Club Sports vs Varsity Athletics: A Game of Resources

Sports are quite prevalent in most Haverford students’ lives: 40% of students participate in varsity athletics and another 30% participate in club sports.

The experiences of club and varsity athletes are similar, yet distinct. This is partly due to the reasons that one might choose to participate in one form of athletics over the other. Another key difference is the amount of resources that the two sectors of athletics receive from the school.

The predicament that the Men’s Ultimate team Big Donkey Ultimate found themselves in last Fall exemplifies the issue of unequal distribution of school resources. The Donkeys planned to host one of the largest D3 college ultimate tournaments in the nation, and reserved Haverford’s fields roughly six months in advance of the tournament. However, only a little ways away from the tournament’s start date, the college emailed them explaining that if the men’s soccer team advanced further in their tournament that the fields would not be available for the ultimate tournament, which would have essentially caused them to have to cancel the event. Luckily this drastic end point was avoided, but the message from the college was loud and clear: Varsity sports receiving an overwhelming priority when it comes to resources such as fields.

There are other restraints that can make it a bit more challenging to acquire all the amenities available to varsity sports—amenities that would make participating in club sports much easier.

For example, transportation is not always provided for club teams. Miranda Bucky ‘18, a member of the Haverford Women’s Crew team stated, “Sometimes members of the team have to use their own vehicles to drive to practice, which means that at times team members will have to be left behind due to a shortage of vehicles.”

This not only provides an issue in regards to the number of people that can go to their events, but also it is also a safety concern.

Natasha Daviduke ’17, a member of the Women’s Ultimate Frisbee team, The Sneetches, explained the issue,  “It’s a safety issue because we drive ourselves. There was a really terrible tragedy at Carleton College my freshman year, which brought attention to the issue of how we all drive ourselves to tournaments all the time. We’re responsible for our own safety. We don’t get tour buses except for nine hour drives, and even then we’re footing a lot of the bill on that.”

Additionally there are certain privileges that Varsity athletes receive. Varsity athletes do not have to take Intro to Fitness, but club athletes do even though many club athletes also participate in weight-lifting routines put together by one of the school’s trainers.

On the way this affects their team, Daviduke noted, “It’s really annoying that we have freshman leaving our practice to go to intro to fitness.”

While these inequalities seem unfair, some may point out that varsity sports, in general, require more of a commitment from the athlete and that perhaps they also deserve more of a commitment, financially and otherwise, from the school. As explained by Darby Festa ‘17, a member of the Haverford’s Women’s Basketball program, “in season your sport is a huge part of your life. It affects what you eat, how you sleep. It limits you, but that’s the sacrifice you choose to make to pursue varsity athletics.”

“In season we have practice and games six days a week and some of those days will include an hour long lift as well” adds one of Festa’s teammates, Clio Bodie ‘17.

Varsity athletes clearly have full schedules and a lot to balance, but club sports are quite demanding as well.

Daviduke illustrated her team’s practice schedule, “We have five days of practice in the fall and we also do lifts. When we get back from spring break it’s 4-5 days a week, two hour practices, and we have five tournament weekends which are Saturday and Sunday, twelve hours a day, and we still lift two days a week in season.”

Additionally two weekends ago, the men’s Ultimate team drove down to North Carolina for a tournament which required them to play four games on both Saturday and Sunday.

Evidently, club sports can be quite demanding as well. However, some may point out that varsity sports appear to have a larger accountability factor. Coaches can penalize players, and many fear the notion of missing practice without a pre-approved excuse for their absence.

On the other hand, club sports have their own forms of accountability as well.

“The captains are the leaders of the team,” said Daviduke. “They get angry when people don’t come to practice a lot especially right before a tournament. The A team especially is very serious, and certain things can be an excuse, but generally you should show up. Also, people love being at practice usually. If someone is routinely missing practice the captains will talk to them individually and see what’s going on, but generally people are pretty committed to showing up.”

And in the off-season varsity teams function quite similarly, meaning that they rely on this idea that people simply will find it worthwhile to give up their time to attend optional workouts.

Jeremy Graf Evans 18’, a member of the Men’s Varsity Basketball team stated, “Ideally in the off season there’s just an implied commitment of going to all of your lifts and pick-up with the concept of strengthening the team in mind.”

Bodie confirmed the success of this subtle off-season enforcement, claiming, “There is a high level of commitment in the fall, because the start of the season is looming in the distance. There are always new players and freshman coming in as well so people work hard to either keep or gain playing time. ”

If the way that varsity workouts are enforced is enough to get their teams ready for their regular season, then perhaps the commitment of club members can be counted on for their seasons as well.

Additionally there are markers for performance with the club sports teams and club sports are achieving. Women’s club varsity crew team placed second at the Marc’s regatta last spring. The Sneetches are currently ranked 12th in the nation in women’s DIII on ultiworld.com.

With this level of commitment to their endeavors it seems reasonable that club athletes would want more resources from Haverford so they can more easily participate in the sports that they love.

“It would be nice to get respect and recognition as a real sport and as a sport that people work really hard at,” Daviduke concluded. “One thing we think we should be able to do is ask for the college to simply take us seriously.”

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