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The Benefits of Playing Club Sports in College

You may not be playing varsity sports in college, but that doesn't mean you can't still competitively play the sport you love. Get involved in club sports!

If you were involved in sports throughout high school and decided not to play at the collegiate level, you may be sad that your athletic career is over. Maybe you’re attending (or plan to attend) a college or university that’s a lot bigger than your high school, leaving you to feel like a small fish in a big sea. And if you came from a tight-knit team in high school, starting college without a team by your side may be difficult. But being recruited for a varsity athletic team isn’t required to play your sport in college—enter club sports! Here are all the reasons you should consider playing club sports in college, plus some information on how they’re organized and what some teams are doing during the current pandemic. 

How club sports are organized

All club sports play organized tournaments against other colleges and universities in their conference for a regular season. Depending on the sport, there will be a tournament to decide who moves on to regionals, or the first- and second-seed teams in the conference will move on to regionals (this happens with club softball, for example). The highest-seeded teams from all participating colleges will play a tournament against each other; from there, the first- and second-place teams at regionals will move on to the World Series, where colleges and universities from all over the country compete in a three-day-long tournament. 

Do some research on the club sports at your college or university to see what they have to offer for intercollegiate competition. Also check out the National Federation of Collegiate Club Sports Leagues to learn more about college club sports as a whole. If you don’t find your preferred sport there, try searching the internet for “National club [insert sport] association” and see what you find.

Related: The College Sports Glossary of Terms

Reasons to join club sports in college

Club sports offer the perfect balance between having a normal college experience without the intensity of official athletic team responsibilities. You’re given the opportunity to not only continue your athletic career but also build new friendships with a team (or two!) and develop new skills while playing a sport you love throughout your college years. Not convinced? You will be soon! 

You’ll make new friends

If you join a club sport, your team will become some of your closest friends. You may be worried that you’ll never find a team that can top the people you grew up playing with—but with club sports, you’ll build a great group of friends all over again. Your days will be filled with post-practice team dinners, road trips, late nights in hotels, and early mornings before games. Plus, living in close proximity to your whole team and bonding over the stress of college classes will make you feel closer to your new team. 

You can relax while playing the sport you love

The truth about club sports is that they’re much more relaxed than collegiate-level athletics (or even the very high-travel/club level). When you’re in high school, you’re constantly practicing and playing to try to receive a scholarship or make it to state championships, which can feel like a tremendous amount of pressure. But college students play club sports not because they’re going to make a career out of it or because they want to go to the next level—they play for the love of the game. The beauty of club sports is that they’re organized events that give you the ability to play the game you love for four more years and still be competitive while playing.

Intermural sports are also great to get involved with, but there’s a difference between intermural and club sports, mainly in competitiveness. If you’re just looking to play a quick, relaxed game every week, intermural sports are the way to go. However, if you played competitive sports all your life, you may crave a little more than intermural sports can offer.

Related: The College Intramural Sports You Want to Play

You’ll learn responsibility and leadership skills

Even though club sports are more casual than varsity, they still require an immense amount of responsibly and leadership from team members. Club teams are primarily run by college students, with each team having an executive board that helps run the team. Some teams have volunteer coaches that give their time to weekly practices and tournaments, while other club teams are completely student run and led. That being said, players on club sports teams must have a high amount of respect for their teammates. It can be tricky when your peers are running the team, but when everyone’s on the same page and supportive, there’s no stronger team than that. Most colleges or universities have a club sports office—an extension of campus recreation—that oversees all club sports. Funding for club sports teams can be received through grants from the city, from the sports club office, and from dues paid by the players.

Club sports and the pandemic

College club sports associations are in the process of determining what will be permitted for each sport for practices and games during the 2020–2021 academic year. Right now, the focus is on figuring out what to do about upcoming fall sports; unfortunately, the National Club Football Association just had its season canceled. The decision regarding club sports will vary for each school for the time being. You should contact your club sports office to find out more information on the status of club sports at your school. With so many unknowns about the coronavirus pandemic, things are changing on a daily basis. For example, the club sports office at Florida State University announced that when the national association for each club sport and the school allows sports to resume, there will be a phase one, phase two, and phase three plan to get back to practice. Phase one will consist of individual work, phase two will have small group work, and phase three will be full-team practices. 

Related: COVID-19: What Does it Mean for Athletic Recruiting?

Club sports are a great way to continue playing the sport you love, stay active on campus, and represent your college or university. As a player, you can grow into an executive position to help lead your team to a success. Club sports are also the perfect last hurrah for a sport that you held dear to your heart growing up. Find out what your college or university has to offer and get involved!

For more advice on sports and getting involved at your school, check out our College Athletics section.

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