Playing sports in Groningen? International students can join clubs and free training groups. Or they might even start one themselves.
The suitcases have already been unpacked, you have made your first trip to Albert Heijn, the first lectures have also passed, and you start wondering… How about basketball, squash, *insert your favourite sport name* or any other workout? You may have vaguely heard of ACLO and other organisations… But how do you join sport organisations in Groningen?
There are a lot of teams, but there are also lots of people who want to get in
‘I’ve been playing volleyball for about ten years. During the summer, when I knew I was going to come to Groningen, I started searching for volleyball teams to join. It turned out to be very difficult,’ recalls Laura, a student of International Business. ‘There are a lot of teams, but there are also lots of people who want to get in. So, if you want to join a team in March, I believe it’s practically impossible.’
However, there certainly are alternatives: ‘We have a WhatsApp group where we find people to play with. Just put your name in the Excel sheet. When some people book the fields in ACLO, you can join in and play,’ says Laura. These groups are organised and run by students.
It may even be dangerous and you might feel a bit out of place
‘It’s really great. Everyone’s super open and welcoming. Sometimes, we go out together. The atmosphere is very nice.’
Similar groups are active for other sports. Just look for them and ask around, Laura says. At the same time, there is a downside to such teams.
‘The levels differ. If you haven’t played before, I wouldn’t recommend joining. Some people turn out to be very good and very strong. It may even be dangerous. Moreover, you might feel a bit out of place.’
If you want to try your luck and get into a team, Laura recommends going to the ACLO sports website, and check out the section of the sport you prefer. The teams and their contacts will be found there.
A lot of ACLO courses are not difficult to get into. On the ACLO app, it’s fairly easy to find them under the section Enrolments on the dashboard. Another option is to join open group training sessions under Schedule. There, you’ll also find various other student associations.
The ACLO table tennis association is one example. ‘We offer training sessions and courses for beginners, intermediate players, and advanced players alike,’ says chairman Mohammed.
We start with a warm-up, which is quite intense, then we continue with drills
‘We usually have training sessions twice a week with a professional coach. The courses are an hour long and mainly for beginners. The training sessions start with a warm-up, which is quite intense, then we continue with drills. We also have an hour of free play.’ The association also offers social activities. ‘On Wednesdays, after training sessions, we usually have board game evenings or social gatherings. Twice every semester, we set up big social get-togethers.’
The social aspect is very important. Mohammed remembers the time he joined the training sessions in 2020. ‘What really struck me was the atmosphere. It always feels like you are playing with a bunch of friends. Also, a lot of people are high level players, so you can enjoy the competitive atmosphere of table tennis alongside the social benefits of joining a club.’
If you’re not sure which sport you would like to play, there is always the gym
To join the association, you can start by participating in the beginners courses or training sessions. ‘You can try join three training sessions to see if you like it before signing up.’
If you’re not sure which sport you would like to play, there is always the gym.’ Laura just started with the classic BasicFit. ‘I like it. It’s full of students, young people.’ However, gyms do offer quite a solitary training experience. If you find group sessions and outdoor trainings more motivating, Groningen also offers bootcamps.
‘We organise bootcamps to connect people. These includes students− Erasmus students as well. We want them to experience outdoor sports,’ says Tim van Dam, organiser and trainer of the Bueno Bootcamp Groningen.
‘We have bootcamps on Monday and Thursday evenings: on Monday evenings we have almost full groups of ten to twelve people. On Thursdays, it’s more spacious.’
Bueno works with free trials, Tim says. ‘Everyone can try out a bootcamp. If they enjoy it, they can buy tickets for the next one on our website.’
The schedule is flexible: ‘If you want to join this week it’s okay and if you can’t come next week, that’s also fine.’
Internationals are welcome, of course, almost every week or two, new people join
Beginners aren’t intimidated: ‘Everyone can join. You can make the training session as hard as you want.’
Regarding the community atmosphere, Tim notes: ‘At this point, we only have Dutch participants. It’s a group of people who know each other well. It’s very nice. People train hard and after training, some stay to have a chat.’
Internationals are welcome, of course. ‘Almost every week or two, new people join, and I think everyone tries to welcome everyone. I also pay attention to that.’
To sign up, just check the Bueno website, says Van Dam. ‘Fill out the form, name, email and phone number, then I will contact you about where we will train, how late and all the other information.’
Photos: Anna Bezpala