There are hundreds of clubs and societies in Cambridge which promote various sports, hobbies, subjects and issues of interest to students. Pretty much every taste and interest is catered for. Some organisations are university-wide, but there are also many college-based groups and teams.
Participation in sporting activity is very common in Cambridge, thanks in part to the excellent facilities that many of the colleges offer. For college rowers, 'bumps' races, which happen twice a year, see boats from each college lining up on the river a few meters apart and setting off together. The object of the race is to catch (and literally 'bump') the boat in front of yours, after which time you retire from the race. Those boats who bump on all four days of the competition win 'blades'. For other sports, winning the collegiate knock out cup (known as 'cuppers') is often the ultimate achievement, and many sports (such as football and rugby) feature league systems in which college teams compete.
Most captains will be glad to hear from a new recruit. Wile top college teams sometimes compete quite seriously, most colleges will have second or third teams where the enjoyment of playing the sport is more important than achievement. Your college will probably have an event in Freshers' Week where you will be able to sign up for anything that interests you.
The more committedb will probably want to compete at the University level. In popular sports, competition for places can be tough and you might have to be selected at pre-season trials before you can join the club. Listings of University sports clubs and contact details can be found on the University Sport website. The highlight of the season for University clubs is the annual 'Varsity' match against Oxford. Those students who are selected to compete in this fixture are awarded a 'blue'. If you are representing the university, you may be entitled to a grant to help meet equipment, competition or training costs; your club will be able to tell you more.
Many less common sports are not played at the college level. In this case, university teams tend to be less selective and you should be able to join without attaining a very high standard. The CUSU Societies' Directory provides another list of University Sports Clubs. In addition to student sport, town clubs are an option; some postgrads prefer this as you meet 'normal' people who are not students, outside of the University bubble.
As with most facilities, sports provision varies greatly between colleges. Typically, you'll have free access to football, rugby, hockey, cricket, and netball pitches, squash and tennis courts, and a gym. In some cases, more might be on offer; check with your MCR. In addition, central and civic facilities are available. University teams sometimes have their own grounds which may be available to other students. The new University Sports Centre has a range of facilities, including squash and fives courts as well as a gym which students can join at a discounted rate.
The city's leisure complex is known as Kelsey Kerridge and contains sports halls, a gym, cricket nets, a climbing wall and various other facilities, including a swimming pool. Up-to-date prices and opening times can be found on their website.
Other Societies and Interest Groups
Non-sporting clubs can also be found at both University and college level. You don't necessarily need to be a member the college in which a society is based to join it. You will be able to find out about what is on offer in your college from your MCR, or at your college 'Fresher's Squash' during Fresher's week.
Many societies 'register' with the University, which allows them to apply for funding, and ensure a certain amount financial oversight. The University maintains a list of registered socieities. The CUSU Societies' Directory should be more complete, as it lists non-registered societies too.
There is also a huge Freshers' Fair every October, where many societies have stands where you can subscribe to their email lists and meet current members. The Fair is huge, and is attended by approximately 15,000 people over the two days on which it runs- it is a must for new students interested in pursuing interests and joining societies!