By James Smith, Sports Editor
As the new year begins, Durham students both new and returning are to be met by a barrage of sporting opportunities for both College and Team Durham, giving a real possibility to fill all of the hours in the day.
Palatinate Sport spoke to Experience Durham Director Quentin Sloper about sport in Durham, why we should all be getting involved, and what there is to offer.
Quentin, who graduated back in 2005, built upon his sporting experiences in Durham as DU Tennis Captain and Vice President of what has become Team Durham, to develop his career within the sports framework of Durham University.
Despite this Mr Sloper said: “I wish that I had tried a few more things out”, reflecting that he continued with the same sports he had been exposed to as a child, not giving anything else a chance.
“I wish that I had tried a few more things out”
Whilst he admitted that “there are only so many hours in the day”, he was clear in his recommendation that as students we should be making the most of the hours that we are yet to fill.
When pushed for the most important reason to get involved in sport at Durham, Mr Sloper gave two responses; first was the obvious health benefits, and second, “it builds friendships, that I think almost more than any other part of Durham they seem to last for a lifetime,” a sentiment many returning students can surely resonate with.
Whilst it may seem unnecessary to be writing to encourage students to participate in university sport, with participation figures already at seventy-five percent across five-hundred college teams, Mr Sloper was also keen to encourage as much creativity as possible for the coming season.
He stated that Collingwood’s domination of the College League Table since its inaugural season in 2008/09 does not make the league less exciting. Instead, he applauded Collingwood’s success and stated that “they have become the benchmark, encouraging other colleges to think, what can they do with their sport?”
So despite the vast array of teams and sports already on offer, he challenges the rest of the student body to be as ambitious as possible with their sport this year, arguing that it only takes the effort of one student to “add to the culture of their college”.
He challenges the rest of the student body to be as ambitious as possible with their sport this year
This brings up a whole host of other opportunities in terms of sport at Durham University. There are currently over forty local schools and sports clubs in the local area which benefit from the support and volunteering of Durham students to run their activity programs.
There is also the opportunity to watch and support friends and college teams throughout the year. Mr Sloper applauded such support stating that: “In truth, if you get heavily involved in your college, whichever it is, there will, because there is so much going on, be more than one special day for your college”. So even if your prowess isn’t in playing sport, that does not preclude you from getting involved.
Aside from this Mr Sloper was keen to point to the Rugby Charity Challenge Match on October 10th as a highlight not just of Michaelmas Term, but of the whole year itself, not just as a celebration of Durham Sporting prowess, but clearly the charitable idea of the fixture pointing to another side of what Team Durham has to offer.
For those wishing to watch top-level athletes, Durham now boasts several top-level sport programs, perhaps most prominently stands Women’s Football, of which Quentin remarks: “What I think is so brilliant about the women’s football is that it is a true balance of local footballers, who live and breathe county Durham…and students who we are recruiting from all over the world”.
Aside from this, you can also go to watch Hockey, Volleyball, Basketball and hopefully this year Water Polo, all in England’s highest domestic leagues.
Without sounding too much like a pitch for a university you already attend, Quentin then returned to discuss college sport, acclaiming it to be “our crown jewels, distinctive to our performance program, or any other thing that we do”.
This being said, Experience Durham are keen to make sure that all student wants are met: “If there was an opportunity a student was expecting, and they’ve landed in Durham and it doesn’t exist, we want to hear”.
College sport is still one of the best things you can do at Durham
So if you’re reading this thinking that you would get more involved if it were not for that fact that there is not something that takes your fancy, do not just keep it to yourself.
So as we begin the new academic year Quentin would like to challenge students to be as involved in sport at Durham as possible, so that he can “be continuing to say in a years time or five years time” that college sport is still one of the best things you can do at Durham, and, reiterates, “that takes students to take part”.
Photograph: Craig McNair via Durham Women FC