When I arrived at university, like most people, I was afraid I would not find a place where I fit in. In a university of 20,000 people, it is strangely easy to worry that you will end up feeling lost or alone. However, I found my place of belonging in the Durham University Gymnastics and Trampolining Club. DUGTC is a merged club of trampolining, my main sport, and gymnastics, which is something I only began at university.
It took me a while to actually join the gymnastics and trampolining club. At first, I was scared I wouldn’t fit in especially since I had not trampolined in years. Some Team Durham clubs are extremely high performing and only accept the most elite athletes the university has to offer. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I found that gymnastics and trampolining accepted people of all abilities: from complete beginners to world championship competitors. More importantly to me, the community was immediately welcoming and I quickly made friends bonding over memories of school trampolining competitions, college parenting and chicken and sweetcorn pizza of all things.
Doing a Team Durham sport can be quite a commitment. Being the highest level of sport available at Durham it can take up a lot of your time. Over the last two years (apart from during COVID-19 lockdowns) trampolining has taken place three times a week while gymnastics has trained once or twice weekly. Trampolining even had sessions at 7am-9am in the morning which did make me feel like a serious athlete!
To keep in the best shape possible, we also have strength and conditioning sessions, or ‘S&C’ sessions, once a week. I’ve got to say, S&C isn’t my favourite time of week but it really creates a sense of camaraderie and support. Sadly, the Graham Sports Centre at our sports complex Maiden Castle, do not have dedicated gymnastics equipment, however they do have five extremely good trampolines. This meant that in my second and third year when our facilities were relocated from the old campus in Stockton our sessions were only a twenty minute walk away – a massive bonus when you are exhausted from a night’s training!
All of our training was in preparation for our (in non-COVID times) frequent competitions. Trampolining competes in two leagues – BUCS and NEUT. BUCS is the national university league. It is the most important competition of the year and gives us the chance to win points for our university in the interdisciplinary BUCS League Table. NEUT is the North England University Trampolining League. They usually run five competitions a year and are definitely a highlight of the term! I felt so welcomed to Durham’s trampolining club that I attended my first competition, Nottingham Open 2019, only a few weeks after I had joined the club.
Competitions involve travelling to another university and competing in different trampolining disciplines over a weekend with a meal and social night with all of the competing universities. While I have been lucky enough to medal a couple of times, that’s not what competitions are about for me: it is such a team building experience and have created some of my favourite memories I have at university. From sneaking photos of teammates catching much needed sleep to designing some last minute costumes for that night’s social theme -competitions never have a slow moment.
The biggest opportunity that trampolining at Durham has offered me is the ability to captain the team for the last two years. That means that alongside my co-captains I am in charge of organising sessions, competitions and tracking the progress of or more elite ‘competition team’. This has been such a rewarding experience for me. I have become more confident, a better leader and improved my people skills. While it does mean that trampolining has become my life (my friends joke that it is my only personality trait) it has really shaped my university experience for the better.
Sport has made my Durham experience
Now at the end of my degree I really value the time I spent with my trampolining teammates and this has only become clearer during the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the year, we have continued running online S&C sessions, zoom socials and I have nearly always had a weekly call with some of my closest trampolining friends. As most of my friends are now in the process of leaving university and moving on, it makes me think of the scared little fresher who did not know whether they would find a place to fit in. I think of all the amazing memories, experiences and friendships I have had and how much DUGTC has defined my experience at university. My advice to you as a prospective fresher wondering what sport at university is like or even a current student interested in the topic is to engage with sport at Durham! Try something new, pick something up again that you did as a child or continue your sporting passion because I cannot give justice to how much richer it has made my Durham experience.
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