Icons Awards 2021 - A Celebration of Our Student Sports Clubs and Societies



The Icons Award Scheme recognises those student groups who have gone above and beyond to create the best possible experience for their members over the previous year. 

This has been a challenging year for our clubs and societies who have had to adapt to changes in guidelines and limitations on face-to-face and in-person activity. Due to these limitations, here at UPSU, we have adapted this year's criteria to recognise the challenges faced and to celebrate the innovative methods adopted by groups. 

We’d like to say a huge thank you to the groups below who have taken the time to submit their Icons applications and most of all have worked incredibly hard to create a positive, supportive and engaging experience for their members and students at the University of Plymouth over such a difficult year. 






Debate Society    

This year the Debate Society has hosted weekly debate sessions for their members and encouraged engagement despite the challenges of this year by taking to Zoom. 

They’ve debated a vast range of motions and topics from the voting age, social media regulation and the distribution of wealth in society to the time of the year it’s appropriate to play Christmas music and whether or not Pop-Tarts are ravioli. 


Tropical Island Society    

Tropical Island Society has organised a host of engaging events this year, including; Cooking with Culture for Black History Month and the Down for Debate: Valentine’s Edition. 

They’ve also formed numerous collaborations, notably their Virtual Carnival which saw them join up with five other societies as well as an array of successful collaborations with local business for the benefit of their members. 


Plymouth Marrow    

Plymouth Marrow has raised a fantastic £2113.28 (as of April) for Anthony Nolan, a charity dedicated to saving the lives of people with blood cancer who need a stem cell (or bone marrow) transplant. They’ve reached this total by hosting fundraising events such as their annual Valentine Auction, Hero Week and Miles for Marrow.

The Marrow team have also gone above and beyond to welcome their new members to Plymouth by organising a hugely successful Scavenger Hunt to help first-year students discover the distinctive sights and landmarks of our city. 


Friends of MSF    

In support of raising awareness that a climate emergency is also a healthcare emergency, the Friends of MSF team have worked tirelessly to spread the message via a social media campaign as well as organising a Beach Clean.

In addition, in February they launched their Humanitarian Aid Library which featured a collection of 15 books available for members to loan for a small fee with all proceeds going to Médecins Sans Frontières. 


Plymouth University Wilderness and Expedition (PUWEMS)    

PUWEMS have encouraged their members to stay active throughout a year in and out of lockdown by spurring each other on with Strava competitions. In January 2021 the PUWEMS team covered an incredible 6051.87km/3760.46 miles – the equivalent distance between Plymouth and Caracas, Venezuela!

In May they completed the Dartmoor Way Challenge (‘a 108-mile (174km) circular route around the edges of Dartmoor. The route explores wooded valleys; sparkling streams that tumble off the moor; deep drove-roads and bridleways used for generations by farmers and travellers.'’) and raised a staggering £3200 to be split between the Dartmoor Search and Rescue Plymouth team and Trevi, The Sunflower Women’s Centre. 


Plymouth University Paediatrics Society (PUPS)    

PUPS have shown innovation in their fundraising for Children’s Hospice South West this year by hosting collaborative Bake Sales, fun runs and by creating DIY Easter Egg Hunt packs assembled by willing volunteers in a COVID-friendly environment. 

They’ve supported their members by organising informative sessions and running campaigns such as ‘Ask a Final Year’ to build links and create support networks between students in different years. 




Sports Clubs



In January 2021 the Cheerleading Club had to make the difficult decision not to enter any competitions nor allow any in-person training in line with the latest Government guidelines surrounding COVID-19.

They didn’t let this stop them though and this year they have worked hard to keep their members engaged with regular online socials and social media campaigns such as ‘Meet the Committee’ and ’12 Days of Cheermas’. In March, club members completed the 27/27 Challenge for MIND. The challenge saw them run 27 miles over 27 days in solidarity with the 27% of students who report a mental health problem while at Uni and together they raised £1843. 


Dance (UPDC)      

In October 2020, UPDC hosted a Taster Week which enables new students to try out new styles of dance from the safety of home via Zoom. They’ve worked in collaboration with the Tropical Island Society to host Give it a Go: Afro-Caribbean Dance sessions for the entire academic year engaging both members of their respective groups as well as the wider student community.

In addition, the team have done a brilliant job at building links with external projects, such as the Groovement Project, and with a professional West End dance teacher who has provided three workshops to UPDC and their members. 



Plymouth Krakens have done a fantastic job this year at helping to keep their members safe including clear communication as well as attending meetings with venues to run through safety procedures. 

