By Ben Fleming
As students return to Durham for the new academic year and, despite the ongoing uncertainty surrounding daily life and ‘the new normal’ (as cliché as that has become), there is still plenty to be excited about. Whether you are a new student coming here for your first year, or a returning student keen to make the most of your time, sport has a lot going on.
Free from the chains of secondary school, university students are no longer beholden to the rudimentary set of sports such as football, netball and rugby. And while these sports are still very much a focal point of Durham and ones which operate very successfully on a University and college basis, there is a plethora of different sports available for students, should they wish to try something to which they had perhaps not been exposed prior to university.
For those seeking a new aquatic challenge, then look no further than water polo. The sport, growing in popularity each year, is a great idea for anyone looking for something perhaps more exciting than the traditional trials and tribulations associated with swimming lengths. The sport is seven-a-side and requires huge amounts of strength and teamwork. The Durham University Water Polo team are one of the most successful teams in the country, with the men’s squad having won the BUCS title for the past two seasons, while their women’s team were BUCS runners-up in 2016, so if you’re looking for a successful water-based venture then look no further.
Back on land, there are plenty of other options for students to try out. If Alexander Povetkin’s recent brutal knockout against Dillian Whyte inspired you to pick up the gloves, then perhaps consider the Durham University Amateur Boxing Club. Whether you are simply looking to get in shape via the sport or wanting to compete in amateur bouts for the University, there is something for all interests and abilities. Furthermore, if you want to help raise money for charity, keep an eye out for Aggression Sessions, the University’s annual fight night, which sees students compete in amateur bouts to raise money for charity. Hopefully, restrictions permitting, trials and signups for this event will take place early in Michaelmas term so keep an eye out.
However, if bruising physical encounters aren’t up your street, perhaps have a look at getting involved with some of the less physical sports that Durham has to offer. Ultimate Frisbee is played at both college and University level and offers a great alternative, albeit whilst being surprisingly physically exerting.
Players aim to catch a disc in an American football-esque ‘end zone’ with the added difficulty of not being able to run whilst in possession of the disc. If Brodie Smith’s trick shots have caught your eye, be sure to get down to Maiden Castle to try it for yourself. However, spoiler alert: it’s harder and more arduous than it may appear at first.
Finally, touch rugby is another alternative for those seeking to return to a happier memory of rugby, one not tainted by the nightmares of rucks, mauls, and a seven-foot number 8 player careering around a scrum and running straight at you. Durham’s touch rugby has a growing and social community, and it’s easy to learn the rules, meaning it’s certainly one that can be picked up quickly by any newcomer.
There are far more sports that could be mentioned in this article, something which only serves as a testament to the sheer depth and breadth of sporting opportunity that this university offers. What is crucial though is to ensure every student gets out there and tries something. If not for the intrigue of trying a new sport or the social aspect of meeting new people, the mental health benefits of sport, especially in these trying times, cannot be understated. Palatinate encourages everyone to try and get involved in some manner.
Image: Toby Hillery