Everyone says that university is the best time in life to try new things. Join new clubs, experience societies, meet new people. There are so many choices here at Surrey that ticking all those boxes should be easy. But what those well-meaning people don’t account for is how scary it can be to walk up to a group of people who all know each other, who are all friends and teammates, and try to insert yourself into their preformed web of friendship and banter. You’re the outsider. And it takes a lot of courage to take those first steps.
In fact, it took me three years to finally get into sport. I kept telling myself that I should – it would be good for me, I should keep fit, I’ll have fun. But I kept putting off, because of the warnings I received from my good pal anxiety. That helpful friend in the back of my mind reminded me that I was unnecessary to the sports clubs I was interested in, so they wouldn’t want me; I’d be in the way. I was terrified to even show up.
But, have no fear, this is a good story with a happy ending. I remembered how much I enjoyed volleyball at school, so I really wanted to try it at university. Here at Surrey, we have the perfect opportunity for that, called PlaySport. It allows you to pay £3 per session (they call it pay and play) instead of investing in a gym membership. So I went ahead and emailed the volleyball team, asking for more details on the PlaySport sessions; they told me where and when it would be, and reassured me that they’d love to meet me. So that Sunday, despite my racing heart and sweaty palms, I made it to Arena C, introduced myself, and picked up a ball. And let me tell you – I had so. Much. Fun.
This is the VetSoc team at Volleyball’s intramural league. We came totally last but had a great time! (I’m the crazed-looking one spreading my arms out wide)
I still go to the sessions a year later, I still don’t know half the rules, but I love it. It was easier than I thought to make friends, because everyone is lovely. It was easier than I thought to get involved, because the members would teach me ways to improve. It was easier than I thought to settle in, and easier than I thought to tell that anxiety dude to shut up and go back where it came from. Being part of the PlaySport group has already given me so much confidence, and I’ve become a lot better at playing the actual game (I’d be worried if I hadn’t by now). In fact, it’s been so good for me that I joined another team this year.
Before Christmas the Students’ Union ran This Girl Can – an event designed to make sport more attractive to women, and thus more inclusive – and I tried my hand at weightlifting. Yes, little old me decided to try lifting heavy things. I was actually convinced to go by some friends who are club members, and I agreed to humour them. Who knew I would enjoy it so much?! I certainly didn’t. We had a coach teaching us the movements, challenging us, and I completely surprised myself by how strong I am. You could say I was hooked from day one. I now go to sessions every week; I’m still learning how to do the proper movements for the clean and jerk and the snatch, and it is SO satisfying each time I get a step closer. I absolutely love every member of the group, I love that they all come to say hi to me, that we all donned glitter moustaches to raise money for Movember, that we all shout and applaud when someone hits a personal best. I’ve only been to four sessions and yet I already feel like a valued member of this amazing team. It’s honestly one of the best things I’ve undertaken at uni.
Weightlifting club posing at the Movember event – most of the glitter had rubbed off by this point!
So, if you haven’t guessed thus far, there’s a moral: yes, it’s scary, but go anyway. You don’t need to try everything like your relatives say, you don’t need to be on the sports teams to matter to each session, you don’t need to know people in a society to join it. Pick something that sounds fun, or challenging, or exciting, and just turn up. Because no one will ever be so happy to see you than the people watching your unfamiliar face walking through the door. It’s the best feeling.
Author: Katie Turney.