Christer Holloman




United Kingdom




Jan 2014 - Sep 2015

By Christer Holloman

How to get active in Oxford University sport clubs

When reporting from Sochi earlier this year, Mashable reporter Kurt Wagner remarked, ‘The Olympic Village has long been identified as a place overflowing with sexual tension, considering it brings together mostly young, fit, stressed out athletes from all over the world in one place;’ in order words, it was just like Oxford. Joking aside, all EMBA students are actually incredibly fit, because we are over-achievers in all aspects of life. Joking aside, there are over 100 sport clubs in Oxford to get us in shape, so the only question you have to ask yourself is how many you have time to get involved in!

Finding Your Sport

If there is a particular sport you are passionate about and you are still trying to decide which college to choose (see my earlier post – How To Choose Your Oxford College), it might be worth having a look at the athletic credentials of each college to see which one is excelling in your area. This means you can really make the most of your college experience. If team sports aren’t your thing, several colleges have onsite gyms and many of those that don’t include a free membership to the run-down Oxford University Sport Centre on Iffley Road, just outside central Oxford. Either of those two scenarios might also be factors to consider when deciding which college to choose. For a complete overview of what university sport clubs there are, take a look here.

Signing Up

Once you have found the club(s) you’re interested in, 1) pay the membership fee (the details are usually on their website) to show some commitment; 2) sign up to their newsletter and join their forums to be kept updated on practise dates, upcoming races, etc.; 3) email the main contact(s) listed on the website to introduce yourself, explain you’re a part time student (so they know you won’t attend very frequently), disclose your actual experience level (e.g. personal bests etc.) and ask if that’s okay – usually there is an A team (faster) and a B team (slower), and double check they got your money and have been added to the lists, etc.

Attending Practice

I started plotting which club met when to figure out how I could fit that around my EMBA schedule. Many clubs meet during the day, making it impossible for us to attend weekdays as we are at the school 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. Some run sessions late evenings, which we can make, and most have sessions and races on weekends, which we have no excuse to not attend. I make sure I arrive at least one day before our module starts and stay one day extra, just to get in as many practice sessions as possible. E.g. when arriving on a Sunday, I would go for a run 10 a.m. with OUCCC, followed by an afternoon with OUTC, swim at 1 p.m. and then cycling at 5.30 p.m.

Social Activities

Being a member of a club is another opportunity for you to get to know more people outside your college and the business school. I have even listed my sport clubs on my LinkedIn profile to be discoverable by past and future members, all in the name of networking. As I’m writing this I’m on the train home from having attended the annual Oxford University Polo Club dinner, a great opportunity to get to know some people off the pitch. 

Getting The Kit

Once you have started to get in to things I strongly encourage you to kit yourself out with the official gear from your club; most of the things can be bought here. Other items will be sold direct via your club. It’s amazing what wearing branded Oxford clothes does for performance and sense of pride. More people will cheer you and randomers will strike up conversations to share their stories about when they used to compete for their university back in the 70s. But don’t be the fool that gets the clothes without being a member, never shows up for practice and never races for the school.

Competing For Oxford University

There are competitive races/games for all skill levels throughout the year, from fun runs to the prestigious inter-university (referred to as ‘varsity’) events. The top athletes gain the status of ‘Blue’, which comes from the annual boat race, where Oxford ties dark blue ribbons to its boat and Cambridge light blue to theirs. Personally I’m nowhere near that level; we have to remember we are up against 21 year olds that practice their sport 5-6 days a week. That said, I recently raced for Oxford University in a triathlon and apart from the individual winners, the university with the most number of participants also got a prize, so in that sense I was able to contribute to Oxford’s victory just by taking part!

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