Rounders has existed since Tudor timesLee Haywood/Flickr/

A cursory look at the list of sports clubs Cambridge students can join reveals over 70 opportunities to get involved in sport at a university level. The list includes sports ranging from the more conventional ones (rugby, football, netball, hockey etc.), to slightly more obscure options such as clay pigeon shooting, Eton Fives and – because it’s Cambridge – croquet. For those of you wanting to play traditional ‘summer sports’, cricket and tennis are available, yet conspicuously missing from this list is that other traditional ‘summer sport’: rounders. Out of a possible 76 clubs (yes, I counted them), rounders does not get a mention, and it’s time we did something about that.

“Rounders is not, in fact, a ‘lesser’ sport”

The recent rise in women’s cricket following the launch of the ‘Transforming Women’s and Girls’ Cricket’ plan in late 2019 has been vital in improving equality between women’s and men’s access to the sport, with the number of cricket clubs having a women’s or girls’ section increasing from 78 to an incredible 933. This important and necessary transformation is, however, bittersweet, coming at the cost of the much beloved (by me at least) game of rounders. While I am truly glad that the days of separating boys and girls in PE lessons to teach the boys cricket and the girls the ‘lesser’ sport of rounders are over, this equality shouldn’t come at the cost of an equally competitive and arguably more exciting sport.

Rounders is not, in fact, a ‘lesser’ sport; it requires fast-paced running, accurate throwing and powerful batting – all of which make for intense and often thrilling matches. If the bowler isn’t accurate, they can give away half-rounders left, right and centre (as a left-hander I was the grateful recipient of many of these). If the backstop and fielder on first base have a good link up, you better make sure you don’t miss. If you do, run fast, otherwise you’ll be stumped out before you’ve even reached first base. If the other team is filled with ‘big hitters’, you need strong throws and accurate catches to stand a chance of staying in the game. The list could go on.

“Rounders has all the key attributes of a good sport, so why should it be left behind?”

Not to get too nerdy, but there are also many intricacies in rounders’ rules which makes it a game of tactics as well: if someone stumps fourth base (preventing you from running onto it) before you’ve actually reached third base, technically you can carry on running to score that rounder and you’re not out. This rule applies to all four bases, if anyone’s interested. Moreover, the sport builds a strong sense of camaraderie within the team, with those waiting to bat urging on their teammates as they sprint round the diamond, shouting to them whether to stop and “take the half” or “risk it (for a chocolate biscuit)” by attempting to make it all the way round. Rounders has all the key attributes of a good sport, so why should it be left behind?

The sport has been around since the Tudor era and is mentioned in works including Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. It is true that it emerged as a recreational activity, but the formation of the National Rounders Association in 1943 standardised its rules across England, which had already been done in Ireland by the Gaelic Athletic Association in 1884. England began fielding a national team in the mid-1970s, thereby giving it sporting prestige. Although rounders is not as high-profile as other ‘summer sports’ such as tennis and cricket, being overshadowed by its kindred game – baseball – and lacking international interest, this doesn’t mean that it has to be relegated back to only being played at picnics on sunny days.


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While I, as much as anyone, enjoy a fun, casual game of rounders in the summer months, I also love rounders the sport. I miss the sprinting round the bases while trying to keep an eye on the ball, the hoping your teammates will catch that person out, even the embarrassing shouts of ‘leftie’ when you come up to bat and have to wait while all the fielders shuffle round to the left. All of these aspects make rounders tense, competitive and engaging – qualities which, in my opinion, make it the best summer sport. Rounders England is aiming to “create a competition pathway that ultimately links to the BUCS structure” across UK universities, and I see no reason why Cambridge shouldn’t be a part of this.