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Sports teams are the best part of university and if you’re not in one, you’re missing out

You’re always going to be ‘falling in love with the beers’

University sports teams get a bad press. You only hear about them when they’re planning an inappropriate social, or handing out offensive flyers, or painting every available surface of Waterfront’s toilets with snakebite vomit. We spoke to some of the leading sports teams around university to figure out why, for many, it’s the unquestionable highlight of their university experience.

Second year Liberal Arts student, Nicky Screawn says that joining a sports team was the obvious thing to do. She had “played hockey since [she] was seven”, although might not have imagined that it would lead her to dancing burlesque in front of a packed lecture theatre as part of RAG’s Strictly Come Dancing event. All the rugby players we surveyed, who also all forgot to leave their names, had played before. One player explained that he joined for “something to do in free time” in his second year, while another elaborated: “because I like rugby.”

When you see them on a Wednesday night, it might be tempting to think that these athletes are in it for the beers, but these people really do love their sport. When asked to pick a highlight, most picked something sport-related. “Playing and winning my first match was probably the best thing I’ve done,” said Alice. Second-year Geography student, Georgia Burns, said that playing competitive hockey was the main draw for her and Millie Ward, a Psychology third-year responded that captaining the mixed second team and remaining undefeated was her favourite memory from Lacrosse. Quite a few also cited Varsity or Macadam Cup victories. Even one of the rugby lads admitted that consistently playing sport had been his personal highlight.

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Many cited winning Varsity as a high point – not the beers

On the other hand, if you've never played a competitive sport in your life – or you're not sporty – there's no reason why university isn't the place to try it out. Alice, a first-year International Relations student, had never played netball before and didn’t want to embarrass herself, while hockey fresher and English student, Ben Wheadon, simply “wanted to start something new”, now he says he’s “feeling much more involved with the team than [he] thought he would". In sports, everyone is welcome. Alice, meanwhile, has “made some great friends and actually learnt how to play netball.”

That’s not to say people don’t have reservations before throwing themselves in. Third-year History student, James Simpson, confessed to ringing his older brother “for advice on getting through initiation.” Millie was hesitant to join lacrosse as she didn’t have much experience with the sport. Alex, another third-year, was nervous at the prospect of trials for swimming. All have gone on to love it.

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"I joined hockey for the three Bs – Beers, Boys and Banter"

That being said, they do love the beers. For the second team hockey captain who belly-danced his way to a fourth-place finish at the aforementioned Strictly event, “falling in love with the beers” was both the best and worst thing he’s done. Vishy de Silva, the face of Piccadilly Institute, also picked “chopping pints” as a high point.

An unnamed netballer cited initiation as “best and worst,” while Millie confessed that “cleaning chun off the table in Guy’s Bar” was a low point. In fact, vomit was a consistent presence in our responses: for Jules Duret, a third-year Business Student, it was “chundering in less than 15 minutes on a sports night”, whereas for international student, Arnoud, it was… “throwing up at around 10pm at Waterfront” … Yeah, you get the general idea.

Tours were also a recurring theme. Jules described a tour to Budapest as “just hanging out with friends eating and drinking. What’s not to like?” In most cases, what happens on tour seems to stay there, as most who mentioned "tour" declined to elaborate. However, second-year History student David Stephens couldn’t decide whether “walking in on an orgy during tour” was the best or worst thing that had happened to him.

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"Sports nights are different from your regular nights out because everyone has the same goal in mind: get wrecked and PI." – Jules

Do the socials distract from work? “Ask my Thursday morning seminar leader,” said David. Complaints about Thursday mornings were frequent, but most reasoned that the additional pressure improved their organisation. Becca Blanchett, a first-year, said she’s “much more focused and motivated” after a game or training. Alice admits that “the problem isn’t the sport, it’s my procrastination.”

James captained the hockey club's first team for two years and currently acts as club secretary. Millie is Lacrosse’s current president and claims that joining lacrosse was “the best decision” she’s made since coming to uni. Alex reflects that she’s made some of her best friends in sports teams – “it’s the people that make it what it is,” she says.

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"It's a valuable contribution to your time at uni." – Arnoud

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"I think it’s unfair to look at joining a sports club as an excuse for going out.” – Danielle Clark.

What would they say to those people, people who look down on sports teams as immature and overly rowdy?

Responses varied. “They can fuck off,” offered Vishy. “Get a life. You haven’t lived until you’ve been part of a university sports team,” enthused Georgia. Others were more eloquent: “It’s like when people say they’ve never watched the Lion King and don’t want to – you immediately assume that they had a rubbish childhood. It’s the same, but I assume you had, at best, a mediocre uni experience,” sassed Yumann Sadiq, a third-year Politics student. “Probably haven’t experienced it themselves. Only hearing horror stories,” stated one rugby player bluntly. “I would say they’re only considering the bad stereotypes. It’s had the most positive impact on my overall enjoyment of uni and I think it’s unfair to look at joining a sports club as an excuse for going out,” argued Danielle.

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(Credit: KCL Netball insta)

It’s not too late to join, either. When asked why people should give it a go, people responded enthusiastically. “It’s loads of fun,” says Carolina Costa Lopes, a Netball fresher and Computer Science student. “It's great to get some exercise in and meet people from outside your course.” David is equally enthusiastic: “it’s just such a laugh meeting awesome people and it makes uni life a bit more enjoyable.” Millie pointed out that “you become more involved in university life as a whole.” Sebastian, a fourth-year psychology student simply responded: “Well, why not?”