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Each issue, SCAN brings you an exclusive peek at one of our fantastic sports teams, so you can read about what they get up, and get the latest on how they are representing Lancaster in competitive sport around the country. This issue, SCAN interviewed Ben Clay, of Lancaster University’s very own Korfball team, LUKC Ligers.
Ben wrote an article for us last term introducing the relatively new sport of Korfball to students of Lancaster who may not have been entirely sure what it was all about. When asked what makes Korfball the best team to be a part of, Ben was very keen to point out that Korfball’s biggest selling point is its inclusivity. Because it’s a mixed sex sport, both men and women have the chance to play with and against each other in direct competition. The sport is also trans inclusive, allowing people to play as their identified gender, something that few physically intense sports can offer. Another positive aspect of Korfball for Ben is its ability to maintain the fine balance between competitiveness and the social side of university life. You can take it seriously and play at the best level, or you can join for the social side of the club. What tends to happen is that the casual members end up enjoying it so much they become more and more competitive, which is great for everyone. Ben highlights how welcoming and friendly the Korfball family are, and states that new members are welcomed into the family very quickly. All these aspects combined creates a brilliant atmosphere in and around the club.
In terms of the set-up of the club, there are two competitive teams, both of which play in the North West Korfball League and in BUCS competitions. The long term ambition for the first team is to get re-promoted into the Central England Korfball League.
As mentioned before, there are also a number of casual members who are happy to just train and enjoy the socials, although changes to the set-up of Sport Lancaster has meant a drop in these types of members. However, this has not had a negative impact on the club as whole. Ben tells me that the club is really good in the social aspect, as the casual and the competitive members have mixed socials, so it’s a great way to integrate all members. Socials are also alternated between drinking and non-drinking socials, so even if you’re not the biggest fan of going to the Sugarhouse you’ll find you can still easily build friendships in the club.
As a relatively new club the Korfball team have had a fairly significant drop in membership last year, mainly due to graduations. The club went from having 40+ members to just 7 at the beginning of this season. Unfortunately, most of those who left were part of the first team, and this culminated with relegation from the highly competitive CEKL, which as mentioned before, is the league which they are aiming to return to.
However, recent BUCS efforts have been a different story all together. After missing out on playing in the National Championships by virtue of the number of goals scored in the group stage of Regionals, the first team bounced back at the National Trophy tournament, finishing sixth overall in what turned out to be a very challenging competition.
This season so far has also seen a similar up-turn in fortunes; considering they started the season with hardly anybody in the club, they have made excellent progress. In the North West League the first team is near the top of the table and will, hopefully, be in the running for league champions by the end of the season. Last weekend, the first team qualified for the BUCS National Championships, a brilliant achievement considering that they have only been playing together since the beginning of the academic year. This good run of form, and seeing all the effort which has been put in pay off in the form of results is what Ben says that his stand out moment as a member of the Korfball team.
The second team just missed out on playing in the National Trophy after losing in a playoff against St Andrews, meaning they will now play in the National Plate tournament instead, which is still be a good tournament as it gives players an opportunity to play on a national stage. The Korfball club don’t just play against university level teams; they are also playing in the North West Shield, which is a knockout tournament. The good run of form has seen them reach the quarter final, where they will face Manchester Hawks, a club team based in Manchester.
Unfortunately, there’s no looking forward to Roses as York don’t currently have a team.
The intake this year from freshers has also been very promising, especially given the low number of players available before freshers week. Ben states that all new players have had an instant impact on the team. In particular he mentions Marleen Schutter, a Dutch PhD student, who has not only scored a lot of goals but has also contributed invaluable knowledge and advice to individuals and the team as a whole. Ben explains that having a Dutch player in Korfball is almost equivalent to having an American player in basketball, as the Netherlands is where the game was founded and is a very popular sport there. There’s also been impressive performances from many players who are entirely new to the sport, with many making it in to the first team almost immediately.
Alongside these players, Ben also praises the work of their player/coach Jamie Bridges, who puts immeasurable time in to the club. Each training session is individual planned and crafted so that club members genuinely feel like they are learning something new at each session. The general training routine consists of training for the whole club on Mondays and Thursdays. Individual team training for the firsts and seconds takes place on Wednesday mornings at 7am, with those sessions certainly testing commitment to the sport!
If Korfball sounds like the sport for you, either as a member of the team or going along to support the Ligers at one of their weekend games, you’re guaranteed to be made very welcome!