Letters from the dorm: Football season - well, sort of

Letters from the dorm: Football season - well, sort of

Every January, in the second of the three terms of the school year, the season starts for Winchester College Football. To outsiders, this may not seem particularly special. But "Winkies", as we call the sport here, is unique to our school.

Matches take place on a large, 80-by-15 metre pitch (or canvas, as we call it) with 2 1/2-metre-high netting running along its sides. Roughly a metre in from this, and parallel to the netting is a long rope, held up by eight equally-distanced posts that run the length of the canvas.

At the end of each open side of the pitch is a white line that marks the edge of the scoring area. If the opposing team kicks a ball across "worms" (the line), points are scored.

There are a lot of rules, and the even more special words relating to them. This means most people don't really get the hang of the game until their second year. Once you get the hang of it, though, there is no more satisfying way to prove your manliness than by hacking at the ball or an opponent's legs in a vicious, yet somehow cultured, manner.

There are two factors that make it a great game, and add to the school's individuality. First, it's suitable for everyone, and second, it's greatly encouraged as a sport during the second term.

There are three positions in which one can play: in the "hot", as a "hotwatch", or as a "kick". The hot is for bigger, stronger players, who do not necessarily have to be very co-ordinated. The hotwatch is for more agile, quick players whose main responsibility is to chase down the ball and generally get in the way. A kick's job is to, well, kick the ball as far as possible into the opposing team's territory.

Winkies is just one activity in English boarding schools that are a constant, but fun, reminder of the rich heritage and tradition at many British public schools. Harrow, Eton and other schools have their exclusive sports, too, so if you're considering studying in Britain, you should take such aspects of boarding school life into account before you apply.

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