Seeing the news made me remember my A-level results day three years ago. After finding out that I had achieved the grades necessary to study at the University of Southampton, I was filled with excitement for the years ahead. In the weeks that followed I was sent a few information booklets and I did some research of my own; one of the things that I was most looking forward to was trying my hand at some of the sports that the University has to offer.
The first thing that I signed up to was the University’s Tchoukball team. I, like many of you, had never heard of this strange sport and I, like nearly all of you, found it impossible to pronounce. Tchoukball (pronounced ‘chuke-ball’) is of Swiss origin and mixes elements of handball, volleyball and netball together. It was designed in the 1970s by Hermann Brandt to remove the aggression associated with most team sports.
This seven-aside game is played on an indoor pitch, similar in size to a basketball court, which has a frame at each end surrounded by a semi-circular forbidden zone whose radius measures three metres. A frame is essentially a square trampoline, measuring one metre by one metre, which is orientated at 45 degrees from the floor. The aim of the game is the bounce the ball off the frame so that is lands beyond the forbidden zone without the opposing team catching the ball and your team can score at both ends. Tchoukball is a game of threes: the game is split into thirds lasting fifteen minutes, and you can only hold the ball for three seconds, within which you can only take three steps and a team can only make three passes before they have to take a shot.
Southampton Stags in action (Credit: Southampton Tchoukball Club)
I played tchoukball religiously throughout my first year, attending every training session and playing in all the games I could make on a Sunday afternoon, which often saw us making trips to Portsmouth or Bedford, where several teams converged to play two or three matches in one day. Last year I decided to make a switch and joined the University’s Handball team. Although tchoukball has similarities to handball, I didn't know the rules of the game, so I joined the University’s development squad, which allows novices like me to learn the game whilst improving our technique.
The handball tournament I took part in last November
Besides handball and tchoukball, I have always enjoyed playing badminton and whilst I've been here I have played it recreationally with friends, attended a few RecBad sessions (the badminton society for recreational playing) and I am currently part of the Physics badminton team. Every year at I look out for new things to try, and even though I’m going into my masters year this ethos will not change. I have tried some sports that didn't work out for me, like the dodgeball taster session I attended in my second year.
My advice to the new intake of Freshers who will soon be appearing in Southampton is to try everything and to not be afraid to give something a go!