King's College football teamEd Marsh for Varsity

College sport is one of the Cambridge collegiate system’s greatest assets. It was undoubtedly one of the key things that I was excited for when joining the University. Every weekend you can forget the toils of academia, cast aside any looming deadlines and simply enjoy sport. While college sport is not exclusive to Cambridge, we really do seem to have perfected how it should be run. It is the ideal melting pot of talent, enjoyment and mediocrity.

For context, I epitomise the “average sportsman”. My sporting pinnacle arrived when I was 13 in the form of an U14 *5th* tier Sheffield League Cup final. Somehow, the gravitas of such a game truly managed to get to me and my teammates: we lost without so much as a whimper. One parent told us all under no uncertain terms that we’d “let the occasion get the better of us”.

This event was the first time I realised that no matter how much I loved (and still do) playing sport, there were two key issues. Firstly, I’ll never truly care enough about bringing success to my incredibly mediocre teams to take it so seriously. It doesn’t matter whether I’m playing in the Sheffield District Leagues or the CUAFL here, I’ll still have the same wry smile on my face when I hear someone taking it so seriously. Secondly, when it comes to sport, I hate any form of pressure. Perhaps that’s why, for a long time, I preferred to play tennis: a sport where the pressure is predominantly put on by yourself and not by others.

To my delight, these two characteristics are perfectly compatible with college sports. If anything, college sports have actually taught me to be that bit more competitive and to seek that little bit more pressure. These are certainly no bad lessons to learn.

Many of college sports’ positives lie in the social aspect that is ingrained in its culture. The sport is almost secondary. College teams provide a space completely detached from your degree and the mixture of different years is a great way of escaping your usual bubble. In order of importance, the socials come top. Then, potentially, matches. And then, if it even exists, training. For me, that’s exactly how it should be. If you want proper intensity, go play for the Blues. Don’t impose it on the likes of myself.

Of course, there are those who sometimes take things a touch overboard, whether it’s the occasional volley of abuse towards the referee, over-celebration at a decidedly average goal, or the most outrageous offence of all: a proper warm-up routine. I’m not interested in naming colleges or individuals who I saw do any of these. That would be unfair. Downing, however, *could* be one of those colleges.


Mountain View

What’s so appealing about the Cambridge Blue?

Ultimately, though, I can count on one hand the number of times I experienced over-competitiveness last season. And I genuinely don’t only think that is because King’s College FC are in the second tier and King’s College Tennis Team in the fifth tier. I think it is because the college system doesn’t allow for it.

Take football, for example. A squad of 15 will, by the law of averages, include at least three elf-bar addicts, two people who’d braved Friday Mash, and at least one individual who was in the library writing an essay until 5.30am. I could name many other painfully true stereotypes but it would end up sounding like a bad rendition of ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’.

College sport epitomises what grassroots sport is all about. No over-involved parents on the touchline. No coaches who treat nine-year-olds like elite athletes. Just big groups of mates playing sport for the fun of it. Sure, I may now bleed purple, but I certainly won’t lose any sleep after a loss. And, all things considered, that’s OK.