The team kept their members engaged with regular socials and training sessions where possible as well as celebrating their successes by carrying on their tradition of nominating a ‘Kraken of the Week’. They also hosted a Give it a Go: Dodgeball session every Friday that COVID allowed throughout the year which was open to all University of Plymouth students. 


Men's Football (UPFC)    

The Men’s Football Club have worked incredibly hard to give their members as many opportunities as possible this year while prioritising their safety, as well as being advocates for a range of causes. 

During Black History Month in 2020, UPFC took part in FIFA and UEFA’s ‘Kick Racism out of Football’ campaign. They did this by asking members of their club to give an account of the experiences they’ve had of being a black football player in grassroots football and sharing these accounts via social media. This year the club also took part in their bi-annual shave or dye event for Teenage Cancer Trust. They raised a phenomenal £4,805 with roughly 50 members taking part.  


Women's Football      

The Women’s Football Club welcomed new members at the start of the year with a Q&A Session where first-year students could meet and get to know the committee and ask any questions they had. 

They’ve kept members engaged with a range of themed socials run via Zoom such as quizzes, Cops and Robbers and Animal-themed. Where possible in line with COVID restrictions they’ve had in-person socials such as Tenpin Bowling as well as competing in this year’s Varsity and other fixtures.   


Women’s Hockey      

This year the Women’s Hockey team successfully held their trials in October 2020 and even managed to play some pre-season friendlies before COVID restrictions put a stop to fixtures and in-person interaction.

The Committee has worked closely with Devon Hockey and England Hockey to prioritise adherence to the latest guidelines and ultimately members’ safety all year. The club has had great success in its fundraising endeavours including sending 12 Christmas boxes to children in need via Operation Christmas Child and raising £2752.50 for Cancer Research UK by taking part in Run Across the UK with other Universities across the country.   


Men’s Hockey      

Men’s Hockey ensured at the start of the year everyone knew who the committee was by running an Instagram campaign in addition to a Welcome Q&A session for students. 

Throughout the year they managed to run a number of charity events raising £1090, provide opportunities for students to develop through online courses and run an environmental awareness campaign around Plymouths leading role in climate and ecological awareness by setting up a petition for Plymouth Sound to become the UK’s first national marine park. 


Netball (UPNC)      

Due to COVID-19, unfortunately, the Netball Club has not been able to hold any trips, have regular training or match play either but they did successfully and safely hold their team trials in October in accordance with the guidelines provided by England Netball. 

Being unable to play was undoubtedly a huge challenge but they kept their community connected via group chats, regular online socials, fundraising campaigns and training opportunities. The Club formed a collaboration with ProActive where some members were offered paid coaching opportunities as well as opportunities to upskill in areas such as first aid which will be of future benefit to those members and to UPNC as a whole. 


Women's Rugby    

With limited face-to-face interaction possible this year the Women’s Rugby Club has built a supportive online community where members are encouraged to stay active via the ‘Witness the Fitness’ page, tips and updates are shared by the Chair and the Club’s Wellbeing Advocate has regularly checked in and shared wellbeing advice. 

The Club has stayed connected by hosting a variety of virtual socials, such as pub quizzes, escape rooms, game nights and a virtual yoga event. When face-to-face events became possible, they got together to watch the Women’s Six Nations and complete a Treasure Hunt. 


Swimming & Waterpolo      

Rather than hosting full club events, this year the Swimming and Waterpolo Club implemented a family system, in which two committee members and two or three other members (1st, 2nd and 3rd years) have been randomly allocated to allow newer members to get to know people in a more accessible and less intimidating environment. 

Throughout the year they hosted multiple ‘Family Challenges’ such as Bake Offs and ‘Family Task Master’ and within these challenges, they brought the whole club together via larger Zoom calls. 



Tennis faced up to this year's challenges by not only keeping their members engaged with a range of online events and socials but also having a great presence on their social media pages ensuring members could engage with the Committee, feel welcome and part of the club. 

They also took the opportunity to apply and become the national tennis representative with GiveToLocal an organisation that gets local businesses to support sports clubs through discounts, donations and funding putting the club in a strong financial position going into the next academic year. 



The Yacht Club were particularly unlucky this year as they had to reschedule their 'Give it a Go' sessions at the start of the year due to technical problems with the boats. The rescheduled date fell on the same day that the second national lockdown came into force and therefore it needed to be cancelled last minute. However, the Club and its dedicated Committee Members have worked hard to create new opportunities via their alumni network who they entered into the British Keelboat League.

They also adapted to running theory sessions virtually to keep their members engaged. 




Stay tuned and keep an eye on our social media channels over the coming weeks to read a profile of each student group that has achieved Icons this year.

You’ll be able to find out more about what they did to receive this award and how you can get involved in September. 


Want to find out what Sports and Societies are out there? Click here