When I came to Durham, I think it’s fair to say that I wasn’t in great shape; physically or mentally. One of the greatest experiences I have had during my two years here at university has been the opportunity to take part in sport. It has helped me not just personally, but also in working towards my degree in Natural Sciences.
The opportunity to play college sport was not the reason I applied to Durham, but it is one of the great bonuses of having a collegiate system. I started representing my college, Van Mildert, in the Women’s Football competition as a fresher, and have gone on to be captain of the side this year.
The main reason I decided to join Van Mildert Women’s Football Club (VMWFC) was to do with throwing myself into the ‘University experience’, and when you’re in Durham the easiest way to do this is take part in college sport. I hadn’t played football for many years (and it showed…!), but that really didn’t matter; college sport for me is not about maintaining high standards of sporting achievement but staying active, being in a competitive environment, and enjoying spending time with a group of people you have something in common with.
Through the team I got to know many people in college I otherwise may never have met, both in the years above and below me, and those doing completely different subjects. This is a massive bonus; it makes such a difference as a fresher to know even just a handful of people who are part of the wider college community, and in general to have a wider circle of friends and be part of multiple social groups.
This year as captain, it has been a real privilege to see freshers come out of their shells and throw themselves into their ‘University experience’. It has also been a smooth operation for team captains in general due to the appointment of a College Sport Manager which is someone who is solely in charge of organising the hundreds of fixtures that happen every term.
In my first year I also decided to join the University Women’s Cricket team; University sport is totally different but two things that remain are the competitiveness with your opponents and the comradeship with your teammates. Some of my best experiences over the past two years have come surrounded by the friends that I have made through sport.
As if I wasn’t involved enough, earlier this year I became Sports Editor of Palatinate, Durham University’s Student Newspaper. This has given me a unique, holistic insight into the world of college sport, and one of the first things you notice is that college sport has the ability to cater for everyone, and that everyone’s experience is different. College sport ranges from athletes who go on to play at University level, to those who just want a reason to go on socials, from Football to Frisbee.
I feel incredibly lucky that the university I happened to pick (without even seeing it, I might add…) has such a great reputation not just in elite sport, but in participation, even for those of us who don’t like getting up unless there is brunch involved! I think that had I gone to any other university, I wouldn’t have become so involved in sport and for that my university experience would definitely have suffered. It is simply one of many great opportunities at Durham University, and you would be crazy to pass it up!
Maddy is a member of Van Mildert College and is studying Natural Sciences.