As one chapter of your life draws to a close, you gradually begin to reminisce about what’s gone before. The good and the bad, the missed opportunities and the times you’ll never forget.
That may be a tad melodramatic, but the fact that this is the final issue of The Saint I’ll have the opportunity to write for during my time in St Andrews got me thinking. The common denominator of my reflections on what The Saint meant to me all focused on the fun I’d had in covering sport in this wonderful little seaside town.
Sport at British universities, by and large, does not have the scope or profile that it does across the pond. That does not mean, however, that there are no stories to be told or events to be covered, and during my time writing for The Saint I covered a broader range of stories than I ever imagined I would when I first came here four years ago.
I recall with a sense of embarrassment how nervous I was four years ago, stumbling my way through an interview for the position of Deputy Sport Editor. Somehow that ended in success, giving me the opportunity to cover the Rifle Club, interview members of the Sub-Aqua team and report on scheduled events that never actually came to fruition. Through each of those interactions, I learned about writing, editing, and the nature of sport in St Andrews.
It is not so much the element of competition that drives sport here, although that still plays a role. It is the camaraderie in every club and society, the sense of togetherness that almost every team you see out on a Wednesday night are able to convey.
Watching live sport in St Andrews has also been something central to my university experience. Wandering down to University Park on a Wednesday afternoon and watching the men’s rugby team play Nottingham Trent in the rain may not be everyone’s idea of an enjoyable couple of hours, but, for me, it was always oddly cathartic. The same goes for basketball games on a Wednesday evening, or even rocking up to watch Netball on a Saturday morning. As someone who lives and breathes sport, there has always been an embarrassment of riches for me to watch and for that I’ll always be grateful.
In my first year the historic Scottish varsity game was played at Murrayfield for the first time (thanks to the endeavours of former AU President Sarah Thompson), and since then it has grown and grown. Being able to sit in press row, the very one where the likes of Bill McLaren and Norman Mair have worked their magic, and provide coverage of the biggest event in the St Andrews sporting calendar for three consecutive years was an unparalleled experience.
Even if they lacked particular resonance beyond St Andrews, I have always been amazed at the success stories of the sports teams at this university. Amongst the standouts over the last four years were Saints Golf winning the Tour Finals in 2017, the men’s football first XI winning the Queen’s Park Shield for the first time in 75 years and the female Water Polo team becoming the first female team from St Andrews to take home a BUCS Championship medal earlier this month. We’ve seen the Boat Club continue to expand, winning their first BUCS points and sending crews down to the world-famous Henley Regatta, the continued growth of the Jonny Wookey Memorial Ice Hockey game, and the redevelopment of the Sports Centre, complete with the new multi-million pound Tennis Centre. There is the incredible and often imaginative charitable endeavours that various clubs have engaged in, and the small matter of former Scotland international Scott Lawson being appointed Director of Rugby almost a year ago.
St Andrews may not be your archetypal sporting university, but this is a university that punches above its weight across the board. No matter where you look in St Andrews, there are sporting stories waiting to be told. Be they focused on certain individuals or the exploits of specific teams, there is always something interesting to cover and report on. That human side of sport is something I never expected to find here in St Andrews and it’s with a rather large sense of sadness that that chapter is now drawing to a close.
When I came to St Andrews in 2015, I had an inkling that sports journalism was something I wanted to do. A pretty big inkling in fact, as that was what got me a position with The Saint. What I never knew was that this place would have such an impact on me and that following sport in St Andrews would become such an integral part of my university career. I wouldn’t change that though, not for the world.
It might not all be about competition, and it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but with sport in St Andrews there really is something for everyone, whether watching or playing. That’s something we should all cherish and be thankful for.