College sport: A vital part of the student experience

By Ollie Godden

As I pulled into the turning circle of Collingwood College as a fresh-faced first year over two years ago, Freshers’ reps descended upon my car, whipping out my suitcases along with a plethora of sporting paraphernalia.

The rugby boots, the hockey stick, the tennis racquet and the cricket bag were all whisked off to my room by helpful seniors. What I didn’t quite understand was how I would be able to continue to do all these different activities.

I was acutely aware the time demands of the extra-curricular hobbies alongside a degree would be a challenging mix, and I wasn’t really sure how I would fit it all in. Moreover, friends at other institutions had already failed to get into university teams, so I was afraid many of my sporting interests may have found the end of the line. 

It didn’t take me long to realise that I was drastically incorrect. Only a couple of days in and the college’s own freshers’ fair enlightened me to all the opportunities available – a heaving marquee full of manned sports stalls looking for new recruits to bolster their already impressive squads. As one tends to be, I was sucked in by persuasive captains and signed up to an abundance of sports.

Of course, with intramural sports the only comparison from other universities, I was unsure as to what the standard and intensity would be like, having been informed by my apparently omniscient brother that individuals would often show up in chinos and flip-flops at his respective intramural games.

How wrong I was though. Rugby was my main sport and something I considered myself to be fairly apt at, but I struggled to break into the A team. Hockey was a sport I had played a lot of when younger but hadn’t played in a while, and needless to say I struggled.

My experiences were not marred, however, and the social aspect only brought me to enjoy my times on the pitches more, regardless of the team I was playing in, such was the balance between high-standard competition and socialising.

Fast forward to the present day and I would struggle to be more involved in the college programme, a ‘badger’ for the purists amongst you. As a sports captain, I take great pride in the options that college sport can provide, from the humble beginner to the veteran performer.

But of course, all of this participation amounts to one thing; the wider student experience. As a sports captain, I take great pride in the options college sport can provide College sport, as I have come to learn, is a vital part of the student experience which cannot be neglected, regardless of your ability.

The memories forged on, and off, the fields in the college sport setting will remain with you for years to come.

In joining the collegiate system, both here and at the other similar institutions, students are afforded the opportunity to partake in a high level of competition across a range of sports in a relaxed setting, a completely alien concept to some places. I implore anyone who is yet to take up the mantle of a new sport to do so, and congratulate anyone who already has in the early stages of this year.

As a Collingwood captain, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want my team to win a given match, but from a broader perspective, college sport provides an outstanding chance to get involved, regardless of the result. The system is still on the up as new sports continue to be introduced and the college sport officers of years gone by must be congratulated. Durham, and the students within, must now continue to build the our current success.

The memories forged on, and off, the fields in the college sport setting will remain with you for years to come. Treasure your opportunity.

Photograph: Durham University

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