By: Lexie Humphrey
It’s college athletics without the scholarships, the perquisites, and the demand. It’s college club sports and its success and student involvement is on the rise.
The University of Utah is home to 20 thriving club sports, many of which hold national and regional titles. However, this success didn’t happen overnight. These athletes shine with dedication by putting in dozens of mandatory volunteer hours in order to preserve a functioning season and team. They have shown that having to be student led does not hold them back from reaching success.
“It’s extremely hard work,” said Regina Farley, captain of the U’s women’s lacrosse and vice president of the women’s lacrosse club, “It’s all about building a strong team that is willing to work together as well as put in the time and effort it all takes. The amount of love I have for this sport makes it all worth it.”
Hard work does indeed pay off. Finishing 9-2 in their 2016 season, the women’s lacrosse team is ranked fourth nationally, titled 2016 regional champs, and headed to compete in nationals located in Winston Salem, North Carolina.
Facing the normal duties as captain, Farley and all other club sport captains, also take on irregular duties most collegiate athletes wouldn’t think twice about. All captains and teams are required to devise all practices and occasional games, raise money for uniforms and equipment, schedule hotel and travel arrangements and even do the hiring and firing of coaches.
The U offers a small amount of resources for these club teams. University student trainers volunteer for teams by providing onsite care for athletes, along with use of the trainer rooms located in the George S Eccles Student Life Center. Some teams are fortunate enough to gain use of university fields or courts free of charge but only at select hours. As for financing, the U’s student government, ASUU, allows teams to receive up to $5,000. “The money is there but it isn’t an easy process to get,” said Farley on the financing matter, “…in order to obtain the money a team must submit a proposed bill and wait for approval. Another option would be we spend what we need on travel and other necessities, and then we turn in the receipts in hopes of getting reimbursed. No one is guaranteed that money”
In fact, with institutional financing being sparse all teams are required to raise most of the money they need. “We do so much fundraising it’s unreal,” said Farley, “…we are working with close to [an] $85,000 budget and a lot of that is done through team fundraising. [We’ve] done fundraisers with the Western Nut Company, selling club lacrosse t-shirts, and we go out and just ask for donations.” Farley noted that anything donated can be written off as tax deductible. Any remaining funds that are not raised for the team are required to come out of the pockets of the student athletes.
Club athletes also encounter multiple restrictions from the school in order to remain considered a “University of Utah club sport team” and this has caused them to get in touch with their creative side. “All teams are prohibited use of the classic drum and feather logo,” explained co- captain of the U’s water polo team, a current PhD student at the U who goes by the name “
“We’ve had to get creative with our designs for jerseys and other athletic apparel,” Kiffer expressed, “We all mainly stick with the ‘block U’ but even with that you’re walking on thin ice. Trust me, it makes the entire approval process through the U department more complicated than it really needs to be.”
As mentioned earlier, some club teams are allowed use of the U’s fields and courts, but for those that aren’t, this restriction has affected them financially.
“We practice at the Salt Lake Sports Complex and the Kearns Recreation Center. None of which are free of charge,” said Kiffer. “…and to add to that, pool rentals are only available early in the morning or late at night, which can be [a] turnoff for some players, but we accept it and make do.”
With all restrictions aside, men’s water polo finished second in their conference for the 2015 Fall season and plans to come back even stronger in the up and coming 2016 Summer league. On top of that the polo team has even made practices more entertaining by indulging in the Pie Pizzeria after every practice.
“All these different challenges show how you can problem solve and work together as a group, because at the end of the day we are all in this together,” said Kiffer. Both women’s lacrosse and men’s water polo are prime examples of how successful all club teams have become. Farley and Kiffer assures that having all these obstacles has just united their team and has motivated them to work even harder.
All University club sport team’s websites, schedules, and contact info can be found at the school’s website, http://campusrec.utah.edu/programs/sports-clubs/