University sports teams are everywhere. A firm believer in the healthy body, healthy mind mantra, I turned up at the sports freshers push with open arms only to be confronted by almost comical stereotypes. Boxing babes brandishing gloves, tennis totty trying to grab your attention, and water polo wonders in Speedos - that's enough.
They lure you in with their ripped bodies, trophies and smiles, then destroy your soul through the hard and catty craft that is university sports. Don't be fooled by their 'go-get-em-tiger' image, because it won't be long until they're dictating what you wear, when you wake up and how much you drink.
When getting involved, you must be confident in your commitment as it can prove costly. After attending a taster session of badminton, I was asked to bring AU membership money. How was I meant to justify this spend, when I didn't even know if I'd enjoy it, let alone go for the rest of the year.
Furthermore, most teams expect you to have a gym membership. Taking the University of Liverpool gym as an example, you pay £120 a year of which you are there for about half the time. I joined the gym last year, independent of a sports team, and effectively flushed my money down the toilet.
Add to this the price of your sports gear (£40 for an unflattering lycra all in one, which rowers had to buy to race), the amount you will undoubtedly spend on fancy dress costumes for socials, and your light-hearted hobby is turned into a serious drain on your student loan.
The second issue is with elitism. I was alarmed and slightly disgusted by the equestrian society's laughs when I said I couldn't play polo and didn't own my own horse. If the "har-dee-har-dee-har's" before you join weren't enough, I am constantly hearing complaints about people feeling left out within their team.
One ex-rower confided that she left the team because it was "too cliquey". She said they systematically weed out the bad players by simply ignoring them:
"Within a few months it was evident who they wanted in the team and who was too annoying to be at training.
"I would get on the minibus and barely speak to anyone."
Surely university sport should be all about the fun and getting involved, not about who can make the A-Team?
Another student told me how he felt alienated from the rugby team because he wasn't a 'heavy drinker'. Sports socials are notorious around campus - with vulgar forfeits and outrageous team rules. Socials encourage binge-drinking and can also provoke misogynistic feelings, with one team forbidden from talking to women before midnight, and another holding 'pull a pig' competitions on nights out. This reinforces the wider problems of lad culture on campus and can result in members trying to outdo each other with outrageous acts - often condoning sexual harrassment. I am certainly not one to criticise drinking, and some dares can be seen as part of the fun, but the more extreme habits frighten less outgoing people away, and perpetuate sexist attitudes towards women.
A final issue is with the amount of time dedicated to being in a team. You can kiss your lie-ins, lovers and housemates goodbye, as students are expected to train up to six times a week. For the real 'keenos', some sessions even start at 6:30am. Matches are often played mid-week which means that some might miss their 4pm seminar (only some will consider this a negative factor).
Then come exams. Realistically, you want cram revision into any free time slot in the weeks running up to, and during, them. You won't have the time or the energy to attend your bi-weekly sports events - most students survive on a diet of coffee and pro-plus during this turbulent time. Admittedly, the societies are understanding about workloads, and don't kick you out if you don't turn up - but you're unlikely to get picked to play come match day.
People may think this is a highly ignorant diatribe due to the fact that I'm not in a sports team (nor have I been in one for longer than a few weeks). So why is this lazy grump so fussed?
As an outside observer, it is impossible to ignore the downward demise of uni sports. I get people complaining about the teams they're in, or get my arse grabbed by the 'lads on tour'. The fact that this is so visible on campus is worrying.
I get that not all teams are like this, and know loads of students who LOVE participating in uni sports, but if you look around you'll see some teams are becoming increasingly rowdy and expensive cliques - preventing people from joining and making the most of their university experience.