For many Sussex students, sport quickly becomes the centre of university life – from signing up to hundreds of clubs at Freshers’ Fair, to brutal mid-week training sessions and memories of team-building tours that are probably best left behind. Here, alumni remember pivotal performances, victories against the odds and facing a future Wimbledon champion on the courts of Falmer.
"I played against Virginia Wade during tennis trials at Sussex in about 1964 – I only hit the ball when I was serving!"
MARGARET HILL NÉE FLOREY (SOC 1962)
"I remember the rugby team’s tradition of throwing each other in the moat after celebrating victories in the Falmer House bar. I believe I held a record in that regard: not once did I get wet. I did have to hide in the food lift between floors one night, however; that was the closest I ever came to suffering that wet rite of passage. Another time, post-game and after too long in the bar, I tumbled all the way down the flight of stairs of the bridge over the bypass. I was accompanied on that descent by a teammate. We have been friends ever since!"
JIM TOMKINS (ENGAM 1964)
"Frank Hartle and I represented Sussex Soccer at Wembley invited by the Football Association to see England play "The Rest of the World" in 1965 as a prelude to England winning the World Cup in 1966...[And] I remember actually playing cricket for Selwyn College against Sussex when as a spectator I was asked to fill in for a Selwyn cricketer who was in the pokey for being drunk and disorderly the night before so they needed a reserve to play against Sussex … I was 4 not out batting last … Sussex won I believe … Roger Daw was Captain of Sussex I am pretty sure ...Bunch of degenerates in those days but it was fun ..."
SYD GERAGHTY (MAPS 1965)
"Me and my fellow inmate, Sue, from our guest house in Lower Rock Gardens, were walking round Brighton on the Saturday morning of our first Rag Week when we were hijacked – in a good way – by a coach full of rugby players and asked if we wanted to support the Sussex second team, who were playing an away game. What was a girl to do but join the fun?! We got to know some of the guys on the trip and that kick-started my social life at Sussex. I met a great bunch of people, many of whom I'm still in contact with 50 years later."
CAROL LASHMAR SPITERI (BIOLS 1966)
"It was terrific to be able to practice tennis every day in the bubble of campus. It was the year Sussex alumna Virginia Wade won Wimbledon, and she even dropped in once or twice. As an American exchange student, I also learned that for away tennis matches, after a win, you stop at every pub on the way home. After a loss, you only stop at every other pub."
DAVID MARKS (ENGAM 1976)
"I remember playing Rugby against Sandhurst Military College in 1978...a 'crunch match' against the military elite of the UK. We were trailing by four points when, in the last minute of play, I received the ball from about 15 metres out, and went over in the corner to level the score with a try. As fly half I was also the team kicker... I placed the ball on the touchline, again about 15 metres out from the tryline and proceeded to convert! Needless to say, I was carried off on my teammates’ shoulders. We then went on to enjoy a silver service officers’ mess post match meal. This remains today a very happy memory of a treasured moment of sporting glory."
STEVE PARSONS, (EURO 1975)
This was the UoSSU President’s XI at the Sports Pavilion circa May 1972 to play (possibly the last ever?) annual cricket match v UoS staff.
back row (left to right): Barry Priestley (babysat for Lord Olivier), Steve Beech, the Stankiewicz twins Chris and Mike, one of the Grieve twins (regretfully I believe one has died), Colin Knowles
front row: Chair of Sports Society (name unknown), the late Tom Forester, Nigel Gossage, Dave Griffiths (my best mate), yours truly Dave Feintuck (President)
"Chris and Tom were also members of the ill-fated University Challenge team that year losing by what was then a record margin - but the coach trip home was nevertheless conducted in memorably drunken fashion. What a crew. Nobody sponsored our kit. It rained most of the afternoon, I don’t remember the result, if any. In the background stands umpire ‘Admiral’ Brewer, Falmer House Head Porter. Happy days."
DAVE FEINTUCK (MAPS 1973)
"I came to Sussex from Miami, a hotbed of ‘soccer’ in the United States given the influence of Latin American and Caribbean immigrants. While I was doing my DPhil in Social Anthropology I was working three jobs whilst trying to write my research proposal, go off to fieldwork in the Caribbean for a year, and come back to write up my thesis. In the middle of all of this, I also played goalkeeper for the University of Sussex First XI and was honoured to be awarded the 1987–88 Player of the Year at a formal banquet!"
DR KEVIN YELVINGTON (AFRAS 1985)
"Becky Jones (who sadly died in 2010) and I used to play squash in the sports centre when our first year campus laziness got too extreme. It was a whole other world over there; lots of healthy looking people getting up before 10am, and strange things like that."
PHILIPPA DAY (ENGAM 1987)
"The fact that I, with my modest talent and extreme lack of speed, became captain of the hockey team in 1988 shows how far we were from the BUSA-winning athleticism of the likes of Loughborough. But doing sport at Sussex was a great way to observe the shifting gender politics of the era. As sportsmen, we moved between two ways of thinking and speaking. In the changing room at the Pavilion, sexist ‘banter’ was all part of the fun. For the rest of the week, we were challenged by our new, Dale Spender reading friends to think about how language reflects and reproduces unequal power. So we may not have set the world on fire on the pitch but around us an old world was burning, preparing the way for a more equal future."
PROFESSOR ALEX STEVENS (EURO 1987)
"As a member of the 1988 swimming team in my first year, we all lamented the lack of a campus swimming pool as we piled into the mini-bus to train at Ringmer Community College. Having been a champion swimmer at school, and member of the famous Portsmouth North Sea Swimming Club that’s produced Olympic team swimmers over the decades, I was keen to get back into the sport. Sadly, my backstroke and front crawl glory days were over. At the inter-University Swimming Gala held in Coventry, Sussex did not make it to the semi-finals. I could blame the lack of onsite training facilities, or the ‘drag’created my blue spotted leisure swimsuit and lack of swim cap (I was too broke to afford new kit), but we were just not fast enough."
SERENA MITCHELL (ENGAM 1987)
"I entered the five-a-side football competition with four other mature students one year just for fun. None of us were physically fit, nor highly skilled in the art of the beautiful game. In fact, we were a motley crew and a sham. It was us, ranging from 30–45 years old, against a brood of younger, cooler teams, usually adorned in matching kit and trendy streamlined hairstyles. Their dainty tricks were impressive, but what we had over each team was an attitude of ‘we have nothing to lose’. Our sheer will – or desperation – to win every tackle and not to lose afforded us the advantage. We grunted a lot, usually accompanied by a torrent of colourful language, and we always made sure we reached the ball first. The small, modest trophy still sits on my desk, as a constant reminder that winning is not so much about skill or privilege; it’s about having the balls and determination to go for it."
SIMON BROWN (PSYCHOLOGY 2006)
"I have such fond memories of my time being a part of the women's rugby team (affectionately referred to as ‘Sugby’!). I grew in confidence in a sport that initially intimidated me and I got to surround myself with such strong, fierce and supportive women. The experience has helped to shape the way I now coach rugby to a new generation of girls and women, using some of the traditions, customs and skills I learnt at Sussex."
MEGAN RICHMOND (LAW AND AMERICAN STUDIES 2013)
"I joined the women’s rugby team as a beginner when I started my Masters. We were in the second half of a game and we were losing by 17 points when I scored my first ever try. I scored my second twenty minutes later, just before the match ended. Even though we lost, that game was unforgettable!"
MARIA (CONFLICT, SECURITY AND DEVELOPMENT 2015)
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