Ah, where would we be without sport at Warwick? It keeps you fit and serves as a welcome and deserved distraction to your studies. It introduces you to a new group of friends in a close-knit team environment, the mates you know you’ll keep long after you graduate. And it gives you the right to swan around floor 2 of the library not even pretending to work, whilst wearing three layers of club merch emblazoned with an oh so hilarious comedy nickname and proving about as loud and distracting as a pent-up Brian Blessed with a megaphone in a shouting contest. For many, sport is an essential part of the university experience.
However, not everybody at uni participates in sport. Is this simply personal taste- after all, there are more than a fair few people who have no interest- or is this, more worryingly, because of the nature of organized sport at Warwick?
In truth, the answer is a mixture of the two. I spoke to a couple of students who haven’t taken part in any sport here at uni, as well as one who plays regularly, to find out possible reasons for why some people are hesitating in getting involved.
For many, sport is an essential part of the university experience.
The first person I spoke to was first year History and Politics student, Kirsty Clelland. Kirsty told me she hadn’t participated in any sport at Warwick, despite competing competitively in swimming events at secondary school. ‘I stopped that a few years ago, though, because my coach expected too much’, she said. ‘I just didn’t really enjoy it anymore. I think that has put me off wanting to do it seriously again.’
There’s not really much Warwick Sport can do about pushy high school swimming coaches, so no blame can be apportioned on the uni in that respect. But was Kirsty not tempted by the chance to rediscover her passion for sport at Warwick? ‘I got a bit of a cliquey impression of the sports clubs when I went to the sports fair’, she told me. ‘I’m sure that was just a preconception but it put me off wanting to look further into them. For me sport should be about having fun so it would be great if I found something that I could go along to with friends and not take too seriously.’
Lacrosse player and second year American studies student, Emily Bright, seemed to sympathize with Kirsty’s opinion that sport at uni came appear cliquey. ‘(Sport) can be exclusive, naturally, as you know each other better if you go out a lot, and that means you can tell stories of drunken nights together’, she said.
Emily also raised the point that nights at Pop!, one of the most significant environments for team building at Warwick, can seem intimidating to those wanting to participate in sport, telling me that ‘In first year I felt that circling was pretty daunting, with people pressuring you to drink and playing confusing drinking games’. Fortunately for Emily, however, Lacrosse also hold socials that don’t involve drinking. ‘Some of the best nights I’ve had at uni have been non drinking ones’, she added.
Both Emily and Kirsty, then, seemed to be in agreement that sport at Warwick could be construed as cliquey, and that the drinking culture that is closely associated with competitive sport at university may well prove daunting for those outside the circle, so to speak. Second year Stephen Smith, who I also chatted to, acknowledged both of these problems as potential reasons for people avoiding sport at Warwick, before adding a few of his own.
‘I spent most of my freshers week in a drunken stupor’, Stephen said, ‘so I missed the initial sign-up on sports I may well have been interested in. After that, the proposition of joining just seemed too daunting, especially as everyone already seems like really good mates. It’s sort of like when a lion has to fight to join the pride’. Dodgy analogy aside (Stephen studies maths, after all), he seemed onto a good point. There is a Refreshers Fair at Warwick, but it’s not as large or publicized as well as at other universities. Our neighbours from down the road, and perennial Varsity whipping-boy, Coventry Uni, has an entire week set aside for Refreshers, for example, offering more of a chance to get involved mid-year. Perhaps this is an idea that our SU can investigate.
“Joining a sport late is daunting, sort of like when a lion has to fight to join the pride.” Second year Stephen Smith
As well as the concern of joining late, Stephen also mentioned that joining a sports club was a big time commitment. ‘I have about twenty contact hours a week, so dedication to a sports team would be pretty difficult to schedule alongside all of my academic requirements. Living off campus in Leamington doesn’t really help, especially when you have to factor travel time into your day.’
Warwick Sport hold a series of Warwick Active events throughout the year, which aspire to offer a more relaxed environment in which students can enjoy sport. These sort of events seem perfect for people such as Stephen and Kirsty, and yet it would appear they are not as heavily advertised as the more ‘mainstream’ pursuits, which still dominate the sporting calender at Warwick. Undoubtedly, there will always be people who decide not to take up sport at university but, at the same time, it is key that Warwick Sport do everything in their power to entice students into getting involved.
Whilst many have their good reasons for not getting stuck in, it seems sport at our uni still has a cliquey preconception that needs to be broken down, whilst it would appear more can be done to attract students throughout the academic year, and not just during freshers week.