Students Staff

22 May 2015

Just Play transforming sporting opportunity

Just Play

Introducing free sport across all three of our Campuses has seen participation levels shoot through the roof.

Last summer, sport at Essex was awarded £364,187 through Sport England to invest in our Just Play programme over three years to encourage students and staff to take part in sport.

In addition to Just Play the University and Students’ Union made a wide range of sporting activities free for students and staff including sports club subscriptions and training sessions as part of the My Essex Sport membership.

The additional money from Sport England has meant Just Play could be expanded even further across all campuses with full-time Just Play co-ordinators at Colchester, Southend and Loughton.

Essex Students’ Union Sports Development Manager and Just Play Manager Dominic King said: “We had 17 specific sports in mind when we launched the Sport England bid and have added a further 18 sports this year in response to demand.”

In Colchester the first year target was to reach 800 unique participants. The total currently stands at 2,395, in Southend the goal was to attract 225 participants with 381 people taking part so far and in Loughton 192 people have joined in the sessions above the target figure of 120.

Dominic said: ”The most popular sport in Colchester and Southend is badminton. All the sessions are full to capacity. In Loughton, as well as more structured sport, we have set up a table tennis table in the foyer so people can just rock up and play, students love it.”

The Just Play programme also offers employability opportunities for club members who take on the voluntary role of Just Play liaison officer, co-ordinating each session and encouraging good players to go forward for the teams.

“It has helped identify potential untapped talent,” said Dominic, “though Just Play’s primary purpose is to encourage people o get active, make new friends and have fun.”

Colchester’s Just Play co-ordinator Lewis Higgins said the reaction from students has been great: “They can’t believe so much sport is free, The Just Play programme means students and staff can try as many sports as they like and do not have to limit themselves to one activity because of the cost.”

The expansion of Just Play and free sport has also boosted performance in the British University and Colleges Sports league tables. Dominic said: “We are currently 37th and aiming to finish in the top 35, up ten places on last year. We are also on course to be fourth in the region, against ninth last year. Eight teams won their league and four teams made it to the finals in their cup.

The swimming sessions at Clacton have also proved popular and led to one unexpected benefit. Dominic said: “At the first session one student quietly came up to me and confessed that he had misunderstood and thought the session was about learning to swim as opposed to casual swimming. The president of the swimming club volunteered to teach students to swim which led to the creation of the Just Play+ Learn To programme."

If you are interested in getting involved in Just Play or Just Play+ Learn To sessions, please visit

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