It is a sad fact that many people who have enjoyed sport throughout their lives abruptly stop playing when they enter a University. The competition to get into a University wide team is inevitably greater than in schools and local clubs and, for many, the chance to play sport at a level that they are happy with dries up. In Oxford however there is a vast network of inter-college sporting competitions available to people not good enough to get a blue, but keen enough to turn up and play.
My University football experience began, somewhat ambitiously, at the Blues trials. Unfortunately these trials took place during a morning of fresher’s week; at a time that most freshers would be unaware existed. I would like to claim that my hangover was the reason I didn’t progress to the second round of trials, but in reality I am simply not good enough to play for the University. All was not lost however, I still had college football.
The trial for my college team was a slightly less formal affair – especially seeing as the captain scheduled it for when almost everyone else had lectures to attend. I was also ‘technically’ supposed to be attending an introductory lecture, but asked someone to pick up any notes and went along to the trial. This was the first of many times I have prioritised football over academic commitments; resulting in a series of disapproving comments from my tutors.
After the trial I was asked to come to the first game of the season later that day. Two hours later I was lining up for my debut. 90 minutes after that the game had finished, we had won 9-1 and I had scored a hat trick. This proved to be the highlight of my football season – I have only scored three more goals in the many games I’ve played since – but was certainly a decent way to introduce myself to college football (and to my new teammates who did not know my name and just shouted “Freshaaaaa” when I scored!)
The inter-collegiate cuppers competition is surely the highlight of any season for any college. It was made very clear to me that Cuppers matches were paramount – to the extent that players were advised not to go out the night before. Our quarter final was made to seem particularly important. Emails were exchanged on the morning of the game containing links to inspirational videos on youtube, the time we were asked to meet was for once adhered to by the majority of the team and a (relatively) large crowd came from college to watch. Everyone playing college football knows that playing football will always only be a hobby, but the build up to this game and atmosphere of a real crowd is as close as we can ever get to the real thing – and for the afternoon you can believe it really matters.
Playing college football has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. The level of competition is just right; there is a desire to win in every game but not to the detriment of enjoyment. The college sport system is something the university should be proud of. It gives opportunities for those who do not have the talent to make one of the university teams, but who have the passion and commitment to really enjoy their sport.