now book onto the free taster held on Saturday 13 October or buy membership and join regular classes by visiting the new website (oupolesports.weebly.com).

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