Socially distanced socials keeping sports teams sweet

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By Lexi Bothamley-Dakin, Second Year History

One of the best aspects of joining a university sports team has always been the social side of the clubs. Most teams have somewhere that they call home on a Wednesday evening, whether that is a pub, a bar or a club, socials are integral to the sporting experience at university.

However, with the considerable challenge of COVID-19 and the government guidelines surrounding it, there has been a huge shift in the way socials are able to run this term.

The closure of most nightclubs (in their conventional form), as well as restrictions on large gatherings has meant a certain level of ingenuity has been required when organising sports socials.

To try and find out how teams are maintaining a social aspect, Epigram spoke to some of the University sports teams who have been forced to adapt to an ever-changing set of circumstances.

Starting things off, the University Netball team has been busy arranging socials for the start of the new year. These have taken the format of meeting in groups of six for pub nights, and more recently a trip to Lakota Gardens.

Their groups of six are determined by their training bubbles, the people they must train with due to numbers being restricted for indoor sports. Social Secretary Lizzie McGeshie stated that they are, ‘continuing to explore Covid-secure venues such as the invades races to ensure they all have new, fun and safe socials in store for the club.’

The Netball club is committed to ensuring their socials still happen as they know social interaction has been lost in some ways due to the pandemic. Given the importance of socials for the future of the club, they want to make sure all new and old members can get to know each other safely.

‘Having to place everyone in groups of six, we are finding that integration has been oddly aided by these strange times.’

The Boat Club have also been exploring new ways to continue their socials this year. We spoke to Social Secretary Charlotte Blake who believes this pandemic has actually brought one major positive to their socials.

She said that ‘having to place everyone in groups of six, we are finding that integration has been oddly aided by these strange times.’  They are easily able to mix people and find that those who may not have spoken to each other in a larger group, are now doing so much more naturally.

The Badminton team have certainly been creative this year with their plans to use an online platform to increase social interaction. This includes weekly Zoom calls for quizzes, bingo and other games. They have also had online baking, coffee mornings and MasterChef competitions as everyone started putting their newfound lockdown skills into practice.

Useful feedback found that online socials with more than 30 people were overwhelming, particularly for those new to the club.

Badminton Social Secretary Juliet Chee noted that, ‘though using an online platform is great to get a large number of people involved safely, nothing quite beats face to face.’

So, like other clubs at the University, they will also run a family scheme in groups of six, which will help in introducing the freshers to the club.

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To finish off, Epigram spoke to Social Secretary Kyle Thomson from theKorfball club and discovered that so far, they have been experimenting with Zoom calls. Useful feedback found that online socials with more than 30 people were overwhelming, particularly for those new to the club. As a result, they have now changed their format to smaller groups, in addition to potentially running Covid-friendly pub trips throughout the term.

The new university term has certainly brought significant challenges to the traditional Wednesday Sports Night, and Gravity’s lost property has had a significant reduction in sports fleeces. However, sportingsocials have not gone away but merely changed their format.

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The efforts of Social Secretaries and committees have proven that there is still some merit in joining a team for the social aspect. Even so, everyone will be desperate to get back to their team’s spiritual home.

Featured image: Epigram / Tom Sherwood

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