On-Campus Sporting Clubs to International Exposure.
The benefits of playing sport at university are widely known – the social connections, physical and mental wellbeing, a sense of belonging. Less though, is said about the value University Sport delivers off the field.
For the International Day of University Sport, NUsport caught up with B Visual Communication Design graduate, hockey player, skier, and photographer Chris Neale to discuss his journey from university hockey to a “once-in-a-lifetime” International University Sport experience.
NUsport: Chris – you’re a sportsman, having played hockey for the University of Newcastle Hockey Club (the Sea Pigs) and representing the University in Snow Sports. Your journey, however, is centred around photography. Where did your passion for photography start?
CN: I’m not really sure, when I was younger I’d always fill disposable cameras with nonsense every trip I went on. It wasn’t until I got my first DSLR for my 21st birthday that I really had the equipment to make the images I wanted to capture. I’ve never really taken to studio photography, I’d much prefer taking photos of things that move, be it sporting events or live music gigs. Being able to freeze that moment forever is what I really enjoy.
NUsport: Tell us a bit about your time with the University Snow Sports Club (NUSS).
CN: I joined NUSS at the start of 2013, and became more involved with the committee of the club in 2014 and 2015. In that time I went to Snow Nationals 3 times, as well as multiple social events held by the club.
NUsport: Why is it important to have these teams and clubs available for students to be involved in?
CN: Having been involved with a few clubs during my time at the University, I think it’s a great way to meet new people. A lot of students attending uni are coming from outside of Newcastle and it can be a little bit daunting trying to form new social circles. The clubs help you find people with the same interests as you and make it easier to make those new connections with fellow students regardless of where they are from or which program they are enrolled in. Those who want to get more involved and become committee members of a club get extra experiences learning how to handle governance of the club, managing club funding and how a committee works.
NUsport: Your experience in University Sport and your photographic skills led to a pretty remarkable experience. How did you come to be selected as the Australian Uniroos photographer for the 2015 World University Games?
CN: In 2012 I was going to play hockey for UON at the Eastern University Games being held in Newcastle, but during the season I managed to do a grade 3 tear to my hamstring putting me out for the season. I still wanted to take part in the Games though – I saw they were looking for volunteers to help with the event and one of the positions available was as a photographer.
I sent in my application and that is how I got involved shooting for UniSport Australia, over the next two years I worked with them at the Australian University Games and two Snow Sports events. Using this experience working with them and the skills I had learned in my Bachelor of Visual Communication Design, I was successful in my application for Team Media Assistant for the 2015 Universiade in Gwangju, South Korea.
The Universiade is the second biggest sporting event in the world beaten only by the Olympic Games. Any country not in the Commonwealth essentially uses these games as an Olympic selection trial for their national team, so the scale of the event was unlike anything I had been a part of before. As such, the learning curve was huge but the support I received from the rest of the team was great.
Over the two weeks of the Universiade I covered events including athletics, swimming, trap shooting, fencing, basketball, water polo and taekwondo. I had work posted on every NSO (National Sporting Organisation) website and in a few newspapers too.
NUsport: Did this experience add to your overall university experience? If so, how?
Working with the UniSport Australia team was truly a once in a lifetime experience. I came away with a new understanding and a true appreciation for what goes into making these events happen and the people who cover these events, whether it be photographers, videographers or journalists.
I personally came out of the experience with a huge body of work I could use in my portfolio and some great connections.
NUsport: How has it added to your employability since graduating with a Bachelor of Visual Communication Design?
CN: The skills I gathered working with UniSport Australia definitely added to my employability – from time management to being able to prioritise jobs and just being able to effectively communicate to other team members and stakeholders.
Although I’m not employed in a creative field at the moment, the skills I gathered from those roles helped me move into a management position very quickly after leaving university.
NUsport: What would you say to new or current students who might be searching for an ‘out-of-the-box’ student experience like you had?
CN: I would encourage everyone to join at least one club or social group on campus. There are a lot of clubs where social events make up a big area of what they do and it’s a great way to expand your social circle or just try something new. Then when you’re a part of the club, get involved with the committee, it will probably take you way out of your comfort zone but there’s a great support network there to help you figure out what needs to be done and how to do it properly. Basically just join up and if any opportunity presents itself go for it!
NUsport: Do you have a favourite memory of your time as a student?
CN: I don’t think I could pick just one favourite memory from my time at UON but all the ones that I look back on the most are connected to being involved with a University club – from the Championship team I play in for the Sea Pigs, to the New Zealand trip organised by NUSS and of course the two weeks I spent in South Korea with the Australian Uniroos. Being involved with the clubs on campus really added to my University Experience.
Chris Neale graduated with a Bachelor of Visual Communication Design in 2016.
To learn more about International University Sport opportunities visit https://www.unisport.com.au/uniroos-international-events
The International Day of University Sport is celebrated annually on 20 September.