How sports can become the defining feature of your university experience


By Becky Bealing, Third Year, History

‘Join a sports team’ is one of the many infamous strap-lines preached to Freshers, yet a cliché I nearly ignored. But now, going into my final year, I cannot imagine a university life without sports.

Having given up playing sports before A-Levels, I presumed the standard of University sport would be beyond my abilities. Nonetheless, I attended a ‘Give It A Go’ session in my first term which went on to define my university experience.

Give It A Go | Bristol SU

Being part of a sports club has enriched my experience, providing unexpected but vital insights and wisdom. For example, misunderstanding the term ‘tinnie’, I showed up to welcome drinks with two tins of macaroni rather than two beers… I haven’t made the same mistake since.

'The sense of trust and belonging from being part of a team provided me with the confidence and resilience to tackle problems off the pitch.'

On a more serious note, as a first year, university can feel overwhelming but being involved in a sports club allows you to mix with students of all ages and from all subject areas, who are able to provide advice for a host of problems such as second year and signing for houses.

The practical value of these friendships were also highlighted to me as a fresher, when a third year found me in the ASS café about to spend a ridiculous amount of money on lunch, so swiftly introduced me to Parsons and Co-op, a mere two minutes’ walk away.

It is helpful and often a source of motivation to see where ex-club members have ended up after graduating. The alumni network of clubs are another unique benefit, allowing you to play sport with your friends once they have graduated.

Socially, being surrounded by a large group of individuals with a shared common interest has furthered my passion for sports. An interest in football is seem relatively niche amongst women, hence I would previously watch football matches at home with my dad. However nowadays, it is a struggle to find a living room with enough sofas for all of us who want to watch the game together.

Being part of a sports club also means there is always a social event to attend, whether its pub quizzes or days trips such as travelling to Wembley to watch the 4-0 England victory earlier this month.

This provides an invaluable opportunity to socialise with those outside the bubbles of your course, halls and year group.

Admittedly, I hadn’t consciously noticed the correlation between sport and my mental health until training sessions were reduced to allow us to focus on revision. Without it, I realised the dual impact sport has, at least for me personally.

The endorphins from physical exercise definitely made a difference to my state of mind whilst the sense of trust and belonging from being part of a team provided me with the confidence and resilience to tackle problems off the pitch.

Sport at university does not necessarily need to be undertaken with a club, as there are both tennis and squash courts available to hire for students.

Not only this, but there are sports available for every ability and interest, from rock-climbing to surfing and from complete beginners to professional players.

There is a joke amongst the University of Bristol Women’s Football Club, and I imagine many other clubs, that those staying on for a master’s are really just unable to say goodbye to their sports teams.

Whilst this is, of course, just an exaggeration, it highlights just how beneficial sports can be to our university experience, social life and mental well-being.

As a final year student, I could not recommend joining a sports club enough. Whether you are highly passionate about the sport you are joining or would just like to try something new and create friends at the same time, then joining a club is definitely one way to enhance your university life.

Featured Image Credit: Ella Salusbury

Keen to join a sport society? Find out how via the SU website or visit club's stalls at freshers fair.