By 1st XV prop Jake Starkey, fourth-year joint honours student in English and Art History
Just under thirty hardy souls met at the stand on University Park at 9.50am to begin the first week of pre-season. With the change in the academic calendar pre-season is very early this year, so respect to those who did turn up for the whole two weeks. The weather gods give us a typical St Andrews welcome; we train in torrential rain for the whole day. Monday is a pretty intense day: we have two training sessions as well as an hour in the gym where we get work hard to bulk up to cope with the bigger teams we play against. Recovery is protein supplements, which are in bountiful supplies, as well as the dreaded ice baths which are much needed by the end of the day.
The thirty enthusiastic men that rocked up on Monday are now stiff and sore; more protein and longer in the ice baths needed. We have a savage conditioning session with Allan Gartshore, the head of strength and conditioning at the AU. Morale is low after three circuits of tyre flipping, the “prowler” and various other exercises designed to prepare us for the upcoming season. Morale is raised significantly when we are sent to do a warm-down with a suitably experienced stretching expert who had the boys in some positions they never thought possible.
We split into forwards and backs for the afternoon’s training. The forwards discuss the complex algorithms that constitute our line-out calls and then practise our set pieces rigorously. The backs, on the other hand, spent ninety minutes throwing a ball about and looking pretty.
After another gym session and much-needed supplements in the gym in the morning, we have our first contact session in the afternoon. All the summer’s pent-up aggression and anger is released on one another when we play a fifteen-a-side game for the last half hour.
We are scheduled to have a conditioning session in the morning but, due to our tremendous hard work since the beginning of the week, it is cancelled. The squad is happy but disappointed they won’t be led on a warm down again. We also have team-building in the afternoon which consists of clay pigeon shooting. We have another rugby training session in the evening and the squad for the first game of the season is announced. We have a couple of debuts in the back line including a pre-fresher starting at outside centre.
Those not selected in the squad for Saturday’s game have another gym session whilst those of us playing have the morning off. We have a team-run through later on in the day and look great. We retire at night quietly confident we can beat Hillfoots, who finished runners-up in last year’s league.
Today is Saturday. And Saturday is game day. We have a one-minute silence in loving memory of our former 1st XV and club captain Steve Sims who died in May this year. We have his initials on every 1st XV jersey so that he is with us every time we take the pitch and will not be forgotten. Spirits are high, and a social is hastily arranged to celebrate in typical Saints style. Many end the night at around 2am having spent the last hour dancing and lunging on the dance floor of the Lizard.
An optional gym session is scarcely attended as many squad members try to recover from the day before. Morale is low again, but everyone is, of course, chomping for the second week of training with another thirty or so members due to arrive.
Want to watch our lads play? Tickets for the varsity match against Edinburgh on 30 November at the London Scottish RFC are available now!
St Andrews student athletes study, train and play hard. That’s why, as part of the 600th Anniversary campaign, we’re expanding the current facilities to include a multi-purpose sport hall, 140-station cardio gym, climbing wall and martial arts dojo; we’ll also upgrade the outdoor tennis and squash courts and recondition the track. Stephen Stewart hosts a tour of the plans and explains how your support can bring this ambitious scheme to reality for students like Jake in this student-produced video.