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Joining a sports club

Friday 20 June 2008 Volunteering Advice

Taking part in a sport can dramatically improve your general health and wellbeing, as well enabling you to learn new skills and set yourself challenging goals.

Joining a university sports club is also a great way to meet new friends, giving you an instant bond. 

Sport for all

If you didn’t enjoy games at school or you’re not very fit, you may think sport at university isn’t something for you. However, there are many alternatives to competitive sports like rugby or netball, to suit all tastes, ages and levels of expertise.

If you’re not used to being active, a ramble through the local countryside might be a good place to start. Swimming is useful for regainning fitness without putting too much strain on your body. Martial arts and yoga are also very popular and can help to beat stress. 

Outdoor adventures

For outdoor types, there’s a huge range of pursuits: everthing from rock climbing, caving, canoeing, horse riding, sailing, fishing and cycling, to skiiing and other winter sports.

If you like to live on the edge, extreme sports such as sky-diving, mountaineering, surfing or whitewater rafting can give you an adrenalin buzz. If you’re hesitant about trying these things, bear in mind that although there’s an element of risk in extreme sports, safety procedures are usually rigorously followed.

Joining a club

According to the British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS), around 5,000 clubs operate in 140 higher education institutions, offering a wide range of sporting and outdoor activities. Sports clubs are usually open to everyone, including beginners. 

The start of term is a good time to join a sports club, though most clubs advertise their meetings throughout the year and are keen to welcome new members at any time. 

The Athletic Union

Usually you’ll need to join your university’s Athletic Union in order to gain access to sports clubs. Your Athletic Union receives a grant from your students’ union so they can administer and subsidise all the different sports clubs, as well as organising social events.

Playing for a university team

University teams compete with other universities as members of BUCS. Nearly 100,000 students participate in sport weekly at university level, while the British University Championships in 2008 attracted 5,000 athletes over four days of competition in Sheffield. Higher Education students comprised 41% of UK medal winners at the 2004 Olympics.

Joining a university team is not as straightforward as joining a sports club. As the teams are competitive, a certain level of ability is required and trials will be held held. Not everyone will make it onto the team, but for those who don’t, there are plenty of regular sports clubs to devote your athletic energy to. 

A big commitment

Being part of a university team is a great experience, but it’s also a serious commitment. Much of your time will be taken up in practices, and playing in and travelling to matches.

So you’ll need to organise yourself effectively to make sure you achieve your academic deadlines too. 


Some universities award ‘colours’ to sportsmen and women who have competed and performed at a very high level.

The tradition began with Oxford and Cambridge’s Full Blues (awarded for success at a national level of student competition) and Half Blues (for success at a county or regional level).

Other universities award their own colours – for example, Bristol Reds, University of Manchester Maroons and University of London Purples. 

For more information about participating in sports at a university level visit BUCS