Last week, students crowded the University of Richmond Forum, throwing balls to each other, swinging racquets and generally having a good time. The Forum was the hot-spot for the second-annual Sport Club Rush, which was held Thursday, Sept. 2. Students had the opportunity to sign up for clubs, ask questions, get practice and competition schedules and check out all the events going on with different clubs this semester.
Richmond has expanded from four clubs 20 years ago to more than 30 varied, active clubs today, with approximately 600 students involved, Kerry McClung, manager of sport clubs, outdoor adventure and facilities, said. The benefits of sport clubs were a balance of academics and athletics, leadership opportunities, social networking and having fun, she said. McClung describes the purpose of sport clubs as “sports for the love of sports.”
She said that they were a level between the NCAA and intramurals. The NCAA is time-consuming and rigorous, while intramurals are more relaxed and easy-going. Sport clubs try to find a balance between the two. Most sport clubs have two to six home games and two to six away games a semester. Students still have time for academics and a social life, McClung said.
“You really get to choose as a student how much you want to participate,” she said.
Sport clubs are also student-run, making leadership opportunities available. Junior Rianna DiBartolo-Cordovano, one of the presidents and co-founders of Sprinting Spiders, a running club, started the program with a friend during her freshman year because they loved to run and wished there was a team. After being a student organization for a semester, Sprinting Spiders is now in its second full year as a club sport.
Many sport clubs do things together outside of practices and competitions. Junior Catesby Saunders, president of crew, said that this semester they would have afternoon practices, then eat together at the Heilman Dining Center.
“We’re very much a friend circle,” he said. They compete in major regattas from Massachusetts to Florida, but are a social group as well.
This semester, the university is recognizing the benefits of sport clubs for the students and institution and is planning to develop a varsity club for men’s lacrosse, McClung said.
The Richmond men’s lacrosse club started in 1980 and has since attracted talented players from some of the top high school teams in the nation. Some have even been recruited to play Division I or Division III lacrosse.
The transition to a varsity club includes increasing fundraising to supplement funds from the university and support the increased annual operating budget of $100,000 – $200,000, recruiting an experienced and successful coach, hiring a full-time trainer and administrator to support increased expectations and demands, moving from the NCLL league to the more competitive MCLA league and paying additional costs to travel by bus to ensure the safety of the club, McClung said.
Junior Clay Palmer, president of men’s lacrosse, said he hoped the transition to a varsity club would raise interest from students to help make the next step. He said they were in the process of looking for a head coach.
“We are on the cusp of a new concept to club sports,” McClung said.
She said club sports had evolved to a more formal sport, and Richmond was leading the way.
“It’s something that the university is fully supporting,” she said.
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