Images: Philippa Grafton, Agatha Torrance and Andy Davis
In the feeding frenzy of the British university selection process, one of York’s most attractive features to applicants is its adoption of ‘Oxbridge’ style colleges. Although the reality of the collegiate system has its naysayers, the sporting opportunities it provides are undeniably positive. They provide students of all abilities the chance to play a variety of sports at a good, competitive level, whilst lacking the intensity of University level competition.
Football is the sport that dominates campus, and is by far the most popular college sport in terms of participation. Played largely on the windswept fields of 22 Acres, or the equally chilly JLD astro turf, the first two terms sees the various colleges compete in a league system, with segregated leagues for the first teams, the second teams etc. The number of teams entered into respective leagues is dependent on the manpower of the college, but the majority of institutions enter at least three teams. Some even enter five, a testament to the numbers involved in college football.
Although the league is important, many would argue that it plays second fiddle to the College Cup. The culmination of the football season, this knock-out competition takes place in mid-week games on the (theoretically) sun-drenched JLD. Although college sport is mostly casual, the cup is taken seriously, especially in the latter stages and with hundreds of people signing up for Nouse Fantasy Football. It took a penalty shoot-out to give Vanbrugh firsts the victory this year, but any number of teams can win. The competition has been known to throw up a few surprises.
The next year should see college rugby becoming a more prominent campus fixture. After years on the peripheries, it has finally gained permission to be played on the new pitches at the York Sport Village. Even with the previous difficulties of finding off-campus locations, the rugby scene was always marked by a close-knit and enthusiastic scene. The last couple of years have seen Derwent sweep aside all opposition, winning the league in swashbuckling style.
One-day rugby tournaments also proved popular last year, with James taking victory in the College Rugby 10s tournament, while Goodricke were triumphant in the College Competition in summer term, which saw University-level players compete alongside their college compatriots.
College hockey continues to go from strength to strength; the introduction of a Hockey College Cup this summer was widely heralded a success. Traditionally the college with largest pool of talent in most sports, Halifax seconds earned the win after beating their firsts side in the final. Matches are played on Sundays, with mixed gender teams and all abilities welcome.
Opportunities also exist to play college netball, basketball, badminton, darts and pool amongst others. There are also one-day college competitions throughout the year, including the slightly more marginal sports such as dodgeball. The summer also sees an Inter-College Sports Day, comprised mainly of the traditional track and field events.
Obviously it is a personal choice to take part in college sport. It is by no means compulsory, but the people that choose to get involved often find it becomes one of the most fulfilling aspects of their time at York.