The news that initiation ceremonies have been continuing in the Covid-era despite being banned is disappointing and also unsurprising given that a majority of freshers sign up to enjoy the sport’s social aspects.
Last year over 1,000 students, including plenty of university hockey players, were surveyed to discover the driving force behind joining a sports team.
Individual case studies were collated to reveal some of the craziest stories from university sport socials and nights out. The survey was pre-pandemic and life has of course changed considerably for students since.
More than 1,200 students attending universities across the country were surveyed by golfsupport.com. The results showed the main reason students choose to join a team at university was for the socials/nights out, with 43 per cent of respondents choosing this as the main reason.
Meanwhile 67 per cent of students asked were already aware of some initiation ceremonies before signing up. And the demand for a good night out doesn’t stop there, with 54 percent feeling the need to verify the quality of a team’s social events before signing up.
Here, students from university hockey clubs revealed some of their craziest sports socials:
“My college hockey team had been going through a dry spell in my second year. Five losses in a row and they seriously needed to win the next game. When the sixth match ended in another defeat, they turned to one team member who’d made a few mistakes. As punishment, he was dressed as a duck and made to swim across the freezing campus lake to the other side. The side which coincidentally hosted the winning team. You can probably guess they weren’t sympathetic – in fact, they gave him a list of dares to perform in front of them, followed by the long swim back to the start.”
“Our hockey team tried to organise regular themed socials. One social night in particular, it had been decided that we would be playing games pretending to be cats. To do this, we had to crawl around on a court that has been covered in milk, slipping and sliding all of the place. Although it was a lot of fun, going to clubs in the same milk-soaked clothes was not so much. Though we were never struggling for space on that dancefloor – the stench kept everyone way back.”
“Our hockey team initiation ceremony began with various harmless dares and drinking games. However, as the night progressed we were prepared to do funnier and more extreme things. Someone ended up stealing roadwork barriers and a traffic cone from a major construction site of our accommodation block. The next night, in a drunken state she tripped on them and broke her ankle. She was out for the next couple months, which wasn’t ideal. I feel sorry for the guy who also tripped over them one week later, though.”
While this pre-Covid survey portrayed the fun of joining a university sports team, it should be put into wider context and one The Hockey Paper doesn’t condone.
In recent years, there have been cases of students experiencing “frightening and degrading” initiation ceremonies at sports clubs at UK universities.
In late 2018, the University of Birmingham’s hockey club was among a number of sides banned from a sports night after a survey showed initiation rituals had an effect on students’ mental health.
An evaluation found that inductions like making freshers ’10’ – where they ‘got together’ for 10 seconds – were making club members ‘pressured and targeted’.
A Sunday Times investigation that year also reported that despite university crackdowns, it hadn’t stopped 18-year-olds being ordered to drink copious amounts of alcohol.
Initiations at Durham University’s hockey team, reported the paper, saw “a first-year student and his parents complain about cooking oil being poured into his eye during a hockey club initiation.”
It’s clear that hockey is no stranger to drunken initiations for freshers as the latest issue with Newcastle highlights.
Three years ago, students aiming to be part of University of York HC had to down drinks with a concoction of dog food and goldfish. More recently, reports claimed that Loughborough first-year students were allegedly made to eat maggots and dog food during an alcohol-induced hockey initiation ceremony.
British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS), the national voice for university sport, told The Hockey Paper earlier this year that it was “completely opposed” to initiations and saw no place for them “in making sport an inclusive and accessible opportunity for new students.”
“Initiations are a small and avoidable part of the whole experience of university sport and stand in direct and stark contrast to the significant and incredible good that university sport does for students and their institutions.”
There were also scuffles at the BUCS final in Nottingham last year when a fight broke out between Durham and Exeter students. One observer told The Tab that “at least six or seven fans from both sides were kicked out by security”.