For the second year in a row, St Andrews welcomed a record number of students back to the Bubble for its most successful pre-season in just its 6th year of existence.
Pre-season at St Andrews is fast becoming a period of transition for the town, as slowly but surely tourists, armed with cameras, socks and sandals, are replaced by blue-clad athletes complete with shinty sticks, tennis rackets and even frisbees. While the majority of St Andrews’ students were desperately lapping up the last rays of an unusually hot summer, 30 different clubs welcomed their members back to start preparation for the year ahead.
Over 600 students flocked back to St Andrews to get back into shape after a summer full of barbecues and beach parties. One, Matthew Powell of the rowing club, said that: “For a sport as intensive as rowing a good pre-season is vital. Thankfully with the work of our coaches we always get that, although at the end of a tough session you don’t always feel that way. But in all seriousness it makes a massive difference throughout the year in a sport where basic fitness can often be the difference.”
Not that the summer break is a jolly for everyone – many seemed to suggest that this was the first chance at exercise all summer, with internships, summer jobs and CV building taking precedent over keeping in shape. Not all participants were returning students, with some “pre-freshers” arriving early to join in with preseason training, which is surely a promising omen for the future. While the typical image of preseason training involves coaches, whips in hand, leading gruelling fitness regimes while sweat pours down exhausted players’ backs, the reality is a much more modern and professional preparation for the physical requirements of a long season. The clubs laid on a variety of different sessions and activities, ranging from the quintessential fitness drills to nutritional and conditioning classes, and even classes in zumba, spinning and yoga.
Edmund Bennett and Daniel Lechner of the boxing club paid tribute to the new facilities found within the gym. Edmund commented that: “As a sport which requires a lot of work on cardio and weights equipment, I must say the new facilities in the gym have made such a difference to our fitness regime already.” Daniel agreed, adding that: “The club have to travel to Glenrothes occasionally for training so if the facilities are continuing to be upgraded then it can only be a good thing for the club.”
Some clubs combined training with pre-season friendlies to allow their new-look teams to gel before they begin competitive matches. The 1st XV, meticulously prepared as ever by the director of rugby, David Ross, recorded a win in their preseason friendly against Strathmore RFC. While the Saints were unable to continue their winning form into their first competitive match against Morgan RFC, the young side, who have been training since 26th August, are looking in good shape as their season gets under way.
Preseason officially finished on Friday with a well attended event at the Union and a speech from the principal of the University, Louise Richardson. The new AU president, Jess Walker, was delighted with the success of this year’s preseason.
“It went incredibly well. It was a huge success and showed the huge levels of dedication and commitment given to sport by students. As someone who has worked in fitness instruction and teaching school children rugby, I cannot emphasise that preparation is key to sporting success.
“At the Athletic Union we are making sure that all of our athletes have the best possible chance at succeeding and we are delighted that they take time out of their holiday to return to the town early to take advantage of the facilities we have on offer at the sports centre. The new facilities on offer in the gym whether it be the new weights equipment or cardio are to make a difference to a team’s ability to prepare. As time goes on and the sports centre continues to develop and improve over time then I think that it is not overly confident to suggest that we can eventually provide one of the best and most comprehensive pre-season programmes put on by any university throughout the United Kingdom.”
The sportsmen and women were rewarded for their hard work on the pitch with the famous Sinners night out, with old hands no doubt gently easing the new bloods into this notorious rite of passage. Even the editor of this section was seen letting his hair down after a hard week of roving reporting.
Committed as ever, the sporting community did not let the refurbishment of the Union stand in their way of a cracking night out, although I can only hope that their sporting skills are more refined than their dancing – obviously the zumba classes haven’t been paying off! One could argue that with the exception of the lime green t-shirts that were made for this year, every aspect of this pre-season was a success and shows the continuing levels of dedication to sport in the town.