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Can You Start a Sport at Uni?

Inclusive or Exclusive? Affordable or overly expensive? Impact gives you the lowdown on UoN sports opportunities.

In September 2018, The University of Nottingham won the prestigious ‘Sports University of the Year’ award. This is ,of course, a huge achievement – even on the international scale – but I want to look a bit closer to home and investigate how inclusive sports really is.

The university’s recent sporting award is bound to attract a lot of students for the upcoming academic year. But what should they expect when they get here? Well, there’s a lot going on! The Engage sessions offer casual and fun sessions to people of all abilities, especially those wanting to try a brand-new sport for the first time. This sounds idyllic, and something that I was keen to try when I started uni, as a way of meeting new people and getting exercise without having to go to the gym.

“If you want to try out new sports on a very non-comital basis without rigorous training, then Engage is certainly for you.”

Unfortunately, my experiences have not lived up to this Edenic expectation. Engage is a great idea and I loved the fact that there were so many free sessions during ‘Refreshers Week’ in order to let people try out lots of new sports. However, these sessions do not stay free forever, and do cost £3 a session. But £3 is hardly going to break the bank.

If you want to try out new sports on a very non-comital basis without rigorous training, then Engage is certainly for you. The issue that I take with it is that because it’s so flexible, this often means that different people go each week and you hardly get the same ‘team spirit’ as being in a fully-fledged team; there is definitely a feeling of being brushed aside from the main focus of the sports club.

“It seems that our uni’s golden reputation has led to the all teams (especially of popular sports) becoming impenetrable to those who aren’t donning a county shirt, which already excludes a lot of people.”

So, how about joining the sports teams? The biggest attraction of doing sports at university for me is the social aspect of it: you see huddles of people walking around campus with their green and gold attire looking like they’re having the best time; going to matches on Wednesdays, celebrating or commiserating in Crisis and even going on international tours.

Yet, it seems that the people who truly get to experience this side of university sport are the elite, and I use this word in many ways. Understandably, the players with the greatest sporting ability will be in the first teams, which is completely fair. However, it seems that our uni’s golden reputation has led to the all teams (especially of popular sports) becoming impenetrable to those who aren’t donning a county shirt, which already excludes a lot of people.

“Uni are doing a great job of increasing its sports inclusivity for disabled students, as some may even be entitled to a 50% reduction in the cost of a gym membership, and they hold a number and variety of inclusive club sessions.”

Furthermore, to be a member of any sports team, not including Engage sessions, you have to buy a gym membership. UoN sports and fitness membership will currently set you back £159. Undeniably, you do get a lot for your money, including court hire, unlimited use of the sophisticated gym and pool and a lot more. My issue with this is a personal one. I hate the gym. I find it intimidating and mundane and all I can think about is when I get to go home.

Subsequently, I prefer to trick myself into getting exercise by doing something enjoyable, like a team sport. The fact that I would be required to have a gym membership to do a team sport therefore defeats the point for me. You may get a lot for your money, but £159 is not a cheap lump sum, especially for a student, and seems like a complete waste of money for someone who is certainly not a gym bunny. Surely, the expense and requirement of the sport and fitness membership is excluding a lot of people and ensuring that only the same kinds of people (particularly those who can afford it) stay in the teams, year on year.

Uni are doing a great job of increasing its sports inclusivity for disabled students, as some may even be entitled to a 50% reduction in the cost of a gym membership, and they hold a number and variety of inclusive club sessions. This is such a step in the right direction, and I really hope that this inclusivity is extended to those who still feel left out of the #greenandgold club.

Emily Casey

For more information about UoN Sports and Membership please go to: https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/sport/index.aspx

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Featured image courtesy of Topeka Impact Volleyball via Flikr. No changes were made to this image. Image license found here.

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