By Sam Carman
Student Spotlight interviews undergraduates, postgraduates and other academics about their schooling achievements, be it studying abroad, running a society or finishing a work placement.
Joining a sports team is a decision many make or even aspire to do in their first year of studying at the University of Hertfordshire. But what does being part of a sports team mean? Will it enhance your ability to work? What is it really like to captain a university sports team? To answer these questions, The Trident spoke to Matthew Widdicombe, a third-year student and former Men’s First Team badminton captain at the University of Hertfordshire; someone who was always destined involved in sport from the very beginning.
Let’s start off from the beginning: when was the first team you picked up a badminton racket?
That would have been when I was four. My dad was a very keen badminton player, so he sort of got me into it. My mum and my sister all play as well, so, yeah; I was four years old and it really kicked off from there!
Would you say that you were always destined to play badminton because of your family background?
Yeah, definitely! Because everyone in my family played, I was always going to have that support behind me to push on.
Did you have any inspirational sportspeople that you can remember looking up to as a child?
There was a Korean guy, Kim Dong Moon; he was a Korean doubles World Champion, so I would go and watch the matches and tournaments when he was playing.
Was it always Badminton for you, or were you interested in any other sports?
Well, my mum plays tennis as well, so that was another sport that I liked. But, overall, I would say that I was mostly drawn to badminton because of my dad who was another inspiration figure of mine, as you just want to be like your dad when you’re younger.
Moving forward a little bit further in time, when you eventually got to the University of Hertfordshire, did you join the badminton team straight away? If so what was it like?
You have trials at the start of the year [to get in], but I already knew the coach that was here, and my sister already played, so he knew how good I was, anyway. But, you go to the trials, have two weeks of them, and then when you get into the team they’ll tell you how you’re doing.
Once you got into the team, how long did it take you to become captain?
In the first year, coaches don’t want you to become captain because you don’t know enough about the players. But, at the start of the second year of uni, I just sort of put myself forward as another person did too. The decision lay with the coach, and who he thought would be best to be the captain, and because the other guy wasn’t so fussed it went to me.
Did you push for it a little bit more, then?
I sort of wanted to be a bit more involved. The way that the team was run in the first year wasn’t great, so I wanted to make something happen and I wanted the team to progress. With me being captain, I thought it would help that.
Would you say being a captain differs from being a regular student in a sports team?
Yes, mainly as captain, although the coach leads the session for the whole team, so I sort of led the first team sessions and chose who was playing and who was doing which training. When playing in matches, I would take the lead role: you observe and see what people could do better, so you’re sort of a coach in a way. Being a captain means you have to pick a team and communicate with people to get the team together.
How long were you captain for?
I was captain in second-year, yes, but then in my third-year, the guy who was captain was not regularly available, so I was basically captain of the third-year as well. So, pretty much two years.
Could you name one high and one low throughout your captaincy?
The high point was the season that I first became captain, as we got promoted to the premiership! I wouldn’t say it’s a low, but it’s hard when you have to contend with people dropping out a day before a match because it’s very tricky to get another player in time. Most of the time it was fine; it’s just if people have deadlines that they didn’t know about, or they had tests coming up it became a bit hard.
Did you find it difficult to balance work and your sports team?
In my first- and second-year, it was fine; I could easily space my time around university and training. Last year, I was away on a placement so I struggled and I couldn’t go attend away matches, but training was in the evenings, so that was OK.
What does the future hold for you at the University of Hertfordshire, and the badminton team?
I put myself forward for Chairman this year, but I was not about much last year because of my placement, so I was overlooked. But, I’m still playing, and, hopefully, we’ll keep in the premiership this year.
Would you personally recommend students to join a sports team whilst at university?
Yes! I’d say it gives you a real social group that you can really work with; something you can really get involved in. It helps you with all different types of skills like leadership qualities, and stuff like that, so yeah — either a sports team or a society, definitely.