One of the undeniably key elements of team sport is the bond created with your teammates – camaraderie, laughs, making memories. For grassroots sports clubs, particularly in cricket, hockey and rugby, the legendary club tour is often a highlight of the calendar.
We spoke to Fin Jenkins of Manchester University Hockey Club to find out about the club, the set-up and – of course – their recent tour! What goes on tour stays on tour…?
KUDOS: So can you tell us a bit about the club, the set up, your involvement in it…etc?
Fin: So basically we’re 5 teams – firsts to 5s – train on Monday nights, and have BUCS games (that’s the college and university leagues) on Wednesdays. We have a partnership with a local club called Brooklands Hockey Club, which is essentially one of the top 5 or 6 hockey clubs in the UK. We train with them on Thursday nights, and loan players to them for their Saturday league games. We get reduced costs with them because we’re essentially students giving them free players.
Our 1st team just got promoted to the North Prem. We have a really strong group this year. We’ve been building for quite a while – investing in strength and conditioning, gym sessions and making sure our guys go to the club matches. If you compare us at Manchester to, say, Loughborough – we have two sessions a week, one train, one game, while they have 4 at least. And they get a lot of investment. So we’ve been trying to bridge the gap, by getting people to train at least 3 times a week, and securing this club affiliation with Brooklands…
And what is your role?
I was social secretary last year – in charge of socials, making sure people have a good time…a normal role for a 2nd year to take on. As a third year, this year, I’m sponsorship sec and tour sec – and next year I’m gonna be chairman! The head of the club!
So come on then – tell us about the role of tour secretary and your recent club tour!
Ha! So yeah, tour sec is a fairly simple job. There’s a company called I Love Tour, which serves every uni in the UK, basically organising your tour for you. So we went to Rimini in Italy – 25 guys taking a 28 hour coach trip from Manchester to Rimini, which probably went as you’d expect!
Not a lot to do but muck about, right..?
Pretty much! Sing songs, play games. A lot of these guys had never met each other, and it’s just before exams, so a lot of people are kind of all over the place and ready for a break. It’s really nice to bring together people from, say, the firsts and the 5s, whose paths don’t cross all that often during the year. So yeah, long journey, arrive, meet the other universities, beach parties, drinking games, clubbing…plus a bit of touch rugby, football and volleyball on the beach!
The company are great – they set up 4 days of activities and they’re pretty relaxed about it. If you want to join in, join in, if not – do your own thing. It’s extremely well organised but they’re not in your face – we can do what we want but they provide a sort of fence around us to make sure we don’t push the limits!
So was there any hockey on tour?!
No! No hockey. In years gone by we’d go to Croatia, play other uni hockey teams, but it’s since evolved into this. There are probably 20-30 clubs there at the same time, something like 700 students, and it’s great for networking. I’m about to go do an internship in London, and I picked up about 20-30 people’s numbers, and loads of us arranged to go for coffee, or a beer, and people love that. You meet people from all over the country who you ordinarily wouldn’t. Just an amazing experience – aside from maybe the coach trip back: hangovers and sleep deprivation for everyone.
Back to hockey, then – it’s fair to say hockey has a lack of mainstream exposure: how do you find the take-up each new academic year? How do you do for numbers?
It depends on the year but on average we take in around 20-25 freshers each year. Those numbers always plug the gaps. There are things we can do to help – but a lot of it is word of mouth, talking about it in group chats etc. Brooklands help us with exposure too.
I guess when you arrive at uni, you’re in at the deep end, you don’t know anyone and there’s probably no better way of meeting new people?
Oh for sure. For freshers, it makes it all a lot less daunting – they come into a massive university and they see us which is like a condensed pocket of around 150 guys and girls, with our socials etc, and it makes it much easier for them to settle in.
That bond – players living together etc – must be great for the team itself? Most teams or clubs have players who live separate, disparate lives who turn up to play and then go their separate ways. For you guys the bond must be amazing…?
Absolutely, it’s great. I absolutely love the club – it makes up probably 80% of my social life! We’re a very close knit club – a lot of are living together in 2nd and 3rd year houses. Even those who’ve graduated – they stay in touch, in ‘old boys’ group chats and things, and they meet up, still get together, still socialise. It’s just a great network. We only have three years basically, until people graduate – we have a lot of emotional goodbyes at the end of every year, especially for those guys who’ve given such a lot. But when I come to leave I’ll have no regrets – I’ve given a hell of a lot to the club, I’ve got a hell of a lot out of it, and it’s made my university experience exponentially better than I could ever have imagined.
If you’re heading to university any time soon, and reading this doesn’t make you want to throw yourself headlong into the uni hockey club, then we can’t help you! Sport, and being part of a sports club, is about so much more than getting out there and playing the game itself. It is friendships, laughs, making memories, supporting others, protecting your mental health, food for your soul! It is EVERYTHING!
Thanks so much to Fin for taking the time to speak to us, and good luck to everyone at the club going forward.
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