Perhaps one of the best ways to get involved in Durham is through sports. There are two levels at which you can take part in sports at Durham. The first is Durham University (DU) level – this is where people represent Durham at a university-wide level i.e. against other universities. This tends to be more competitive, but many niche DU sports take beginners.
The second is college level. Each college fields its own sports clubs, with most clubs having multiple teams. College sports tend to involve less time commitment than DU and require less or no experience (although if there are a range of teams for a sport then the higher teams may compete at higher levels). Although it’s mainly just a bit of fun, there is inherent college rivalry, with teams competing against those from other colleges in divisions, with some teams moving up division and others moving down at the end of the season.
My experiences with sport at Durham are at Grey College – although it may not be exactly the same at other colleges, they are similar. Like DU, Grey had its own mini fresher’s fair with sports clubs and societies with stands where we could sign up. Although I had not played much sport before university, the one I definitely knew how to play was football. So it was natural for me to join Grey College Football (GCAFC), one of the biggest clubs at Grey, which has 6 teams: As to Fs. After attending a quick trial session in my first week at college, I was placed in the Ds. We have a Ds training session on Wednesdays 1:30-2:30pm and a session with the Es, and whichever of the Fs decide to turn up, on Thursdays 12-2pm, run by our co-captains. In training, we work on drills and usually finish by playing a short game. Football has been a great way to meet people from college and there is a great social aspect. The Ds have dreams of winning the league and moving up division, although, as I write this we are 10th out of 13 teams in division 5, so maybe next year. GCAFC has its own stash, club tie and an annual football tour.
A sport that I had never tried before, but knew I wanted to, was rowing. To join Grey College Boat Club (GCBC) we had to complete a swim test (pretty basic swimming level required – the most difficult bit was getting to the local swimming pool at 6:45am). After this, I got in my first rowing boat. As a novice, they started us in 4-person wooden boats as these are easier to train in than the senior squad’s plastic boats; recently we have used the plastic 4’s and 8’s and are preparing for a novice race. Novices train on the water once a week, usually Sundays for an hour in the early afternoon. We also have a club-wide erg session on rowing machines and a circuit once a week. While training on an erg is tiring, I find that keeping a boat stable and getting the technique correct is still a challenge. By summer, however, I hope to join the men’s senior squad and race with them.
GCBC also has a club tie, blazer and recently organised its own ball! A sport that I had never imagined playing is lacrosse. Even after I knew I was coming to Durham, I had not planned on joining Grey College Mixed Lacrosse (GCMxL) until one of my flatmates in fresher’s week suggested I try it. Although I am not that good, I am glad I joined because it is one of my favourite clubs at Grey. I started in the Bs, but after a term I have joined the As. We occasionally train on Wednesday afternoons, but the bulk of lacrosse is played in matches on weekends. They are quite chaotic with a lot of missed passes, shouting at opponents in an attempt to distract them and there is a general lack of knowledge about the rules of the sport. At the end of the day, it is for fun and I have made lots of great friends through the sport.
If you’re coming to Durham, I would definitely suggest playing sports. Even if you have no experience, or no intentions of playing sports, there is something for everyone.
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