Sport is a release for Scarlett

  • 08 February 2022

When Scarlett Atkinson (History of Art 2019) matriculated at Gonville & Caius College, she thought she had left organised sport behind her. Now Scarlett is preparing to captain Cambridge University Hockey Club’s Bedouin team in the Varsity match with Oxford on February 20.

“I never thought I’d get so into the whole Oxford-Cambridge divide. But now I’m captain, I’ve built the team and done all the admin, I feel like I’ll be gutted if we lose,” says Scarlett, the third XI captain.

“We’ve beaten them every year I’ve been here, so if we lose under me…”

The annual matches between the second, third and fourth XIs alternate venue between Cambridge and Oxford, and last year’s spectacle took place in Cambridge without spectators due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Blues contests are scheduled for Southgate Hockey Centre in North London on March 6.

A night out will follow, to celebrate, or commiserate, with team-mates and opponents, and social reasons were a large part of Scarlett’s decision to continue to play sport.

She adds: “I’ve been playing hockey pretty much all my life. When I finished school I thought I’d never play again because I couldn’t imagine coming to Cambridge and having the time to do it.

“Within about two weeks here, I thought I don’t know if I’ll manage without being able to run around and have the break that sport provides. I missed the pre-season trials and went along to freshers’ trials in first year and met a really lovely group of people.

“You play four hours a week, plus matches on the weekend. That is the perfect amount of time for me. That acts as my break and I am someone who needs to exercise and keep doing things. It was a good way to schedule it in for your week and you can’t get out of it.

“Obviously there are exceptions and people do miss sessions, but I very rarely miss a session. I wouldn’t want to. It’s the time out that I love.”

With four men’s and four women’s teams, the hockey club is one of the University’s largest sports clubs.

“It’s one huge social network that you wouldn’t have otherwise. I’d consider half of my best friends to be from hockey at Cambridge,” adds Scarlett, pictured above.

“The camaraderie you develop from training together and playing matches, and socials after, it accelerates a bond you don’t get in other places.”

While the first and second XIs play in the British Universities and Colleges Sport competitions and regional competitions, Scarlett’s squad play only in the East League, with matches on Saturdays.

“The thirds and fourths are much less stressful; for work reasons some choose to be in my team as opposed to higher teams,” she adds.

Scarlett has played tennis and netball with Caius, and occasionally hockey, but her commitments to the University club are the priority.

“I haven’t played much Caius hockey, because you suddenly find your work balance is tipping. I do it occasionally when I’ve got a week when I feel a bit less busy,” she says.

“A lot of my friends play regularly in the Caius teams. It doesn’t take up a huge amount of time – about half the amount of time I spend playing – but is similarly a great way to get out and exercise and have a laugh.

“They all love being there and using it as a release from the Cambridge life.”

Tom Murray (Natural Sciences (Zoological) 2019), pictured below right, is the captain of the corresponding men's team, the Squanderers, who will play Oxford on February 20. 

Two players playing hockey, one attempting a tackle on his knees

Photo credit: Simon Webb

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