Wash U. club sports scene

| Sports Editor

As incoming freshmen, many of you have questions about the Wash. U. club scene. Club sports, that is.

Undoubtedly, most of you know that Washington University in St. Louis students are not widely renowned for their physical prowess. However, Wash. U. offers a plethora of sports programs for all students, athletically inclined or not.

In addition to its Varsity sports, the University boasts 36 club teams, each unique from the others. There are also over 50 intramural teams, which vary in degrees of seriousness and range from arm wrestling, inner-tube water polo and kickball to soccer and cross country.
Clearly, there are other options for students besides varsity sports. And there are a lot of advantages.

One such benefit is that many club teams are less demanding than their varsity counterparts, thus allowing students to competitively pursue their love of a sport according to their own limits and desires.

More importantly, such flexibility allows for students to explore other interests, according to Stephanie Dusek, captain of Women’s Lacrosse.

“A concern that many varsity athletes I have spoken with have is the question of life after college: Have they missed out on other opportunities the school could have provided for them had they had more time to pursue other areas outside of athletics?” writes Dusek in an email. “Club sports offers the transition from being told what to do by hired authority figures to choosing by your own merit what kind of a role athletics will play in your life.”

Moreover, club sports have many of the same benefits as varsity sports. Besides a healthy, active lifestyle, they offer “an opportunity to compete and all of the things that go along with training for competition. The development of leadership skills, team-building, motivation to be successful, improving ones personal abilities through focused effort,” stated Cameron Carter, coach of Wash. U.’s club rowing team.

These benefits can come hand in hand with achievement. Club team results are mixed, but the naturally ambitious nature of Wash. U.’s overachieving student body often shines through. For many teams, “the forum is highly competitive because you have a bunch of motivated, high-achieving individuals putting their time into something they care about,” writes Peter Boumgarden, president of the Triathlon Club, in an e-mail correspondence.

For example, the Wash. U. Women’s Ultimate team (WUWU) made the Ultimate Players Association College Women’s Championships this year, placing 17th. The Wash. U. Men’s Crew team placed 2nd at the American Collegiate Rowing Association Championships in the Men’s Varsity Lightweight 8+. The Wash. U. Men’s Lacrosse Team missed playoffs by a technicality. And the list goes on.

The men's and women's frisbee teams pose for a picture. The Wash. U. Women’s Ultimate team took 17th in the country last season. (Courtesy of Tasha Parman, WUWU)

The men's and women's frisbee teams pose for a picture. The Wash. U. Women’s Ultimate team took 17th in the country last season. (Courtesy of Tasha Parman, WUWU)

However, there’s a drawback to the flexibility of club sports. “A value that women’s lacrosse holds to is that academics come first for our players,” states Dusek. “This usually leads to a less stressful environment on the field because we are not holding them there while they are worried about other school related obligations. The downside is that practices are not always as efficient and effective as varsity sports.”

Thus the competitiveness of a team depends on the individuals and the sport. For many, competition is not the point. Instead, pure enjoyment of sport and a chance to spend time with friends is all the reason necessary. At the heart of any club team is “the same thing that makes a varsity sport worthwhile…. Loving the sport, loving being on a team, loving staying in shape, loving being competitive, loving having a place to go every day,” writes Ruth Mandelbaum, a member of Wash. U. crew, in an email.

It seems that all club teams, big or small and competitive or not, are based on the ideas of enjoyment and self-improvement. With so many options, every Wash. U. student can find a home on a team.

“The beauty of club teams,” states Carter, “is that the level of commitment is determined by the culture of the particular club at any given time… [If] a club decides that they want to take on intercollegiate competition they need to ask themselves if they are willing to put in the same effort as their competitors. Sports may not be about winning and losing but it always should be about doing your best and becoming better.”

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