Leading the way…. The BSKA catches up with Essex Blades Founder and Chairperson Helen Gilmore

 Helen Gilmore founded Essex Blades Korfball Club, a new club on the University scene who had their first taste of BUCS action at Southerns 2013. The BSKA caught up with Helen to find out about her experience setting up a new club…


When did you first hear of korfball?

I’ve been playing korfball since I was really little. I first got into korfball because I used to go and watch my brother and sister’s matches and wanted to join in. I played for the Kent team when I was younger which was really good fun and I learnt a lot, but then my club unfortunately folded and I took a break to try other sports. I started korfball again in my second year of university when the Colchester Wildcats formed, and set up Essex Blades in my third year. I’m really glad that I came back to korfball, I didn’t realise how much I missed it.


Why did you set up Essex Blades Korfball?

I set up Essex Blades Korfball for a challenge in my last year. Korfball was new to the whole of Essex not just the university, and I wanted to introduce my sport to the university to get more students playing. I really wanted to go to tournaments and enter competitions again, and I was really excited about trying my hand at coaching and running a sports club. I was excited to see if I could make the club successful, but also be able to play more korfball myself with my university team.


How did you AU/union/others help?

My students union helped me a lot when I was setting up the club, which I was really grateful for seeing as they didn’t even know was korfball was when I first told them my idea! They gave the club funding to get us started, and bought all of our equipment so that we could train properly. They also funded me to go on a coaching course so that I could get my qualification, and have helped me throughout the year organising the club for tournaments, which would have been pretty stressful without their help.


How was your first experience off BUCS korfball at Southerns?

Southerns this year was pretty tricky but really good fun. These were the first ever korfball games for everybody on the team, so it was a mixture of excitement and nerves. I was really excited for the tournament, but it felt strange coaching as well as playing! Southerns was a great start for our team, and once the nerves had gone everybody really enjoyed it. We learnt a lot with every game and could put all of our training into action. There isn’t a regular league for us to join in Essex so we tried to get the most from every game. We were the newbies to the university tournament, but it was really nice to meet the other teams, especially when they cheered us on in our matches!


The blades have grown from a new club to have a healthy and committed membership
The blades have grown from a new club to have a healthy and committed membership

What were your goals for the club this year and did you achieve these?

My main goal when I started the club was to get as many students as possible playing korfball at Essex, and put korfball on the map at my university. It was a slow start at first but our club has grown steadily throughout the year and we have a really healthy membership now. Our training sessions have also been really popular as people wanted to try a new sport which is great. People definitely are starting to know what korfball is now at my university, and we were lucky enough to even be shortlisted for club of the year in our first year which is an amazing achievement for us. I’m really proud of how successful our club has been, we’ve had a really great first year.



Tell us about your club when it started out and your club now in comparison.

Our club has changed so much from when we first set up. Nobody knew what korfball was at my university when we started out; we got quite a few strange looks at freshers fair, but lots of people have given korfball a go and it’s turned into quite a popular sport. Everybody in the club has also improved so much throughout the year. We’ve trained hard to get us working better as a team in matches and put up a good fight against other teams. Our games are definitely less chaotic now! We have built up a strong committee team this year, and have prepared the team for next year so that we can continue to grow and make our club as successful as possible. Hopefully playing with Essex Blades this year will encourage a lot of the team members who are graduating to carry on playing once they leave university.


What does the future hold for Essex Blades?

Essex Blades Korfball is going to carry on growing and improving. Next year we’re going to try and get even more students playing korfball and make our club even bigger. We want to get our club more involved around the campus, and build our club to have a gold standard from our students union. We want to get to more tournaments and play more matches to help us improve as a team. We’re going to train hard and our aim is to qualify for nationals next year. We really want korfball to grow in Essex as well, so we’re going to try and spread the word of korfball outside of our university.


Will you carry on playing when you graduate?

Yes definitely. I’m hoping to do a masters degree so I would have one more year of university korfball left, and then I’ll carry on playing wherever I am after I graduate. I also want to get more coaching qualifications if I can. I really want to get better at korfball and I’ve got the bug back for it now so I couldn’t give it up.


What’s your favourite experience been with the Blades?

There’s too many to choose from! I’ve loved every match and every tournament, seeing the team improve all the time. My favourite match this year was our varsity match, because we got to show off our sport and it felt great to have some home support from other clubs. Some of the best moments this year have been off the korfball pitch with my club. Coaching the club from complete beginners to where they are now is a great feeling and is really rewarding. Having a great bunch of people at every training session and social has made this year great fun, and it’s definitely been the best challenge for my last year. I’m really proud of the club and I’m going to miss Essex Blades when I graduate.


The BSKA would like to thank Helen and every volunteer who has put effort in to support the growth and development of korfball at their Universities this year. We hope you all see the difference you make to both the sport and your members.

Do you have a story you’d like us to tell, or have someone in your club that deserves recognition? Let us know by emailing studentkorfball@gmail.com