It’s Sunday, York is cold and damp; I’m hungover and the 22 men stumbling over a ball in front of me, each showing the first signs of the inevitable beer belly developing, are all hungover as well. Welcome to the wonderful world of college sport.
The newly re-branded Deloitte Inter-College Sports Championship is a York tradition which began in the early years of the University when there were only a few colleges, all boasting similar numbers of students. Since then the introduction of new colleges such as Alcuin, James, and, most recently, Wentworth to proceedings has meant a much larger and potentially more intriguing competition.
However, the changes have had the opposite effect. Colleges have been built by the University to house students, not provide an equal footing in sport – meaning those which house more students such as Halifax have more resources and a greater chance of finding talented players.
This adds an unquestionable bias to proceedings, meaning that colleges such as James and Vanbrugh which have fewer students are the outsiders. No longer is college sport about which team has the best individuals or the best team ethic, it’s about who has the largest squad to pick from, rendering the competition a pointless bore. Currently, Goodricke College, one of the largest, look set to top the table at Christmas and, unsurprisingly, Wentworth will lie at the foot of the table.
Personally, I don’t know anyone who plays for their college, and it’s questionable as to whether I want to. While University sports clubs are composed of eager, willing competitors who play either for pure enjoyment, to make new friends or to improve their ability, college sport is more about the clique, staying in with the crowd and excluding anyone who plays for a rival, or, dare I say it, doesn’t play sport at all.
Take a recent case of students taking the collegiate system way too seriously. An infamous Langwith student whom I will not name, sent me an e-mail asking if he could write an article about how unfairly his team were treated in their recent men’s first’s football match against Derwent “for taking things too seriously”, and that both himself and fellow team-mate were victimised by “over-zealous AU officials”. I’m sure our readership would be captivated by such an opportunity to learn about the woes of such legendary figures.
So what does this mean? Perhaps the AU should focus less of their attention on providing facilities and man-hours into organising games which are meaningless (and of interest to very few), and more time to promoting the benefits of playing University sport. Competing against other institutions and specialist clubs which have better facilities and coaching, and provide greater opportunities for improving individual ability is surely better than playing in a merry-go-round of pointless banter.
Who knows, maybe if university students stopped trying to beat each other we may even become a respectable sporting institution; instead of concentrating on a tournament which does not win the heart and minds of the majority of York university students.
By Daniel Whitehead