The Fitz Football TeamJake Barker with permission for Varsity

College sport is one of the most popular ways to get involved with sport at Cambridge. It offers a low commitment and enjoyable way to play sport with, theoretically, much more changeability than in university sports. The constant flow of players makes it reasonable to expect that the standard of college teams would vary over the years as the quality of players changes. However, some teams have managed to gain formidable reputations by winning the majority of competitions in their respective sports over the years. But how exactly have they achieved this consistency?

The Fitzwilliam men’s football team have cemented themselves as the team to beat in college football. Having won the last 7 cuppers in a row, they’re a serious force that other teams dread drawing in the tournament. Their consistent success definitely helps with Fitz’s overall reputation as a ‘sporty’ college, a quality that prospective students particularly interested in sport may look into when deciding which college to apply to, knowing it could have a big impact on their university experience.

When discussing whether this reputation is likely to attract more high quality players to their team, Fitz team captain, Asa Campbell, deemed that about half of the first team players applied to Fitz with sport being a large consideration. But then again, as Asa goes on to say, “ultimately sporting achievement isn’t the be all and end all when deciding which college to apply to”, and it will likely only be one of many contributing factors to consider.

However, their reputation does have an impact in attracting high quality players to the team, as Asa says that “about 80% of [their success] is down to players who had played at a high level before coming to University ending up at Fitz”, rather than the team developing exceptional players.

Despite not commonly attending college training, the first team players are the players who get the most practice. As Asa tells me, this is because “8 of our starting 11 are playing university football and receiving high-quality training 3/4 times a week” , certainly aiding their success in recent years. Again, this unusually high number of university players is likely attributed to the attraction to Fitz and its successful football team, with the best players naturally wanting to play in the best team.

Other colleges are also not short of talented sports teams, St John’s holding some particularly strong contenders. The John’s rugby team have won ten trophies across league and cuppers competitions since the 2015 season and are well on track to gaining two more in 2024. 

When asked whether the reputation of the rugby team may impact the attracting more high quality players to join the team, the John’s captain, Finn Dawson, suggested that the majority of players did not apply to the college based on their consistent success, but rather the quality of the facilities and playing fields. It’s no secret that John’s is a wealthy college, and it seems that their sports teams reap the benefits of this, their ladies netball team is one of only a few I’ve seen able to provide netball dresses for their players.

John’s rugby team is fairly unique in that they remain one of only two teams left in the league consisting of a single college. Many colleges form combined teams to ensure that enough players will be available to play in every match, as the large teams needed can quickly dwindle as injuries are picked up as the season goes on. This makes it all the more impressive that a single college can maintain their own team, hinting at the huge dedication and interest from within the college.


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When asked how the team can maintain such strong numbers, Finn suggested that they encourage more students who are more on the fence about playing rugby to join than in some colleges. He explains that “for new players, the deciding factor is how welcoming we are as a club and the focus we put on social aspects of the team in addition to rugby,” which includes having a roast every Sunday, a hard deal to pass up.

Overall, there doesn’t seem to be a single conclusive reason as to why some college teams manage to be so consistently successful. Reputation, funding, and social aspects are amongst the most important factors, and it will take a lot of effort for other teams to upheave their success. Although, to try and maintain the variability that makes college sport so exciting, I have to say that I’m rooting for the underdogs this season.