Despite having a working understanding of both time and my degree structure, I’ve been totally thrown by finding myself in fourth year. Somehow, I just wasn’t expecting it. And so I’ve spent this Freshers’ Week trying to work out how, exactly, three years went by so quickly. What have I even been doing this whole time?
The answer is korfball. (Sorry, degree.)
I realise that this isn’t the most common response – there are probably no more than five people in their final year here who would say that korfball has made a big impact on their university experience. But it is true for me. I’ve spent most of my time in St Andrews playing a sport I have to explain every time it comes up.
The spiel, by the way, honed over countless repetitions, is this: korfball is a mixed-gender Dutch ball sport- kind of like a cross between netball and basketball (but also not really like either of them). An actual explanation of what korfball is, to me, is way cheesier and involves lots of references to friends made and fun had; jokes shared and bonds made. I’ll spare you.
If you’d told me all of this in Freshers’ Week 2015, I would have been astounded. Maybe you’d get lucky in this time travelling scenario, and catch a me who’s heard of korfball, which I think happened on about the first Tuesday of my first year, in a random conversation with a girl who didn’t play the sport (“apparently it’s a bit like netball”) and that I never saw again. But I don’t think I ever expected it to be much more than a fun way to get some exercise. I was going to join the Feminist Society, maybe Craft Soc, try debate, or student journalism. Considering this is the first article I’ve ever written, you should probably be able to guess how those plans went.
Almost by accident, I ended up doing something new, and totally unexpected. It wasn’t because I don’t care about all those other interests – I have a drawer full of wool and a handy crochet hook, lots of arguments about women’s rights ready to go, and half a page of hopefully publishable text in front of me right now. But I also have one of those very expensive blue Saints Sports jackets which says ‘KOR’ on the sleeve, because the rest of the letters have come off.
This is all a very self-indulgent way of letting you know that I Tried Something New At Uni. Yes, I started it because netball seemed too intense, and yes, I maybe wouldn’t have stayed if I hadn’t been able to drag my more confident friends along too. But I did, and I learnt the rules, and (eventually) got my first goal, and then even more, and now it basically overshadows everything else in my life. In a good way.
One of my favourite things about korfball, the thing I say immediately after my spiel when I’m trying to convince people to try it, is that because no one knows what it is, everyone is in the same boat. That makes it a great sport to pick up if you’ve never really been sporty before. Like me. It also makes it great if you want to try something new, because everyone else in the club also remembers not having a clue what to do.
And there are so many things like that here! There are hundreds of clubs and societies at St Andrews, and they’re all full of people who have, at one point, not known how to do the thing they’re now able to teach you. I never thought I’d be a person who quotes inspirational posters, but this is an article about trying new things, so: “Every expert was once a beginner.” You may not know how to swing dance, or DJ, or sing acapella, but there are meetings happening all over the university where you can be taught to do that stuff. It’s pretty amazing.
I think the start of university is a great time to try something new, because everything else is strange, so what’s one more thing on the pile? There is suddenly access to all of these skills you didn’t think you’d ever be able to try, or even knew existed, which is terrifying, but everyone else was once terrified too. I lowkey still am. But joining something completely new, the day after finding out it was a thing at all, also gave me the confidence to try even more new things, like a rolling snowball of cool (pun intended) experiences.
All this is to say, don’t discount a metaphorical mixed-gender Dutch ball sport just because no one seems to know what it is. In no time at all, you’ll be able to explain it.