What it takes to…Be a Blue
Ever wondered how much effort goes into getting that elusive ‘Blues’ status? DAISY MITCHELL goes behind the blazers and the blu-tacks.
Before you ask, I’m not a Blues athlete. I may contribute in a very small way to my college’s mixed lacrosse team, and go for the occasional (ok, termly) run, but researching this article has only made it all the more blindingly obvious to me just how much I am not, nor ever could be, a ‘Blue’.
These people are, without exception, highly dedicated. The fact that none of those questioned had enough time on their hands to actually write this article (basically the only reason why I’m doing it…) is testament to the fact that they are not a group of people who spend up to eighty percent of the hours in a day either sleeping or procrastinating.
Since October, a close friend of mine has been training with the netball Blues squad. When she told us that she would now have to fit five hours training and up to two matches a week into her, already frankly quite full, timetable, we were horrified. “Babe, you can’t do it, you will ACTUALLY die”… “We’ll never see you again, ever”… “When are you going to eat?!”
All credit to her, she’s managed it. She ACTUALLY hasn’t died, I’ve laid eyes on her relatively often, even in an evening, social setting, and she still finds time to eat. (And do NatSci.) But I don’t think it’s been easy. She’s had to learn how to say no outright to a night out, miss out on two hour long Buttery lunches, and sometimes even ‘schedule’ time to have ‘chats’.
The financial and time commitments involved vary dramatically depending on the sport. Apparently (though I find this somewhat difficult to believe) some require significantly more training than netball. In the run up to the Varsity Boat Race the rowing crew can train up to eleven sessions a week (twice on a Saturday), a baffling idea for anyone who regularly finds the two flights of stairs to their bedroom an insurmountable task. Sports such as rugby and boxing require a similar time sacrifice. On top of the weekly training (12-14 hours), ‘Blue’ boxers often have to embrace strict eating plans in order to make their weight category, with foods like chicken, celery, and carrots being standard fare. One boxer confessed to The Tab that such lifestyle compromises can "begin to take over your life a little bit".
Financially, representing Cambridge at first team level can take a big chunk out of your student loan. Whilst more high-profile sports like rowing normally secure generous sponsorship deals to cut down costs, many others are not so lucky and, due to minimal support from the university, players are required to fund transport and administrative costs themselves. For sports such as lacrosse, athletes sometimes have to travel as far as St. Andrews for a weekly match, requiring them to leave at the crack of dawn and sometimes return too late to even make it to Cindies. Membership fees for hockey are £100 a term, and with a full rugby kit costing £250, the pennies from your Piggy Bank aren’t quite going to cut it.
So I guess it’s important that you love it. I probably couldn’t think of anything worse than standing on a muddy pitch for eighty minutes whilst fifteen Oxford men with a combined weight of two hundred stone grabbed my legs from under me and threw balls (backwards, obviously) into my face. But it’s what these guys live for. Seriously, they love it. Especially if they win. That feeling of achievement, of all your hard work having paid off, of celebrating with all your best mates you’ve trained so hard with… Actually, it does sound pretty good.
And you get all the girls. Take ‘Blu-tack’ for example. Not the reusable, putty-like adhesive you stick up posters with, but girls (or boys) who genuinely only date Blues. They can be hideous, boring, or complete dickheads, but as long as they’ve started a match against Oxford that’s all that matters. It’s a highly selective meat market. At least with all those hours they’ve spent training in a week they’re probably pretty toned and have great endurance.
But being a Blue isn’t without its drawbacks. It can actually be fairly dangerous. One kickboxing Blue came to lunch the other day with a real life black eye. He could have been in a fight against James Bond or something. Apparently it was just a run of the mill training injury. It wasn’t even from a competition, his pal just casually kicked him in the face. Brutal.
At the end of the day though, truly excelling in something so physically demanding commands a lot of admiration and respect. The light Blue men and women work bloody hard for their prize (sometimes literally). It might be hard for anyone who doesn’t have one to say what form the elusive ‘blue’ actually takes, but the blazers, scarves, ties, and most importantly glory, are definitely pretty cool. As much as I admire these people's commitment and determination, however, I couldn't take the graft. It takes a very particular type of person to be a Blue and the training regimes are not for the majority of us. The social status and nifty light blue blazer however, I would not be saying 'No' to.
With thanks to Amelia Garnett, Mike Zhang, David Bell, Andy Daniels, Jo Brant and Libby Brewin.