Here at Bluebird we know that not everyone in Cambridge is sporty, and we know that for those of you who aren’t the fresher’s fair can be an intimidating and hectic place. We sent our Deputy Features Editor, Annie Lyons, down to the fair to find some Cambridge sport clubs that welcome absolute beginners, in case you couldn’t face it.
I started my adventure at the Pole Dancing stand. It took me a second to grab the attention of the stallholders as they were busy showing off their moves on the pole they had erected outside the fresher’s fair tent. Once they’d hopped down I learnt that pole dancing is in fact a club that actively welcome beginners and they have training specifically for beginners once a week. The main perk of pole dancing, I was told, is learning to use your body in a way that you otherwise wouldn’t. That, and it’s great for your upper body strength.
In a fair that was pretty hectic, the surf society was one stall that were looking particularly relaxed. The guys on the stall were super friendly and explained that they welcome people who have never surfed before to come on their twice termly trips to Scarborough, as well as their post-exams trip to Cornwall. They sold it as a great way to learn a new skill and meet new people from across the uni.
Next on the list was American Football. I met a couple of guys who seemed to really love the team; a good sign. “The Pythons” welcome all genders and people with no prior experience. The socials were described as “amazing” (by the former social secretary). It sounds like a well-structured and reasonably serious club who have a lot of fun. This may be the sport for you if you want to throw yourself in to something new. However, bear in mind that I was cornered by the line “find that your hair blows around in the wind, try a helmet”, so don’t expect high quality changing room banter.
The Cheerleading stand was well-staffed with lots of friendly faces who insisted that I would be welcome even though I can barely touch my toes, so, once again, no prior experience is needed. As with American football they encourage all genders to join. If you have a background in gymnastics you may stand a chance of getting in to the 1st team who train 3 times a week, but otherwise there is the 2nd team who train twice. They sell themselves as having an incredible social side, joking that Life (Kuda) isn’t sure whether to brand them a sports club or a drinking society. But it’s not just about drinking, they have non-drinking socials with weekly pizza nights and a club Christmas dinner. The Cheerleaders seem like an impressive bunch who don’t compromise on either the training or the partying, and they, like all the clubs on this list, really stressed that anyone is welcome.
“Do you want to get fit, learn self-defence and try a traditional Japanese martial art?” Do you want to belong to club with such a snappy slogan? The Cambridge University Karate Club is for you. For people that enjoy beating each other up, the guys at the Karate stand were very mellow. They explained that Karate is all about the “mind, body and soul” and that it’s more than a sport, “it’s a philosophy.” Karate sounds like a very wholesome option within the arena of beginner’s sport in Cambridge, offering self-discipline and defence rather than simply a great body. They have a demonstration on 7th October at Kelsey Kerridge, which you can go along to find out more.
Continuing with sanctioned violence, I moved on to boxing. Boxing was a big hit at this year’s freshers’ fair, with 440 sign ups by the time I went to see them on Wednesday afternoon. About 420 of these sign ups were from beginners. They’re offering a two week intro starting on the 9th October before they separate into a development squad and the Blues squad depending on ability and commitment. The stallholders stressed that there is no boxing “type” and were really happy to be seeing people signing up from lots of different backgrounds to have the opportunity to maintain their fitness and learn self-defence.
Out of a lovely and approachable bunch of stallholders, handball may have been the friendliest. The club secretary told me that she didn’t know what the sport was at all before she started playing but was enchanted by the friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Speaking to the handball team I could tell that they really prided themselves on being a well-integrated, friendly team. Their structure is non-stratified, the more experienced members of the club are not separated off from the beginners, instead everybody trains together to help the club improve as a whole. As well as this friendly ethos, the stallholders told me that people go out for drinks after most training sessions and that the social life reflects the training philosophy of friendliness. These guys made me want to play handball, I would definitely recommend.
Speaking to the Quidditch team was another lovely experience, they brand themselves as the only mixed full contact sport in Cambridge and a female member of the team told me that she found playing contact sport with all genders a really empowering experience. Quidditch sounds like a sport that would be great for people who have been left feeling cold by organised sport before; it’s open, inclusive and not taken too seriously, and with only one training session a week it’s not too intense on top of a Cambridge schedule.
If ball sports are not for you, how about trampolining? The trampolining stall fed me all of the friendly vibes I’d got from earlier stalls and the social side sounded great, with opportunities to meet teams from other universities at their post-tournament socials. The club welcome people of all abilities and stressed that you can choose your level engagement if you need to fit it in alongside other commitments. They have upcoming taster sessions that you can find on their website, don’t forget your socks!
Love mixed netball? How about taking it one step further with this Dutch sport with similarities to both basketball and netball, but is mixed! Korfball is another team that not only welcome, but actively encourage complete beginners. If you’ve been intimidated by the competitive level of the netball in Cambridge, this could be the sport for you. Another unique draw of the Korfball club is their yearly tour to Holland, an amazing part of what I was told was a great calendar of social activities.
For those of you who have followed Blue Bird by accident, and all this talk of exercise is making you feel a little bit sick, the Pool and Snooker club could be for you. I was assured that this was a low commitment club that is, of course, very social. They are particularly keen to encourage women and non-binary people to join as these demographics are underrepresented. I was assured that waistcoats weren’t always compulsory, only for varsity.
If you would like to promote your sports club please email firstname.lastname@example.org