Written by Naadira Moyston
Edited by Ashley O’Neil and Sean McCarthy
One day in UREC after playing a game with the guys, I was approached by two members of the club basketball team, one of whom was the president of the club, and they asked if I was interested in playing club. I took the president, Katie Poe’s, email address and said I’d get back to them and actually gave playing club a thought even though I did not really understand the concept or what club was about. During our discussion, I told them I had planned to try out for varsity and that I would think about it. A day or two later I made up my mind and figured it could not hurt to try out especially if I did not make the Varsity team, because I just wanted to play basketball in the end. Trying out for club has ended up being the best decision I have made this semester and in the upcoming article you will learn why. In this article I want to explore some of the differences between club and varsity sports. Along with all of this fascinating information there will be a short video interview with a two sport club athlete named Michelle Tremblay. She will elaborate on her club experiences, the different chances she has been awarded, and her plan for the future.
Before I came to college, I believed that the only true sports program in college was Varsity. I did not understand what club sports were and did not even know about intramural. When it came time for me to make a decision about playing sports in college, I decided to walk-on division one (DI) instead of playing division three (DIII). Division one programs are extremely competitive, offer athletic scholarhips, and tend to be big public univerities. The DI program can be hard for student-athletes because sports can become very time consuming and make it hard for student-athletes to keep their grades up. Division three is less competitive and is not allowed to give athletic scholarships. In a DIII program it is easier to balance sports and schoolwork because institutions tend to be smaller and private. I saw DIII as a good opportunity, but felt as if I could do better and handle a higher level of competition. So I made my journey to JMU with the decision to try out for the very good NIT finalists Women’s basketball team. I had heard about club sports and thought of them the same as the same level of competition, if not less, as DIII. I was determined to push myself as far as possible to get to the best level of play. I would soon learn that club sports were more competitive than I thought and a better fit for my new life at JMU.
When it came time for try outs club came up first. It looked like good competition and a lot of girls. I was a little nervous until we began try outs and did drills. The players may not have been varsity standard, but many were pretty good. I made it through the second to last cut for club and really liked that practice. I felt like there was finally a high level of competition and it was actually fun. I ended up finding out I made club before my varsity try outs. We had our first team practice the day I had to try out for varsity and I loved it. The girls were amazingly nice, good at basketball and it just reminded me of my high school team.
I began to have doubts about trying out for varsity and whether I would be good enough but I still went that night. The try out for varsity was only twenty minutes of skill work with another girl. I thought I did well considering the circumstances, but I guess the coaches thought differently. About a week later, I found out that I did not make the Varsity team and of course I was upset, but at the same time I knew I would have fun and still get to play on club. So, I embraced club basketball and have actually learned a lot over the past couple of months. The girls we play may not be as good as the Varsity level but it gets just as competitive and teams can be the same level and/or better than your team a lot of the time. We still play all DI schools and travel to other states. I am starting to believe club may even be better than varsity because in a sense we are playing more for the love of the game. We do not get paid to play, we have to pay for our own gear and to be able to travel but we still love it, nonetheless.
In a New York Times article entitled Open membership: Rise of college club teams creates a whole new level of competition an interviewee by the name of David Gerstile, a player-coach for Yale’s water polo club team,
“If you look at it in economic terms, varsity sports are like a high-regulated industry with restrictions, caps and incentives. But club sports eliminate the barriers and let anyone in, much like libertarian economics. It raises the level of competition because it inspires people’s competitive nature. It frees them to want to do it and do their best.”
I think it is very true that club eliminates barriers and inspires people’s competitive naturebecause I have learned with my current team that this is not an easy league and you are going to work hard the full 40 minutes of a game to win because teams are not backing down and or slacking off even if we are better or equal in skill. Gerstile is also explaining that anyone and everyone can play as long as they have a love for the game and are willing to work hard. It may come down to skill in the end to make the team but it does not hurt to try out. I have also noticed on club teams you still have competition to earn playtime, but it is not as serious as varsity where playtime can literally be fought over through play in practice.
Club sports also have offer a better balance of time. Another interviewee named Tiffany Villalba, a senior on Villanova University’s Women’s club team, from the aforementioned New York Times article, explains that “Intramural sports can be too loose and not competitive enough, but the varsity teams, even if you make one, can be intense and require a lot of your free time. The club team fills that big gap between the two. It’s not too demanding, but it’s not trivial.” Club provides a good level of competition but is not too time consuming. On a varsity sport you do not have time to socialize with your hall mates and or go out on the weekends simply because you are so tired all of the time and/or have a game. On club you are able to do all of that and more because you only practice a few times a week and have tournaments on weekends.
In the upcoming video you will meet Michelle Tremblay. Michelle is a twenty two year old senior at James Madison University and two sport club athlete. She is from Plymouth, New Hampshire and went to Plymouth Regional High School. She plays club basketball and field hockey and will explain when she began playing sports, which she likes the most, what sports mean to her, why she chose JMU, What her busiest day consists of, and her plans for her future. I hope she gives you some insight into club athletics. Her schedule may be a little harder because she does two sports but it is worth it to her because she is so passionate about both sports. Without club she would not have the opportunity to even think about playing both sports without risking serious longtime injury to her body because of so much play.
I hope you understand a little more about what it takes to be a two sport club athlete and how and why Michelle does it. She loves basketball and field hockey and really enjoys the fact that she can do both even if it can be a bit streneous in the fall. It is important to see that Michelle took into consideration that varsity would be too time consuming and decided to go with club instead. She could have played DIII or even for our very own field hockey team, which is DI, but as she said her grades are more important and a varsity program would run her life and possibly ruin her grades. Michelle helps you understand why she has a drive for club sports and hopefully influences you to want to join also. Chip Shear, volunteer coach for the Yale men’s water polo team, says in the aforementioned article that “The ability to balance one’s academic, athletic and social life is an apparent draw to the club sports model”. Michelle explains her passion for the sports and why she does club, so now it is up to you to decide do you think you could do it. James Madison University offers a number of club sports activities provided in this link. If you feel as if you have not quite found a sense of belonging at JMU, want to expand your friend group, and or just want to have competitive fun through sports I suggest you join a JMU club team!
Pennington, Bill. “Open Membership: Rapid Rise of College Club Teams Creates a Whole New Level of Success.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 02 Dec. 2008. Web. 25 Oct. 2012. <http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/02/sports/02club.html?pagewanted=all>.