First off, apologies for the lack of originality, as I’m sure almost all Darden bloggers cover this topic at some point. Regardless, much of Darden’s awesomeness is attributed to its well-rounded student body, and one series of events perfectly exemplifies that awesomeness: Darden Cup.
For anyone unfamiliar, Darden students take classes with the same students for the first year, forming a section of approximately 65 students. Sections (there are 5) develop a lot of pride, and compete with each other through a variety of charitable and athletic competitions throughout the school year. On the athletic side, the Darden Cup tournaments this past fall included softball, football, and soccer. Even as someone who is an average participant in each sport, the events are literally some of the most fun I’ve had in years. The format of each event usually involves some type of round robin, where each section will play at least two other sections, before sections are seeded and enter playoff play. In sports where you participate in playoff games, you’re usually playing four games, each lasting around forty minutes. In totality, I’d describe these events as college intramurals on steroids. To elaborate:
- By this point in the year, each section has an amazing bond (in fact, I think our section came together during the first Darden Cup event). It’s similar to playing with your best friends on an intramural team in college
- In contrast to intramurals, where we largely played teams full of guys we didn’t know that well (Boston College has 9,000 undergrads), you’re going up against really good buddies on the other side of the ball. One can imagine how much you want to win
- There are a lot of really good athletes. In every major sport, you’ll find someone in the class who has played the sport professionally (or at least at a major collegiate level). The level of play is pretty high, particularly when each section fields two teams and loads up one team full of athletes
- For a lot of us, it’s been a while since we’ve played competitive sports. For many guys sports occupy some of our favorite memories from childhood. These events are a chance to act like kids again
- Everyone really leaves it out on the field. If four games at forty minutes per game don’t sound like a lot, try it out (and then try it again once you’re out of shape, as some of us are). Particularly in tournament playoffs, people are flying around the field, and the soccer / football games can get pretty chippy. There are almost always a few injuries, mostly due to lack of fitness
Clearly Darden isn’t the only business school with an intrasection competition, but a lot of schools don’t have the same school spirit. When looking across schools, it was very important for me to find a place where people really buy into the experience, a place where people enjoy friendly competition. Darden Cup is a small part of the overall experience, but is definitely indicative of what makes Darden great.