Gonzaga junior Julia Golovchanova is tackled by players from the University of Idaho as her team tries to maintain possession of the ball during a club rugby match. Photo: Libby Kamrowski
By now you know there are a plethora of ways to get connected in your college community outside of the classroom. There’s service, part-time jobs, residence life, student government, cultural organizations, and of course, the wonderful world of sports.
College sports aren’t limited to the high-caliber NCAA division sports that you watch from the student section or on television. There are a few degrees of competition, ranging from intramural team activities to club sports and then the university-owned teams.
Each tier of competition has its own benefits and drawbacks, but the balance of club sports is a much-appreciated happy medium. “It’s the middle ground,” said sophomore club rugby player Colin Bonini. “Intramurals are fun, just people getting together. You can make that as serious as you want it. With club there is practice; you’re playing other schools. Club is good if you’re looking for structure.”
Bonini is in his second year playing on the men’s rugby team for Gonzaga University. The fall season concluded in the first week of November.
“Based on experience, I’d say if you have a lot of experience and a big passion for soccer, go for the university team. If you want to meet friends and want it to be more social with close to no commitment, go for intramural. For club, I think you need a bit of that competitive edge but still be out there for fun,” said freshman club soccer member Mackenzie Tong, who also plays on intramural teams in her spare time. Tong sees club soccer as a stepping-stone to get to the university level. She aims to try out for varsity this spring after getting her first semester of college under her belt.
Experience levels can factor into the chances for playing on a club team. At Gonzaga, some teams such as swimming and rugby don’t require a tryout; they accept all those who are interested. This means one could potentially join a club team without prior experience in that sport whatsoever. However, club basketball, soccer, golf, and tennis have a much higher influx of participants, and cuts are therefore necessary just like in high school sports. Those who are more familiar with the game have a greater potential of making the team. For Gonzaga’s women’s club soccer team, approximately 60 girls tried out to fill the seven spots that were open on the roster.
The range of club sports at a school depends on the size of the college and the regional climate, which could affect what sports are available. Collegiate club sports usually mirror the university teams but can also include unique options such as rodeo, skiing, racquetball, water polo, and more. Club sports are usually governed by the United States Collegiate Athletic Association or a similar organization and require their members to pay dues for referees, transportation, equipment, and field reservations. Depending on the sport, some teams may be in conferences or compete for national titles.
Most students typically plan to play a club sport before they start the school year, deciding that they don’t want to give up the sport they love just because they aren’t trying out for the university team. Bonini started playing rugby in high school because of friends who played on the local teams. His years of experience guided him to the college club team. “I really wanted to play,” he said. “I came in here knowing I wanted to do that.”
For Tong, soccer has been a lifelong commitment. The San Mateo resident started playing at age five and described her past involvement as high caliber, including four years of varsity soccer and several on a team in the Elite Club National League.
Students may also be glad to find out that club sports aren’t a strenuous time commitment.
“It’s a practical amount of time,” said Tong. “There are practices four days a week, but you only have to go to two.” She estimates between four and six hours in terms of how much time she spends on the sport per week. This requirement carries the benefit of essentially replacing time she would otherwise spend at the gym, as it is exercised-based and fulfills this aspect of her life. Since club sports are an intercollegiate activity, traveling to other schools on occasion for away games is an additional time factor to consider.
“People always manage it differently. I scheduled my work and class schedule around it. But rugby is not a huge time commitment,” Bonini said.
For many, the biggest benefit aside from continuing to play a beloved sport is the social connectivity.
“It’s nice because you see the guys around campus and since they’re on a team with you, you have a relationship with them that you don’t have with a lot of other people. You go through a lot with them,” said Bonini about his teammates. Club sports are another way to feel a shared sense of belonging and school pride.
“I highly recommend it. If anything, just do it for the friends,” said Tong.
“You’re on the team, you’re wearing that school’s name,” said Bonini. “It’s a really close connection to the university.”