For most students at the University of Southampton, the closest encounter with exercise is a hungover ascent up the feared gradients of Church Lane, or the trek up the seemingly endless hill to Glen Eyre, staring wistfully at the U2B you just missed out on at the Interchange five minutes earlier.
But, for those select few who possess “the gift” and are able to resist that next episode on Netflix to pursue physical exercise, the Union’s sporting arm – Team Southampton – exists to support and develop athletes of all abilities in a positive and enjoyable environment.
Students of all abilities are able to engage competitively in a diverse range of sports for the university as a member of the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) organisation, along with intra-mural competition between subjects and faculties and casual participation.
Wide Lane is the university’s 76-acre, re-developed sports facility in the north of Southampton, with a pair of synthetic flood-lit turf pitches supplemented by eight tennis courts, a large number of grass pitches to compliment a wide range of sports and the ‘Team Southampton Gym’ – a dedicated strength and conditioning facility for athletes – all overlooked by the conference and bar facilities at the Pavilion.
The £8.5 million Jubilee Sports Centre on Highfield Campus is equally well-equipped, housing a 6-lane, 25m indoor swimming pool alongside two Sports Halls totalling twelve indoor courts, a split-level, 150-station fitness suite, indoor martial arts and cycling studios and a bouldering wall, all complimented by additional facilities in the neighbouring SUSU building.
A 60-station fitness suite and studio is available for students at Mayflower Gym, whilst the University Watersports Centre caters for those interested in water-borne activities.
Whilst the cost for use of these facilities currently set by the University’s Sports and Wellbeing service – not Team Southampton or SUSU, the student’s union – is best described as ‘extortionate’, the health and social benefits of including sport and regular exercise in your routine are well-documented.
The highlight of the annual sporting calendar is undoubtedly the clash for Varsity honours against the nearby University of Portsmouth – despite only defeating ‘The Stags’ once amid a scoring controversy in 2013, ‘the enemy’ must be commended for continuing to turn up for their annual punishment at Southampton’s hands.
Newly-elected Vice President for Sports, Stephen Gore, is looking to create a positive, unified mindset surrounding Varsity for this year, with Southampton taking their bi-annual turn at hosting the event.
“Portsmouth surprised us last year by their level of competition and determination, and almost caused a big upset,” admitted Gore.
“This year I’m determined to have our teams come back stronger than ever by building a unified Team Southampton mind-set throughout the year. For the first time, students will be able to buy Team Southampton kit from the shop on top all year round, and we’re upscaling our Varsity merchandise – so expect to see a lot more team colours this year.”
For the first time, Gore is also looking to implement one of the key points of his election manifesto, and create a two-day Varsity event as opposed to the current single-day setup.
“Portsmouth seems to be on board with the plan but we’re still in the early stages of drafting the Varsity constitution. As a project very close to my heart you’ll all be hearing about it as soon as details are confirmed!”