From dance to darts: Newcastle University’s wide sports variety

While BUCS sports grab the headlines, there is a host of other fantastic sports available at Newcastle University. This week, The Courier explores the incredible opportunities on offer to Newcastle students. The Parachuting Club can be found high in the sky, while the Caving Club dare to venture down underground

Parachuting

We’ve had a brilliant year so far, running 3 courses for first time static line jumpers. The courses we organise are for the RAPS progression system, where students start on a static line and progress on to freefall. Students receive their A licence in around 20 jumps and are then free to jump anywhere in the world. So far this year we’ve had a few people receiving their full A licence and also a few people receiving their formation skydiving qualification, which allows them to freefall with other people.

A larger committee than previous years has meant that all our socials have been better than ever, and nights in the dropzone bar have tended to get a little out of hand. We’ve also seen really great retention this year from first timers, with loads of people coming back for multiple jumps and it’s awesome to see some real progression under way before the weather turns for winter.

Looking ahead, we have an exciting year planned. Due to this abysmal weather we’ve been having recently, we are planning on running multiple trips down to the indoor skydiving centre in Manchester before Christmas. This is a great opportunity for people who have only done a few static line jumps to get a taste of freefall and also to just have a general mess about in a wind tunnel.

First timer skydiving courses will be starting back up after exams in the New Year and we hope to run as many as we can as we’ve had a lot of interest so far. For people who like the sun we are excited about having a potential summer trip planned, at the minute we are looking at running a week long budget trip to the south coast of Portugal, nothing is definite yet, but keep an eye on the Facebook page for updates.

As we have a fairly experienced committee this year we are also looking at entering a Newcastle university team into the UK National formation skydiving championships, this style of competition involves hitting as many predetermined 4 person formations, called ‘points’, as possible in 35 seconds of freefall from 10,500ft.

We have loads of stuff going on this year and I’d encourage anyone who’s interested in skydiving to give it a shot. I’ve never met anyone who was disappointed after their first jump. It’s also by far the cheapest way you will ever learn to skydive, around 50% of the general public price. So at £170 for all your training, and £23 a jump after that, how can you say no?

Sam Parker

Jumpers take their last few steps on the ground before take-off. Image: NUPC

Jumpers take their last few steps on the ground before take-off. Image: NUPC

Ice Hockey

The Wildcats turn 21 this year, and a lot has changed since the club was established in 1994. Now fielding an A, B and Women’s team, the 2015/16 season is shaping up to be an exciting one. The A team got exactly what they were hoping for in their opening game with a 9-4 routing of the Northumbria Kings. Having clawed varsity bragging rights from their cross-city rivals at the end of last season, the A’s added insult to injury with a united performance from seasoned veterans and raw recruits.

Coach Callum West was pleased but cautious of the challenges ahead. “The team had a very different look this year compared to last as people leave and new people come in. [They] hadn’t played together and had barely any time to create some chemistry in training. The players were put into their respective lines on the night of the game and just implemented the systems I asked them to and the team play followed suit. All we can do as a team is go out every night and play 100%… we have to work hard, and give everything.”

With further positive results at home and away, including a win at Nottingham and a draw with league leaders Sheffield, the A’s have opened plenty of breathing space to allow their key players to repair and their newcomers to adjust.

The B team suffered a tumultuous game at home last week against the Manchester Metro Stars. Despite moments of brilliance from longstanding players and a confident start from the rookies, the Wildcats slumped to a 9-15 defeat. Although not ideal, there was much to be positive about, as Club President Jack Legind attests.

“The B team are taking a lot of positives from their opening game and defeat vs Manchester. Manchester had one good line but other than that we more than matched them. We scored goals and new players have had a taste of competitive hockey so we’re looking forward to facing the Bradford Sabres on Tuesday before the reverse fixture of Manchester away.”

The Wildcat ladies meanwhile made history last year as the first all-girls university ice hockey side outside of Oxbridge. Their performance was similarly ground-breaking, narrowly missing the top spot to the Bradford Sabres. Their season starts in December, and the women’s team have high hopes for their chances this time around.

“We have a few new players and there’ll be the return of our top point scorers from last year, so since Bradford got promoted the league title should be between us and Northumbria based on last year” said women’s team forward and club vice-president Kirsty Ballard. “We have to watch out for newcomers Nottingham Mavericks and Leeds Gryphons, but we’re confident we can hold our own, especially under the guidance of coaches Steph Towns and Amy Campbell.”

Jack Marley

The Newcastle Wildcats line up on the ice for their annual squad photo. Image: Newcastle Wildcats

The Newcastle Wildcats line up on the ice for their annual squad photo. Image: Newcastle Wildcats

Caving

The most common response we receive at the fresher’s fair every year is “what’s caving?” Second only to “no thanks, I’m claustrophobic”. Caving is the adventurous sport of exploring the underground landscape that sits within the limestone hills of the countryside. As a club we escape the city every fortnight bound for the beautiful scenery of the Yorkshire Dales for a packed weekend of fun and exploration.

