Trinity students will know that the college has never been shy about emphasising a certain level of prestige in all of its faculties. From the notorious scholarship examinations, to the grand, historicising tours, the university knows how to sell itself as an institution of excellence. And there are no exceptions made when it comes to sport.
This intense focus on standards within Trinity sport begins before students begin their time in college, as players are scouted directly from schools and clubs across the country. The market for student athletes, particularly in sports such as GAA, rugby, and rowing, is highly competitive and Trinity coaches will have their eyes on young talent throughout the year.
Once they arrive in college, the students vying for places in Trinity’s top teams are provided with all the necessary attention and equipment needed to perform to the highest standard. In return for this, a level of commitment is expected that only a select few athletes are willing to give. This dynamic of world class resources in exchange for professional level commitment has proven successful, and Trinity athletes have won competitions for the college, and gone on to represent their country after they graduate. The other side of this, however, sees a number of athletes who may have played at a very high level before college become alienated from the sports they once loved.
The standard set by many of Trinity’s sports clubs can also have the effect of turning beginners away from sports entirely. The rowing club famously takes on dozens of eager freshers each year only to have the vast majority quit within weeks when they realise the seven day a week training schedule required to reach the highest level of the sport. Of course, the level of commitment expected by the top teams is justified; it is necessary to achieve the success that they often do. With the majority of Trinity’s sporting population unable to dedicate this much time to their team however, it comes as no surprise that social sports teams spring up within nearly every club in the college. These teams act as a sort of net to prevent people falling completely out of love with sports, and provide a social circle and form of exercise for hundreds of students each week. The number of social teams that exist is encouraging, but is Trinity doing enough to support and promote them? Are they too often become a piece of background noise behind the chorus of their respective A teams? Whether it’s five a side football, rugby, or badminton sport in Trinity encompasses much more than what you might see on the college prospectus.
“The standard set by many of Trinity’s sports clubs can also have the effect of turning beginners away from sports entirely.”
Speaking to some of the leaders of social sports teams in Trinity, it is immediately clear that people approach their teams from a range of backgrounds. Each team is made up of a mix of beginners, who are welcomed into a friendly, unintimidating environment, and people who have played the sport before and are looking to continue in a more relaxed setting. David Moore, captain of the men’s social rugby team, says that this mix allows the team to maintain a competitive attitude, even in the social setting: “The teams are still competitive. Some of the players have originally come from a high standard in school.” Cillian Diskin, treasurer of the Badminton Club, says that their high concentration of social members means players can make the games “as competitive as they want”, giving the opportunity to try a new sport “without the intimidation factor of being surrounded by people who already play”.
The service provided by these clubs cannot be overstated. It’s common knowledge that sport is extremely beneficial, both for mental and physical health. By placing an emphasis on accessibility, these teams prevent the majority of students from being shut out from this invaluable resource. It would seem however, despite the importance of these groups, that Trinity itself does not do enough to support and promote them to the student body. “Trinity itself does very little to promote social sport,” says Moore. “You get the odd email but that mostly comes from the clubs themselves.” The teams often struggle for numbers, and this sparsity in promotion does not help. Joshua Walsh, who runs a social basketball group, knows first-hand about the importance of getting the word out to potential players. “There could be even more people out there who want to shoot some hoops for fun or play other sports socially, but when you’re a small club with an equally small budget, getting the word out isn’t easy. A nice publicity bump could do wonders.”
“Trinity itself does very little to promote social sport.”
Despite living somewhat under the radar of Trinity Sport, these clubs have carved out a space in college life that is of great benefit to a huge number of students. They attract players with a wide variety of backgrounds in sport, from beginners to veterans, and become the primary social outlet for a lot of these students. They are just as important to college life as their more competitive counterparts.
And while the college might not be as helpful as they would like, the teams are greatly supported by the wider clubs in which they operate. The rugby club, for example, is happy to share their resources with their more social teams: “We get shorts and socks, have access to a physio, and are fully insured if any injury happens to us. We get better taken care of than many of the teams in our division would be,” says Moore. Walsh also notes that the well organised nature of the basketball club, along with enthusiasm from their players, is key to the success of their social team. Of course, the ultimate measure of success for a social team in the college is that the players enjoy themselves and make friends as they play, and this is emphasised by all of the teams. As Walsh says: “We all enjoyed P.E as children, there’s no reason that should stop once you grow up.”
Anyone looking to get involved in social sport can find training times through Facebook. Some teams will have their own pages, but often the best way to get in contact is to message the club’s main page and ask about training times. The number of teams is larger than most realise, so there is bound to be something for everyone.