Club sports provide alternative option to compete

Adrienne Burch

Of the seven million high school athletes in all sports, only 1 percent get a Division 1 sports scholarship, according to NCAA statistics. However, the millions of boys and girls who do not make it to the big leagues have a second option to fuel their competitive natures: club sports.

“I think students currently participating in clubs receive so many benefits,” Darrell Hargreaves, UA assistant director of intramural and club sports, said. “The obvious one is continuing to participate in a sport they love at a higher level of competition.”

There are currently 36 club sport teams at The University of Alabama, ranging from baseball and hockey to bass fishing and Ultimate Frisbee. Club sports are a way for students to stay active, experience being part of a team, and represent the University as a student athlete, Hargreaves said.

Brandon Butler, president of the UA club ice hockey team, said he chose the University because of the club hockey team that competes at a national level.

“It is really neat to be able to represent The University of Alabama by being part of the hockey team,” Butler said. “Everywhere we go, whether it is Michigan, New Jersey or Florida, people recognize The University of Alabama logo on our jersey and what it stands for.”

In order to start a UA club team, there must be 10 interested students, faculty or full-time staff members who want to start a club for a sport that does not already exist. Members must then submit a constitution to the Office of Student Life and University Recreation with documented evidence of prospective members, officers, coaches and potential competitors either through governing leagues or clubs at nearby universities.

The popularity of club sports at the University appears to be continually growing. Over the last five years, University Recreation Sports Clubs have added at least three new clubs per year, Hargreaves said. Many of the clubs at the University are open to anyone who has interest in joining and others hold tryouts for interested students at the start of the school year.

Butler said the hockey team holds tryouts every year in August and typically has over 50 people to try out.

Brian Moore, president of the club Ultimate Frisbee team, said his team has grown in just two years from one team of 18 members to this year’s A and B teams with 25 members.

“With the sport becoming extremely popular among college students, it looks like we will be holding tryouts every year from here on out,” Moore said.

With the continual growth of club teams, the University Recreation department has struggled to provide funding, Hargreaves said. University Recreation is able to give 36 clubs an allotment based on criteria of volunteer hours, fundraising collaboration on campus, ability to follow procedures, meeting attendance and support of other clubs. However, this allotment does not always cover all of the club’s expenses.

“Clubs are creative in how they are funded,” Hargreaves said.

Clubs also have the task of finding other teams to play against, whether this is in a league or scheduling games against nearby schools on their own accord. For instance, men’s and women’s rugby, lacrosse, ultimate and hockey have leagues that set up their conference schedule, while men’s and women’s volleyball, CrossFit and triathlon might not have a league but find competition with other schools or participate in national events provided by a national governing body.

The ultimate team plays under the USA Ultimate league who helps promote tournaments for club teams across the country throughout the school year. They also set up a conference, regional and national event each year after the regular season. They travel all over the Southeast to attend these tournaments, from Tallahassee and Atlanta to Austin and Baton Rouge.

“This year we have the potential to be the best team the club has ever had,” Moore said. “It is now up to us to do great things with our potential.”

Butler said the hockey team plays all of the SEC teams as well as teams from across the country including Clemson, Michigan State and the University of Miami.

“Last year, we made it to the National Tournament for the first time in the program’s history,” Butler said. “So we are trying to build on that this year.”