Due to the sheer number of caves available to us, we pick the most exciting and interesting trips for the ability level of the groups. One team could be abseiling down great waterfalls and traversing underground canyons and rivers, whilst another is scrambling through enormous caverns or squeezing through smaller passageways to see fossils and impressive cave formations.

Caving is quite unlike anything else, but combines areas of other outdoor sports. We generally start a trip with a nice section of fell walking to get to the cave entrance, getting some fresh air and taking in the landscape along the way. We also use similar harnesses and equipment to mountaineers, but re-designed to be more efficient and stand up to the abuse of caves. Often we are asked if it’s similar to rock climbing, and yes there is lots of rock and we do some climbing around, but in the dark, with a bright torch and wearing a pair of wellington boots. The key similarity is the spirit of adventure and exploration.

Caving is brilliant for team building with all the club members looking out for and helping each other through the caves, and everyone feels a part of a tight-knit group. This bond is why we have as much fun as we do; out of the caves, back at the hostel, or meeting up for socials in Newcastle.

When we aren’t caving we train the club members to use more advanced abseil techniques that open up possibilities for more adventurous caves next time. We also meet up every Tuesday to plan the next trips and catch up with each other and regularly go out for food, films or a night out.

Joe Sharp

Real Tennis

What do Henry VIII, King Louis X of France and Tim Henman’s brother, Michael, have in common? Well they have all, in the past, been dedicated players of the world’s oldest and finest racquet sport, Real Tennis. Said to be a cross between lawn tennis, squash and chess (believe it or not), Real Tennis is a game of agility, strategy and precision. The sport is played on a baffling asymmetric court surrounded by four walls and topped with a ceiling, the balls are stuffed with compacted champagne cork and the racquets are intentionally bent out of shape.

How has a sport as barmy as this managed to stand the test of time you ask? Well we ask ourselves the same question a lot of the time. Granted there are only 45 courts remaining in the world, but the sport has developed a really dedicated following of players and aficionados alike. Its success is down to the sheer uniqueness and incredible history it offers. Simply setting foot on court will make you a globally ranked player, you can play at Lord’s, Queen’s and even Hampton Court Palace itself and it’s one of the only professional sports where women pros can compete in men’s competitions.

Newcastle University Real Tennis Club has a completely open doors policy for anyone keen to try the sport out. We play and train at a court in Jesmond Dene and hold individual and group taster sessions at anyone’s request. Later this month we’re taking a team to the University Championships in Cambridge where we’ll face the Oxbridge teams as well as Exeter, Middlesex, Bristol, Bath and Durham.

Hugh Vermont

Real Tennis is the world's oldest racquet sport, once played by Henry VIII. Image: NURTC

Real Tennis is the world’s oldest racquet sport, once played by Henry VIII. Image: NURTC

Darts

Picture the scene, September 2014 and after fresher’s fair, Newcastle University Darts Society (NUDS), has eight people turn up to the first darts session of the year, downstairs at the SU, tucked away by the entrance to Throwback. Fast forward a year, and something odd has happened. The first night of NUDS 2015/16 has got 55 people coming to throw a few darts and sink a few pints.

Darts has become a thing people want to be a part of. Take a look at the first Uni-wide darts competition we held in February last year, where 130-plus people packed out the venue downstairs in the Union and caused that much of a scene that for the competition we’re holding this week (Thursday 26th November) they’ve made us hire bouncers.

But it’s not just about having a few drinks and getting to know people; of course there’s a serious competitive edge to it as well. Last year there were often occasions where we were struggling to make a full team, but this year the numbers have improved so much that we at Newcastle are one of only five universities in the country to be able to put out a first and second team, both of which are highly competitive.

That’s not all either, with socials such as bubble football and a trip to the greyhounds to come, weekends away in Sheffield and York before the end of the year, and Newcastle University’s very own Premier League of Darts starting very soon, why wouldn’t you want to be a part of this? On a more immediate note, Thursday’s competition promises to be even bigger than last year, so be sure to come down and experience it for yourselves.

Ben Newall

Dance

Established in 2006, the Dance society offers a variety of classes from Street Dance to Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Body Conditioning and more. With a strong committee and teaching faculty, each and every year the society is on the up, winning more awards and getting credited for the efforts and sheer dedication that the society have to offer.

This year we intend to step it up even further, in more ways than one. This will include hosting our own dance competition in Newcastle, where there will be over 450 dancers from other universities competing.

Alongside this, our social calendar is busy throughout the year, with fortnightly socials, trips and the annual Sports tour. This makes it the ideal opportunity to meet like-minded social people.

We offer weekly dance and fitness classes suited to all abilities, beginners, intermediate and advanced. Whether you want to just attend one class to keep up your fitness, or attend every class and compete representing Newcastle University, it is completely your choice. With over 400 members within the society, it is a chance to meet fantastic people and a chance to get involved with a dynamic and exciting society.

Pippa McLeod-Brown

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