Jun 21, 2016

The Case For Taking Up Sport This Summer

Sport is good for your mental health, physical health and social life, and this summer's sporting line-up means now is a great time to get inspired.

Philip McGuinness Contributing Writer
Sinéad Baker for The University Times

As the academic year has now drawn to a close, three months of opportunity beckon for many of us. If, like many, you are looking to do something new this summer, and are eager to get out of the house at that, sport offers an array of possibilities to keep you entertained right the way through to mid-September. Not to mention the long sporting summer we have ahead of us, with events such as Euro 2016 already dominating television sets, and Wimbledon and the Olympics in Rio set to pick up where it leaves off later in the summer. I’m reminded of the slogan of the London 2012 Olympics which targeted university students in particular: “Get Inspired.” Motivated by the grand spectacle of the event, young people picked up footballs, hurleys and tennis rackets in greater numbers, and we are sure to see a similar peak in sporting participation during the next number of months. Trinity, for all its academic prowess, continues to boast a strong sporting history that would prompt any student to “Get Inspired”.

During the academic year, our sporting societies are alive with budding young athletes. Each September, at the dawn of Fresher’s Week, hundreds of students decide upon a new sport to take up for that academic year. Just this April, decorated Olympian Sonia O’Sullivan hosted the Trinity 5K Campus Run. However, for the forthcoming period, many of us are left to our own devices and the pressures of work (albeit of a different kind), travel and family mean our exercise regimes are often neglected. The good news, however, is that many campus sporting facilities remain open during the summer, with lessons and introductory courses made available to students. Sport is the ideal escape during what can become a stressful period, as opposed to a drain on a student’s precious time, and is something which could prove very fruitful when Freshers’ Week rolls back around.

As flat mates return home and friends embark on their J1s, many of us may start to feel the creeping sense of alienation and isolation from friends over the summer


Sport is a great leveller. It provides us with goals and, most importantly, a focus. This is as good a reason as any to take up a new sport or continue in your current one. Setting small goals and working towards objectives proves to be a great motivator. Some sports in particular can help in acting as a yardstick against which you can measure your progress. Tennis and badminton are great for this: within a matter of weeks you can improve your skills enormously. I’ve often thought of sport as a ladder — as you gradually improve, the calibre of opponent you face improves, your own expectations rise as does your enthusiasm.

Individual sports, whilst often overlooked for their singularity in a world becoming ever more focused on “teamwork”, provide you with the greatest focus, as you are wholly dependent on your own capabilities. Join a club, participate in the social circle that goes with it, compete against yourself whilst not forgetting to enjoy the camaraderie. If nothing else, it might give you an excuse to get out of bed on a miserable August morning. If you are in need of some extra motivation, Trinity Sport run tennis, swimming and badminton classes during the summer, just to name a few. If you’re not close to the Trinity gym, joining a local one is oftentimes the most worthwhile investment you can make. As many of us have witnessed first-hand on campus, there are always people present to help you reach your goals.

As flat mates return home and friends embark on their J1s, many of us may start to feel the creeping sense of alienation and isolation from friends over the summer. It can often be a product of a year spent apart, a divergence of interests or a lengthy separation during the summer months. Sport can go a long way in remedying this. Running and cycling in particular stand out to me as being social sports, ones that you practice at your leisure with friends. It’s also sure way to meet people of similar inclination to yourself.

Whilst some international sports have been marred by recent controversies, there remains many leading lights sure to inspire tens of millions over the coming months

At the same time, sporting clubs and groups are all the rage of late. Without realising it, sport also helps to instil a sense of respect and admiration for others, through the establishment of a common interest. Many people in university make life-long friends through sport, particularly those who may not hit it off immediately with their classmates. Incoming Welfare Officer of Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU), Aoibhinn Ní Lochlainn, spoke on this during her campaign in February. Speaking to The University Times, she mentions the array of sporting outlets in Trinity and the effect they have had on the college community: “Physical activity is responsible for the triggering of key neurotransmitters. Sport has proven to be a successful therapy time and time again for students experiencing low mood here in Trinity.”

Ní Lochlainn cites the role played by Trinity Sport in helping to alleviate the pressures that come with academic life. She has spoken of the practice amongst doctors of prescribing bouts of exercise for patients affected by mental illness. She went on to stress the invaluable support of such clubs and societies in building confidence away from the rigours of academia: “Feelings of personal achievement are reinforced and we are made to feel valuable as part of a unit.” The pressure on students to perform to a high level in Trinity and in university in general is something which is rarely discussed and something which sees sport too often take something of a back seat.

Never before in my life can I remember such a highly anticipated summer of sport. By my own admission, I’m sure to spend hours in front of the TV, enjoying in particular the festival that is the Olympic Games. Whilst some international sports have been marred by recent controversies, there remains many leading lights sure to inspire tens of millions over the coming months. Sport’s highest-profile event faces many obstacles if the games of the Rio Olympics are to be a success. I know of many of my fellow students in university who had the fortune of attending the last Summer Olympics held in London. The reduced ticket prices saw many of my own friends take the short hop across the Irish Sea. Such was the nature of the lottery, many ended up attending archery and table tennis among others, sports which they had never previously considered but in which they now hold an interest.

The slogan of the Olympics, “Viva sua paixao” (Live your passion), is a nod to the Brazilian flair sure to enliven this year’s games, from which the track and field teams of two of sport’s most successful nations, Russia and Kenya, are, as of now, set to be absent. If we look beyond this, the games promises some uplifting Cinderella stories: Michael Phelps’s return, the pursuit of a 5th gold Medal for the Williams sisters in tennis and the participation, for the first time of a “Olympic Games Refugee Team”. No one can deny the sheer gravity of some of these stories. Perhaps some of our own Irish athletes will inspire us with their endeavours. Katie Taylor, Robert Heffernan and Annalise Murphy are just a few names to look out for. Also, let’s not forget the sporting fervour that accompanies the Euros,by now already in full swing. These events may just prove to be the resource many of us need to tap into sport and harness its potential.

Many of us have spent the guts of the last eight weeks pouring over books in last minute revision, spending hours cooped up in the library

The bright, warm days and the long evenings compliment physical activity perfectly. We all know the feeling of its opposite: trudging through campus on a cold November evening on your way to the gym or to practice. If little else inspires, the good weather (like we’re led to believe is on its way) should surely inspire us to seize the day. Everything appears rosier during the summer months, with the memories of exams and study growing ever more distant with each day.

Trinity’s Department of Sport have made a consistent effort to build up the sporting reputation of a university renowned globally for its academic prowess. They have led the way in establishing, what the new Deputy Head of Sport and Recreation, Matthew Dossett, during an interview published on Trinity Sport’s website, calls “the contribution of sport to enabling and supporting students in academic life”. The summer months are undoubtedly the time to make good on the impact that sport can have. It’s also up to us to ensure that whatever sporting commitment we’ve made during the academic year doesn’t begin to wane over the coming weeks and months. Many of us have spent the guts of the last eight weeks pouring over books in last minute revision, spending hours cooped up in the library. I, for one, am looking forward to a change over the coming months. With the pressures of another year behind us, sport is the perfect outlet to fill the gap left following the end of the academic year.

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