From struggling to ratify to top of the table, MASS St Andrews president Dennis shares his reaction to finding out St Andrews is top of the Ultimate MASS league going into term 1 and gives his thoughts and advice on what he feels got them there.
Tell us a bit about yourself – name, age, Uni, course, interests outside of gym,
My name is Dennis, I’m 21 (22 in a few days), I’m at the University of St Andrews in my 4th year studying Astrophysics. Outside of the gym, I play some football, I used to play Ice Hockey. Astronomy is a hobby of mine as well as being what I study, I like to look up at the stars, back where I live in Switzerland I have a telescope.
Congrats on first place in Ultimate MASS in the Freshers period mark up. How does it feel?
It feels great. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting this at all, I felt like as a new society it would be hard for us. But honestly it feels amazing, I feel like we’ve accomplished much more than we expected at this point. I couldn’t have done it without the rest of the committee, I’ve only had time to message my vice president at the time of this interview but as soon as I tell them all I know they’ll be as excited as I am. It’s definitely motivation to keep going and win it at the end.
What would you attribute your success in Ultimate MASS thus far to?
I think being very vocal with personal interactions with members as well as on social media platforms helps. Keeping everyone updated as much as possible, especially on social media, I think this is a big reason as to why we’re doing well. It’s as simple as approaching people in the gym and being open with them and just saying like “hey, we’re doing these events” and just reminding everyone at every possible opportunity what we’re planning to do. The more we communicate with our members the more motivation we have to create events and stuff that will leave an impression on our members. It’s about a lot more than just getting a goodie bag from Maximuscle, which we love haha, but on a bigger scale, it’s about following the vision of MASS and creating a community of people who inspire and support each other both in the gym and outside of the gym. I think just putting that message across as much as possible and making events fun and exciting for people is the key. A combination of all of these things.
You also won the award for most clothing items purchased, winning a professional photoshoot. What advice would you give to other committees trying to get their sales up?
I don’t think I’m in any position to give advice haha. But honestly as the start of the year, we were a new society, I bought myself a t-shirt, a vest and joggers. I wore them in the gym pretty much as much as I could to the point that was allowed by personal hygiene haha. People genuinely saw me in these clothes and said “oh waw that merch looks cool it’s really cool that you have your own St Andrews branded merch” and it was kind of an advertisement that I just had to wear the clothes to get. I don’t know how much that counts as advice as it’s quite straightforward, however I did get quite a significant number of people come up to me and ask “what’s MASS, I see you wearing this stuff” and eventually these guys and girls who come up to me asking what’s MASS eventually they ended up joining MASS and I’d tell them ‘hey get on board with this, get some merch, get a hoodie, get this, get that, feel really integrated in our society’. And we just got so many people putting in orders, I set deadlines for each order and I had quite a significant number of people get back to me about the 1st deadline and then I kind of said look if we can enough interest for a second order then I’ll do a second order this semester and we got a lot of interest in that too. I think I counted almost £1,000 in clothes. I think it’s about bringing across this community feel more than anything and say hey, get a hoodie, be a part of MASS, immerse yourself in this community.
Eventually, I’m aiming to have one half of the gym doing their own thing then have the other half just MASS haha.
Your society is new to this year. What obstacles did you encounter setting up and how did you get through them?
This is a long story that starts last year but I’ll try and keep it short. Last year I put in all the paperwork that I needed to (to the SU) for the society, I put it all in very quickly and I don’t think there was anything wrong with my paperwork. However, I will say that the active society’s officer at the time in the Union didn’t really do the only job they had to do. I got emails from them saying “yes your society has been put on the agenda we’ll talk over it and you’ll either get leave to proceed or we’ll request revisions” but they just never got back to me. Something that should have taken about a week took months and then I eventually got the leave to proceed last year which is what you need to go onto the affiliation process. Then I went about trying to set up the bank account, the signatories for Committee, and that was an entirely different obstacle again… I emailed the societies officer who stopped responding to my emails altogether basically showing no faith in the society, so I went about doing the banking business myself and that was again overcomplicated by the accounts, asking me for documents I didn’t have and just had no way of getting. It was very confusing to me as I didn’t think it was necessary and as it’s something all societies have to do it shouldn’t be that hard.
And eventually, it dragged on to the point where I had to focus on my academic studies and put it aside as I wasn’t really getting assisted from the SU. I was being offered assistance from the students who are now a part of the committee, but for me to ask them to fix something when I don’t know what’s wrong with it just didn’t feel right. So I had to put it off just because of my academics.
But then this year I went about the whole thing again. There was a new societies officer who was infinitely more helpful, he sped everything up for me as he knew what I went through last year, so I went to the bank again where I encountered the same probably but this time I spoke up a little more about it and questioned them, I just told them “why do you need this, where would I obtain this” and eventually they owned up and said ‘hey this is our mistake we don’t need this’ which apparently no one could tell me last year.
So I got signatures at the bank, elected our committee at an AGM and we finally got ratification earlier this year.
Stay persistent with it because if it drags on too long you’ll face the same issues that I did. Once its set up it’s set up, it’s not necessarily going to be an easy process, but I’m just happy to be able to be affiliated now.
What’s your favourite thing about being a MASS President?
Probably being able to wear the hoodie with my name and ‘President’ on the back haha :).
What are your personal goals and gym goals now and in the future?
I’ve made a decision on my future quite a long time ago in that I’m going to pursue academics and academia, I want to work in academia and specifically astrophysics which is what I’m doing now.
In terms of my training, I’ve come a long way since I started. I started at Uni, and at first, it was a way to kill off stress I had from everyday life and it’s become more and more that as I’ve gone through my university career as work gets harder and you get more and more deadlines that are more important. As a side effect of that I’ve put on a lot of muscle, I kind of just ended up this size ha ha. I try to take it a bit more seriously now and I think it’s more than a hobby now.
I am looking forward to competing at the SPC and I’ve made it a goal of mine to do all of this without a trainer. I’ve been watching my calories very strictly, I’ve been maintaining a healthy diet since September now. I’m enjoying it becuase at the same time I can eat a lot of food, feel good about myself for being healthy, I feel healthier than I ever have in my life and my physique is getting to a place it’s never been before in a good way. I’m excited to see how I can do at the SPC using all my own knowledge that I’ve picked up un the last 3 years of training. After that who knows, I can see training being a big part of my life for years to come, I never see myself not going to the gym.