Why you should join a sport/society whilst studying at dental school – a case study by Keira Madden

My name is Keira and I am a final year dental student and a keen sportswoman.  The aim of this piece is to share my university sporting experience and hopefully encourage students at dental school to take up a sport or join a society whilst studying. I will highlight the importance of doing so, through what I believe to be the 5 top benefits.

Having played and loved football since the age of 9, stopping sport whilst at university was just not a possibility. Despite the initial shock of having 9-5 lectures and the rumours of “not having time to do dentistry and sport”, I scouted the 100’s of societies and clubs, before deciding to continue my beloved football.

I have now played for the University of Bristol Women’s Football Club throughout my entire time at Bristol. Being in their first team, I currently compete in the BUCS Premier League, training 6 times a week, including a session which ends at 10pm on a Friday night! For some, I can see that playing football on a cold rainy evening up at Coombe Dingle is not everybody’s idea of fun (and depending on the week, I’d agree with you), but I have taken so much from my sporting experience and you could too.

5 top reasons that you should join a sport/society whilst studying at dental school

1) Make more (non dental) friends
It’s a cliché, but it is true. Whatever club or society you join, there is sure to be variety of students to meet; that have had different experiences to you, study different courses and provide a different outlook on life. I found that going to a training session or social where no one talked about teeth or dentistry, was so refreshing, especially near exams, as it is an ideal way to relax and take your mind off of the stress.

The closeness of our school community is fantastic but it can easily feel like your life is a little too dental sometimes, so it’s great to know people outside of this BDH bubble we so often live in. Societies and clubs add another social aspect to your university life and provide a welcoming change of scenery.

You can also join a UBDSS team (netball and football) if you want to make friends with dental students in other years, whilst still playing sport. This is a more relaxed environment which allows you to be active whilst still competing with friends.

2) It’s good for your health
Again, another cliché but I am sure you are already aware of the physical and mental benefits of physical activity, the importance of which cannot be overlooked. With such an intense course, it is important to have healthy coping strategies, to de-stress and reduce burnout, as well as looking after your body and mind. For me, this has been crucial whilst studying, as playing football is genuinely the time I feel most relaxed. I would suggest trying some new things and see what you enjoy as it is vital to make time for yourself, whether that is a playing a sport, musical instrument or something else. Although, if being part of a certain team or society is adding more stress to your life and you are not enjoying it, then don’t do it, find another activity instead. If revision or clinic hasn’t gone to plan, or you lack motivation, try and get some fresh air and exercise, it always makes me feel better and I end feeling more energised and productive, than when I started. Exercise can also help improve your posture and core strength, something particularly vital for a profession known for their back injuries!

3) Feel more part of the university
Whether your sport or society meets at the SU, Coombe Dingle, Sports Hall or somewhere else, being around campus always has a unique buzz. You will be surrounded by different people and can explore new parts of Bristol, something I highly recommend. You hear about and get to take part in university wide events, such as Ignition (a charity event where sport is played for 10 hours to raise money for Bristol City Centre Hospitals), sports nights and other socials. Spending so much time at BDH, it is sometimes easy to forget that we are part of the university, but by joining a society or club you really feel immersed in university life.

4) Time
Although it goes by in a flash, 5 years in terms of learning a new skill or continuing a previous hobby, is actually quite a long time. It gives you plenty of time to attempt different things and still really improve in whichever activity you pick. My football has certainly progressed across the 5 years and I have several dental friends that have taken up completely new sports whilst at university and have ended up playing at a high level. You never know until you try!

Whether you plan to join a development/fun team or the first team, there is definite opportunities to improve and learn at all levels. Getting to work with experienced coaches, having access to great facilities and equipment, whilst potentially travelling around the country is something quite unique to university sport.

I am sure someone will have told you that 5 years is “such a long time” but we are actually very lucky to be on such a long course, as so many people I know have found 3 years at Bristol to not be enough. So make the most of your extra university years!

5) Opportunities, experiences and skills
Playing sport has taught me so many life lessons and skills (including commitment, resilience, accountability, organisation, leadership, time management and team work), all of which are directly transferable to our dental careers. Being part of a team has also given me so many incredible opportunities, including travelling around the country playing high level sport, taking part in SU events, Ignition, Wednesday Night Lights, Welcome Week and also competing in the 100-year anniversary of BUCS Big Wednesday. Such experiences will enhance your time in Bristol and are exclusive to university life, so make the most of it.

I know that many people think that they are “too busy” at dental school, however, juggling sport and a dental degree is certainly achievable, with effective planning. Although, it does require you to set boundaries, have good time management and organisation, to ensure you have sufficient time for your studies. Other courses are not always aware of how much work dental students do so I would suggest making your schedule clear to the coach/leader early on, so that they can be more flexible. Be aware that sporting situations are not always ideal for dental students but usually you can make it work. For example, a memorable experience of mine was wearing my football kit to an exam, and then driving straight to Southampton for a cup semi-final once the exam was over.

Of course, not everyone enjoys sport or wants such a large commitment but there are many societies and clubs at the university which are more casual or require less physical involvement. Whether you are a fresher or a 5th year, there are lots of opportunities to try something new, with the SU’s ‘Give it a Go’ initiative or you can just contact a society/club directly.
You were probably required to demonstrate manual dexterity, sporting achievements or musical talents to get into dental school, so why not rekindle one of these?

I have loved my time at BDH. I have met some amazing people and have the best memories but sport has also played a huge part in my university experience. I would therefore strongly recommend taking up a sport or activity that you enjoy, or just go and try something new.

So remember, dentistry is great…but there is more to life (and university) than teeth!

2 thoughts on “Why you should join a sport/society whilst studying at dental school – a case study by Keira Madden”

  1. Such a fantastic piece Keira and I couldn’t agree more that it’s healthy and beneficial to have interests outside of dentistry! Inspiring to read of your football successes, I hope this encourages other students to continue an old hobby or try a new one.

  2. I loved reading this. I used to play football in 6th form, but unfortunately did not join a club when I went to dental school – I’m not even sure there was a women’s club back when I was a student! I did play again during my foundation year, but I think it’s great that you have done this throughout the course. Look forward to seeing you in the world cup/olympic team! 🙂


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