Supporting intercollegiate sports

Monday 30 October 2023


St Catharine’s is home to a wide variety of sports clubs that welcome students of all abilities and engage in (largely very friendly) competition against teams from other Cambridge Colleges. 

Awad Shah, a second-year Economics undergraduate and the St Catharine’s JCR Sports and Societies Officer 2023–24, explains:

“It’s easy to get involved in sports and societies at a college level and there are plenty of opportunities to participate as soon as new students arrive in Freshers’ Week. Representing the University for sports is more competitive, whilst college level is typically a more relaxed experience.”

Many of the University-wide sports clubs elect a student to the position of League Secretary to support intercollegiate sports. Their responsibilities include organising the 31 different Cambridge Colleges into divisions in that sport, scheduling league matches during term time, and arranging the annual knock-out competition known as Cuppers. 

We caught up with two St Catharine’s undergraduates who have volunteered as league secretaries about their experiences of university- and college-level sports to encourage others to get involved. 

Mercy Akinyele
Sheherazad Che
Photo credit: Nordin Catic

Mercy Akinyele

Third-year Engineering undergraduate

League Secretary for the Cambridge University Ladies’ Netball Club (CULNC) 2022–23

Sheherazad Che

Third-year Natural Sciences undergraduate

League Secretary for Cambridge University Mixed Lacrosse Club (CUMLC) 2023–24

How did you first get involved in your sport at Cambridge?

Mercy: I joined CULNC in my first year and have represented Cambridge as Goal Defence or Wing Defence. By the end of my first year, I understood a little more about how the CULNC worked and felt comfortable volunteering to stand to join its Committee. 

Sheri: I started playing lacrosse aged 11 but had to take a break as my sixth form didn’t have a team and I was eager to pick up my lacrosse stick again by the time I arrived in Cambridge. I’ve been involved with the Catz mixed lacrosse team since my first year and was elected captain last year. I was so proud that we were able to secure promotion twice in the space of a year, rising through the ranks from Division 3 to Division 1.

It took me a little longer to try University-wide sport. I’ve been playing for Cambridge ever since I went along to a “summer fun session” organised by CUMLC during the Easter exam period in 2022, which was designed to help everyone take a break from revision and was a fun way to get to know the squad.

St Catharine's mixed lacrosse team
Sheherazad (seated left) is co-captain of the St Catharine's mixed lacrosse team alongside her role as CUMLC League Secretary.

Why did you want to be League Secretary?

Sheri: I wanted to support the CUMLC Committee and I had enjoyed my time as the Catz JCR Sports and Societies Officer 2022–23. Plus I thought my experience as the Catz captain would come in handy!

Mercy: I was warned that the role involved a lot of admin but it is also good fun. If you are ambitious enough to want to stand as President or Vice-President of a club in the future, the League Secretary is a great starting point as it is really rewarding and immerses you in your favourite sport at Cambridge. 

What did/does your role as League Secretary involve?

Mercy: I started out last October trying to track down the new captains for the different Cambridge Colleges’ netball teams, which required a lot of chasing. At this point, I also had to organise the league schedule for four women’s divisions and five mixed divisions, including finding umpires and setting up the fixtures on Playwaze ( I would be in close contact with the different captains to record scores and help with disputes. 

Once the league was up and running, the next big challenge was organising the 2023 Cuppers competition, which I was delighted to extend to include men’s netball for the first time ever. Due to a clash with Varsity basketball fixtures, not every team from the intercollegiate league could field a team for the knockouts, so I ended up setting up six groups of five women’s teams each in Lent term, and then the finals in the first week of Easter term. The University Sports Centre kindly let us use their courts for six hours straight for the finals!

Sheri: There are 20 teams competing across three intercollegiate divisions this year so my focus has been on getting things ready for the start of the new season and loading our fixtures on Playwaze. I’m just getting started in the role but looking forward to Cuppers already, which will be a one-day tournament, and I hope lots of Catz spectators will come along to cheer on our team.

St Catharine's ladies netball team
Mercy still competes with the St Catharine's netball team alongside her University fixtures.

Would you recommend joining a St Catharine’s or Cambridge sports club to another student?

Sheri: Definitely! Sport is a great way to get to know students from other subjects and year groups. Most people playing mixed lacrosse come to Cambridge as beginners so signing up for your college club can be less intimidating – the pitch is smaller for intercollegiate lacrosse matches, for example, so easier for anyone learning the ropes!

Mercy: Yes, for sure! If you were inspired by the recent Netball World Cup and you missed the chance to sign up at the Catz Squash or the University’s Sports Fair, please do reach out by email or on social media. A special plea to any korfball or basketball players: think about doubling up and joining the Catz netball team to boost our pool of talent! Sports clubs also give you the opportunity to meet students from other universities, from Anglia Ruskin University joining the intercollegiate league this year, to the teams you’ll face when representing Cambridge.