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Ali Burkett, Development Officer in the University’s Sport and Active Lifestyle team, has been shortlisted for a BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sport) Unsung Hero of the Year award.

Ali had only just joined the Sport and Active Lifestyle team when the pandemic caused the first national lockdown. She project managed the University’s Active Campus programme, which saw her contribute to a whole programme of physical challenges, virtual challenges and fun physical activities to keep students and staff active throughout lockdown, including home workouts, step challenges, ‘deskercise’ and fun exercises to do while doing household chores.

Ali was also involved in the creation of the University’s ‘Chester Rules’ activities which ran through the autumn term, developing adapted guidelines for sports which could be played with social distancing and allow students who were anxious about engaging in sport to take part in a fun and safe manner. These activities included socially distanced football; urban golf; archery; footgolf; tennis; short tennis; table tennis; badminton; walking and running sessions and e-sports. This proved hugely successful with over 500 students taking part in the first two weeks.

Ali was also keen to see organised student sport back in action during this term and worked around the clock monitoring all National Governing Bodies and UK Government guidance and the rules and regulations needed to be in place to allow student-organised sport to continue. She worked closely with each student sport committee to ensure they had all the information and guidance they needed and supported them in completing their risk assessments and other essential documentation. Ali worked tirelessly during first weeks of the autumn term to meet students virtually out-of-office hours, to ensure they were fully informed and doing everything safely.

She was also the driving force for the team to successfully apply to BUCS for the Active 4 Playwaze app, an online toolkit and mobile app for managing sport and activity, which has proved popular with the student body.

Ali has also spearheaded a programme to enable students to set up their own sports clubs; has worked on an Active Campus Ambassadors project to promote sport and active lifestyle to the student body and is the organiser of the monthly Athletics’ Union (AU) Forums, which supports students with advice and guidance about sport.

Gordon Reay, Senior Operations Manager of Sport and Active Lifestyle and Director of the University’s Athletics Union, nominated Ali for the award. He said: “Ali is always positive, always smiling and always on top of her game. I’ve never quite met someone who is so creative and upbeat all the time and the team around her feed off her enthusiasm and drive.

“She loves to deliver a fantastic experience for the students and is always friendly and bubbly to anyone she interacts with. What I am most proud about is that Ali wears her crest with pride and has become a Team Chester member so quickly and wants to be successful in everything that she does. Who wouldn’t be proud to work alongside an individual like this?”

Ali said: “I am surprised and honoured to have been shortlisted for the Unsung Hero Award. With the challenges of the past year and all the fantastic work throughout the sector, I am really proud to be recognised for my role in adapting our services to help the University community to continue to be physically active.”

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