Johnny Byrnes looks at the opportunities to play sport in college.

As the latest batch of ‘Freshers’ prepare to enter their third stint of the education system, one line they are bound to hear again and again is; “Try and join as many societies as you can, it’s a great way to get the full college experience.”

While this may be the case with regards to nights out, one way of becoming part of a society without succumbing to the bombardment of offers and signing away your free time is to renew your interest or spark some new interest in a sport.

There are a wide variety of sports available to play in most if not all colleges. The usual protagonists of football, rugby and GAA attract a lot of attention but more diverse outdoor options are also on offer (Ultimate Frisbee, paintball and rock climbing to name but a few.)

The first few months of college will see you meet plenty of new faces. If you are interested in sport, one stress-free way of getting to know people is to join a sports team. That awkward ‘icebreaker’ moment - so often the pitfall of many a conversation - should be comfortably navigated thanks to a mutual sporting enthusiasm and college sports are a great way of bringing people from different courses together.

If you successfully managed to juggle playing sport whilst doing the Leaving, combining your college work with your athletic endeavours shouldn’t cause too much trouble. Exam time is obviously the business end of affairs academic-wise, but a steady attendance at both lectures and the necessary training/matches should put you in good stead.

One bonus of playing college sport is the opportunity to travel to play a match or take part in an intervarsity competition. Whether you are carpooling across the country or are treated to the delight of a one team-one room hostel experience in Cork, these trips build up great team unity and provide anecdotes for the rest of your time together in college.

Sports scholarships are of course another avenue into playing college sports and if you have been lucky enough to attain one, make sure to make the most of it by representing your college well whilst also showcasing your own talent.

I’ve played hockey in DIT for two years now and have enjoyed every minute of it. People you are used to playing against at secondary school or club level suddenly become your teammates and when one-third of the team are Irish internationals, it makes winning that little bit easier.

There have been times when only five or six turn up to a training session and there is always the chance of that occurring due to poor organisation. However, you could find yourself, in third or fourth year, running part of the team/society and the potential development from rookie to future captain is one that should excite every new player.

Entering third-level education should not see you end your participation in sport. You may have moved away from your club or your school team may have disbanded but college offers you the chance to build new teams and further your sporting opportunities.

Whether you want to bring your competitive club experience to another arena or you just want to build up your athletic abilities, playing sport in college, especially at an intervarsity tournament, is well worth the effort.