A college sporting chance

Rugby

Having played rugby at school, it was natural for me to try out for the Merton-Mansfield team. We are currently in the fourth division out of five, so ‘try-out’ is an exaggeration. This is the great advantage of college sport: anyone can give it a go. Our best find has been a Canadian powerlifter (and ex grizzly-bear-wrestler) Jake, who had never played rugby before coming to Oxford as, but now has a habit of single-handedly destroying front rows.

In my second year, I was made captain and was forced to approach the games and training from a different perspective – with an eye to organisation and a very active nexus account. It was a rewarding experience, especially when a training move came off in a match.
The best thing about college rugby is that it has given me the chance to carry on playing where at other universities I wouldn’t be good enough. It perfectly bridges the gap between a friendly kick-about and constant training and protein shakes.

Best Bit: Playing a cuppers, plate or bowl final at the Blues Rugby Stadium in Iffley.

Worst Bit: A tackle from a Canadian Powerlifter…

Cherwell says: With competition for the Blues team making it almost impossible for the casual rugby player to be in with a sniff, college rugby provides a more than suitable alternative.

Rowing

Unless you’re a) American or b) masochistic, then rowing in the first two terms at Oxford might be something to avoid. Whilst it may be sold as the ‘quintessential Oxford experience’, the reality is a combination of blisters, drinking bans and ‘banter’ that’s as omnipresent as it is terrible. But everyone rows at Oxford, right? Yes, but timing is crucial: rowing in Trinity is an entirely different beast. Whilst those serious boaties step up their training for the pinnacle of their lycra-clad careers – Summer VIIIs – a new breed also emerges on to the Isis in Trinity term, typically in the afternoon, and only when it’s not raining: the beer boat.

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Whilst over 50% of undergraduates row at some point in Oxford, the majority sensibly decide that the best format for this is in the sun, with a group of friends and where the choice of fancy dress for the race is far more important than the actual training. The reality is you will probably spend Saturday of Summer VIIIs pissed on a balcony but at least you’ll have had a good laugh.

Best Bit: Fancy dress and a large amount of Pimms.

Worst Bit: Possibility of undesirable encounter with lycra.

Cherwell says: Beer boats provide a leisurely introduction to rowing, with most of the gain and none of the pain. And you still get to say you rowed at Oxford.

Football

For many players the most rewarding aspect of college football is the self-delusion of accumulation of stash. The fact that you bought it yourself, for the kind of money you would never spend on actual clothes doesn’t spoil the excitement of looking like a pro at two o’clock every Wednesday afternoon in front of literally several people. After all, how will they know which name to chant unless it’s printed on your back? Proper footballers must sometimes privately acknowledge the joy of seeing in a their initialled kitbag the realisation of an adolescent dream. Apparently, during his playing days Mark Hughes’ passport photo was a Panini sticker of himself.

College football lets you meet your boyhood self at halfway. Happily, there is also an online outlet for this kind of make-believe as OUAFC.com records individual and team statistics and league tables. And sometimes, it actually seems as if somebody other than yourself might care how good you look and how many goals you score.

Best Bit: Official kit, complete with name and number printing. Every football fan’s dream.

Worst Bit: Getting knocked off top spot in the scorer’s table by some upstart hall worker from Christchurch who isn’t even a student.

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Cherwell says: The complete footballing experience.

Cricket

In Trinity of first year a JCR email asked if anybody wanted to play in a ‘recreational’ match. I hadn’t picked up a cricket bat since Primary school, but I was assured that this more than qualified me. Our team of 8, including novices like myself alongside someone who had played for Warwickshire Under-15s found ourselves playing a Hertford XI one Friday afternoon. There was lots of ginger cake (not sure why, but thanks nonetheless, Hertford), lots of poor cricket mixed with friendly competition and lots of laughs. I can’t remember the result, to be honest I don’t much care to try; never has it been more true that it was not the winning, but the taking part, the trying something new, that counted.

Be it a new sport, or one you already enjoy, and whether you want to compete nationally, between colleges, or if you just want to go to the pub afterwards, I urge you to throw yourself into Oxford sporting life; you’ll make friends, have fun and maybe, just maybe, you’ll get some cake.

Best Bit: Social Cricket = sporting socials.

Worst Bit: Its’s hard to see any downside to free cake…

Cherwell says: Get involved. There is nothing better than a well earned pint
at the college bar after a ‘hard fought’ victory.