The opportunity to take part in sport, either competitively or recreationally, is an essential part of stress relief for all students – especially for those on intense courses such as veterinary.
There are enough people on the course to make up teams for many sports solely from vet students and, previously, I have reviewed inter-vet school sport specifically. This is often a very feasible option, with flexible training times to fit around the busy vet school timetable and the knowledge that understanding team members won’t think less of you for missing the odd session if you have a practical you can’t miss – an attitude very different from those of the main university teams, who may leave you off the team sheet for weeks after missing one fitness session.
But what if you are the competitive type and want a more challenging sport environment? Realistically, the vet school teams only have one or two important matches that training is geared towards, perhaps with a couple of “friendlies” against other university departments such as the medics. If you were looking to get involved in team sport on a more regular basis, you would want to join the main university teams.
In an ideal world, this should still be feasible, since the national governing body for Higher Education sport, British University & Colleges Sport (BUCS), schedule their fixtures for Wednesday afternoons. This is a time that should be kept free for sport, according to the University Senate policy. Unfortunately, that is often not the reality. The University of Glasgow has received several complaints this year for scheduling compulsory classes on Wednesday afternoons.
The second-year Glasgow vets have practical classes on Wednesdays (at varying times of the day). As part of the main university riding team, I have had to swap these sessions around to accommodate competing on Wednesdays, and have had to miss a couple that were not scheduled for any other time. Luckily, we only have four competitions throughout the year (plus the Dick Day vet competition), so this isn’t incredibly disruptive. But for those in clubs such as hockey or tennis, which have fixtures every week, suddenly balancing sport and vet school can become a logistical nightmare.
Cambridge veterinary students do not get allocated time off for sport either.
Another issue is specifying the time frame that is a “Wednesday afternoon”. Third-year students at Liverpool vet school generally have lectures up to 2pm on Wednesdays, after which it is often too late to make away fixtures.
I don’t think this is an issue specific to veterinary schools, but is becoming a university-wide problem that needs to be addressed. It is essential for students to have the opportunity for sport as escapism, and this is particularly applicable for the vets of tomorrow, who are looking to enter arguably one of the most stressful professions.
We’ve all seen the suicide figures, and we need to be able to give ourselves the best chance at dealing with stress now, in order to apply it to a working environment later in life.