Sports initiations get a bad rap - but they're usually good clean fun

They might be drunken, but they're not usually debauched

"Initiation"; The word struck fear in my mind as a fresher, lols as a second year and now as a finalist, having attained the trifecta, I’m feeling reflective.

It has a bad reputation. One English university has in its union policy a clause denoting the prohibition of “initiation” in relation to sports clubs and societies. They prefer “welcome evening”.

Sports club initiations aren’t just about swallowing goldfish, being sick on each other and repackaged bullying. If you Google “university sport initiations UK”, hundreds of horror stories greet you; in the same way “university rugby clubs” don’t look good on paper.

Over the last decade, there have been some tragic accidents at the hands of sports club binge-drinking. Clubs have been fined sizeable chunks of precious union funding, captains sacked and reputations tarnished at the hands of unruly behaviour. Some tales tell of freshers being hung upside down, and that initiation is a rite of passage should you want to represent your university at sport. But I pooh-pooh that; there is no evidence of that at my college.

To brand all sports clubs with the same filthy brush is unfair: it isn’t the big, bad lads club that Hollywood and the sensationalist media make it out to be.

My university hockey club, notably a mixed club, is loving and fair. Amongst the standard cliques and personal friendships, there’s a hierarchy – a committee, finalists, second years and freshers – like anywhere else. You learn early on to shut up if the president is talking, to respect your elders. In the early days of first year, you speak when spoken to – if anyone has remembered your name – and always abide by “International Drinking Rules”. At 18 you’re just a small speck on the university landscape; in a big club, by final year you’ve seen and done a lot.

This end of town, all ceremonies – if you can call Regent’s Canal a royal venue – take place after reading week. It’s late November, for some December, before freshers are put through their paces. Before they, as is traditional in my club, collect random objects on a treasure hunt – library books, newspapers, items of clothes – and complete a series of sober challenges designed to test their mettle. Having ticked everything off, they receive their personalised social shirt for “session” and nights out – returning members get a fresh one – and the formal membership ritual is complete. By this point in the year, many matches have already been played – teams are selected in trials at the beginning of term.

It’s a cult of some kind, and I grant that from the outside it looks strange. But all sports clubs do. Our scene on Wednesday night attracted some attention. A group of tipsy freshers in onesies – this year’s theme was farmers and farmyard animals, completely inoffensively – running about campus duct-taped together (pint glass attached) looking for their next task. Willingly. With a little sass, from some. But it’s a whole heap of fun – there are no serious voices, just a bit of a tease here and there. Everyone is welcome, and everyone is involved.

Initiation is the compulsory club event; it is what bonds members together. We’ve all done it, and year in and out new freshers come along to join the circle. As a result it’s something that now, as finalists, we refer to often. “Remember that time at initiation?” “Well, no I don’t remember…but it was a wicked night.” My sports fresher memories aren’t a series of dare-I-tell-my-Mum stories, but brilliantly funny adventures. They will remain with me for a long time after graduation, and so will my social shirts.

Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
News
people'When I see people who look totally different, it brings me back to that time in my life'
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
news
News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

Arts and Entertainment
A photograph taken by David Redferm of Sonny Rollins
people
News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

Extras
indybest
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Nursery Nurse

£7 - £8 per hour: Randstad Education Leeds: Nursery Nurse Leeds November start...

EBD LSA required - Vale of Glamorgan

£60 - £65 per day + plus free travel scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The J...

EBD Teacher - Food Technology Specialist

£100 - £181 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: The JobTo plan and deliver all ...

Learning Support Assistant

£50 - £60 per day + plus free travel scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The J...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker