Sporting nostalgia corner: Playing

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By Eddie McAteer, Sports Editor

Since the start of the pandemic most forms of exercise have been limited in some way or another. With the vast majority of us having not played since 5 January, we can finally return to outdoor sport. Nonetheless, we are all feeling pretty sentimental about organised exercise following three lockdowns and a lottery of tiers, so here’s a trip down memory lane!

For anyone who is remotely sporty, the past two and a bit months will have been pretty challenging. Sure, there is plenty of televised rugby, football, cricket, golf (I could go on) but something is still missing.

There is a sporting itch that just cannot be scratched by watching from home or meeting up with a solitary friend to go for a run. Where is the pre-game build-up, the pumping adrenaline, the post-match exhaustion?

Picture this, you have just escaped the clutches of Wednesday’s 12pm lecture and are quickly scranning some pasta and pesto as your pre-match fuel. You arrive at Coombe Dingle with the Bristol sun on your face and the noise of camaraderie flowing from the changing rooms. It’s gameday, a momentary escape from that summative due on Friday, a midweek reprieve from lectures, an opportunity to stretch your legs.

Stepping onto the pitch only serves to build the excitement; the feel of your studs sinking into the mud, the sound of the ball hitting your stick, the beads of sweat running down your temple. Technically, we can legally do all this as part of our single sortie for exercise, but competition adds a certain spark that can’t be replicated by the mediocre lockdown alternative.

Organised sport isn't just about exercise, it's about experiences

Playing our preferred sports, be it at training or matches, is full of tiny little things that we don’t realise we’d miss until they are gone. As a rugby player, I have found myself reminiscing about playing every time it is ‘perfect rugby weather’ because it brings back good memories.

That being said, sporting nostalgia isn’t limited to outdoor sports; indoor sports have been some of the hardest hit by COVID restrictions. Maddy Raven, Social Secretary of the Pole and Aerial Arts society, explained that training in particular is a bonding experience because ‘you get to know the people stopping you from falling several metres.’

Training might be where those bonds are created but it is competitions/matches where they are tested. Regardless of your sport, competition is integral because it provides the high-pressure situations in which these links are forged. Without competitive sport, those links are weaker and can cause you to feel disconnected from teammates.

In team sports such as rugby, football and hockey, every player must connect with their teammates to achieve a common goal. As they face off against another group of teammates, you could argue that the strength of the bond between teammates is what wins the game, not the skill of the players. Having the best players does not necessarily mean you are the best team.

Competitive sport also has a knock-on effect on our academic lives. Epigram’s digital sports editor, Daniel Dyson, described the ‘motivation to work’ that comes from playing sport. Despite the fatigue that comes with exercising, there is undoubtedly a burst of motivation that somehow stems from tiring yourself out. Trudging home after a tiring session brings with it a sense of achievement that, somewhat strangely, propels us to accomplish even more outside the world of sport. Even though your body is tired, often your mind is all the sharper for having exercised.

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Organised sport isn’t just about exercise, it’s about experiences. Experiences of friendship that are intensified by winning, losing and training together. How can we get those experiences without physically being there?

I am sure that I speak for every sportsperson when I say, ‘I will never take organised sport for granted again.’ The wait for it to return has been way too long but thankfully that glorious 29 March date has arrived.

Featured Image: Alice Proctor


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