words by Eleanor Brinkhoff
photo by Chris Hills of Cannock v Durham University
For many of us the weeks leading up to the next chapter in our lives, moving away from home and attending university, is filled with nervous energy. We are regaled with tales from our elders of their university years and how important it is ‘to make the most of your time there’. But it is not altogether clear to an 18-year-old fledgling how to thrive once they have flown the parental nest.
One such way to achieve this sentiment is through sport.
Many universities offer clubs ranging from rowing to korfball and are member institutions of British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS); an organisation dedicated to ‘creating the best university sport experience in the world’.
BUCS offers support from recreational involvement to performance pathways across 52 sports. By providing leagues, tournaments and events inclusive of all universities, BUCS facilitates an avenue for all sporting levels to compete.
Away from the competitive stage, joining a sports club can be the foundation for life-long friendships and lead to memories which will shape one's experience of university. After all, training during the British winter, through its torrential downpours and freezing mornings, brings a camaraderie that is impossible to replicate elsewhere.
Weekly training sessions can also provide balance critical to sustaining the university lifestyle. Between attending lectures and the current lockdown measures; sport gives additional variety leading to a richer university experience.
Although university is filled with highs, there are periods when deadlines and assignments can pile up causing life to look a little bleaker than usual. One scoping review of thirty publications highlighted that exercise may lead to reduction in depression and anxiety symptoms. Being part of a sports team provides this rush of endorphins as well as a support network of peers in a similar situation. The well-being of one’s physical and mental health is crucial to sustain a healthy and memorable time at university.
Training and competing in a sport through university can also be the initial steps down the path of a lifetime of sporting habits. The pride of pulling on university kit can still be felt long after graduation.