What comes to mind when you think about sport at uni? The boat race? Rugby? Teams in fancy dress tottering around the Union on Wednesday evenings? It's all of those things, for those interested; but there are many, many more sides to it. Getting involved in student sport – of any kind – can be a great experience, look good on your CV, and of course make you feel healthier. Plus, there are a lot of sports available. Here are a few great reasons to take to the field...
1 - Try something new
Just as uni is a chance to explore new avenues of learning, it's also a chance to explore new sports. You may have never had the chance to play badminton before, or perhaps the closest you've been to a sprung floor for gymnastics was at the soft play centre when you were at primary school.
Universities can offer the chance to try both, and more: many have excellent facilities and offer a huge range of options – at Glyndwr uni in Wales, for example, options range from football and netball to martial arts, futsal, squash and windsurfing; students can also get involved with clubs in their local community.
Plus, joining a sports club of any kind means meeting new people and expanding your social circle. It can even become the focus of your extra curricular time as a student and help build memories and lifelong friendships.
2 - Get healthy, get qualified
Regular exercise can make your heart healthy, help you lose weight, improve your focus and even boost self confidence - gradual improvement in any discipline is always going to feel good. You can even blend your sport with your studies: initiatives like Glyndwr's football academy allow students to train at a professional level while completing their degrees.
There's also nothing like some good exercise to reduce stress, so if you're revising, if you're in the middle of dissertation madness or if the flat above really is all about the bass (even at 2 a.m.), any kind of sporting action can help you unwind.
3 - Take part in something bigger
When you're not doing battle in the sporting arena you might want to get involved in other campaigns. There's some way to go before LGBT students feel fully included in sport, for example, so you could lend your weight to driving through the recommendations in the report NUS' 'Out in Sport'.
Alternatively, you could get behind Sport England's campaign 'This Girl Can', which features a number of students and aims to celebrate active women, encouraging them to have a positive body image. Whatever your cause, your uni's sports body will be able to help.
4 - Compete!
If we're honest, we all get a bit competitive about our respective unis; who hasn't indulged in a little one-upmanship when comparing notes with friends from home? So why not make it a bit more constructive and get involved in a contest between unis with a clear winner?
Friendly rivalry between uni teams is the bedrock of student sport, and all unis get involved to some extent. There are always new opportunities – at Glyndwr uni, this year sees them compete in a Varsity contest for the very first time against Chester, for example – so if you want to feed that competitive streak (and probably have a bit of dance later that day), sport is your friend.
5 - Play away
Regardless of your discipline, whether it's karate or kayaking, if you're representing your uni there are bound to be away dates. That's why most university timetables leave Wednesday afternoons and weekends free: for training and matches.
Getting involved with a sport can offer the chance to explore some other unis around the country, hopefully beat them and then enjoy the change of scenery with your teammates. Or, if you're not as ruthlessly competitive as all that, it's a good way of seeing some new sights, looking beyond the limits of your uni, and adding to the memories that you'll take away with you once you graduate.
A sporting life doesn't have to be the focus of your time at uni; it can just be a hobby. Or, it can be the reason you get up every day, down a load of eggs and go running. (Note: do not do this unless you're Rocky.) But however it fits in, a little sport can go a long way towards a healthy, rounded and fulfilling student experience.