September 26, 2012

O-Issue 2012: Club sports

“Whenever I feel the need to exercise,” remarked former University president Robert Maynard Hutchins, “I lie down until it goes away.”

What a bore. Hutchins could try to obliterate our football program, but he couldn’t annihilate our athletophilia.

Sure, students may not flock to as many soccer games or attend as many women’s basketball games as those teams (and as all our teams!) deserve. There’s no denying that. But here’s the thing: many students do contribute to the school’s athletic culture in a—let’s say—more idiosyncratic, more quotidian way.

Club sports.

The U of C boasts 38 club sports, stretching the alphabet from Aikido, a Japanese martial art, to water polo. Taken together, the list of clubs is an eclectic…very eclectic…amalgam of athletic opportunities.

Bocce ball? You bet. Archery? Of course. Falun gong and table tennis, cricket and badminton, ice hockey and velo cycling? Absolutely. The selection of club sport options extends to triathlon, figure skating, and floor ball clubs, along with a host of Asian martial arts. (And don’t forget sailing, lacrosse, and fencing!)

Some of the stand-out clubs include crew club, known across campus for its persistent recruiting, its very early practices, and its popularity among freshmen. The squad has a three-part recruitment process: a required survey; informational meetings during the first week of Fall and Winter quarters; and a week-long rowing clinic till Commitment Day. During the beginning of the quarter, you might see members exercising and recruiting on rowing machines outside of Ratner. You’ll also see them practicing on the Chicago River, competing in regattas, and training on the rowing machines in Henry Crown Fieldhouse.

There’s also the Ultimate Frisbee club. The men’s team is called “Junk”; the women’s, “Supersnatch.” The men’s team is divided into two squads, A and B, the first for experts and the latter for novices. A festive bunch, you’ll often witness members throwing Frisbees on the main quad. The club travels throughout the Midwest to compete against other colleges and, on occasion, competes outside the region in states as far away as Georgia or Nevada.

And, of course, there’s men and women’s rugby. The two squads practice several times a week and usually have weekend contests on the Midway Plaisance.  The women’s team also hosts a match each year called “Prom Dress Rugby,” a muddy affair reminiscent of high school prom, where players wear thrift dresses and everyone’s trying to score.

But, you might wonder: Where’s the basketball club? The soccer club? What about softball, and tennis, and swimming?

Let me clear up a popular misconception: club sports are do not cater to those athletes on campus who have the talent but not the time to dedicate to a varsity sport. The truth is that sport clubs in which “the University of Chicago provides varsity (and, in some cases, intramural) athletic opportunities in the same area of the proposed club activity” will not be “approved/recognized” by the Office of Intramural, Recreation, and Sport Clubs. (The tennis club, for example, is not a “sport club” but an RSO.) But that’s not the only part of the misconception: it’s also true that some varsity athletes still participate in club sports!

The good news is that it’s relatively easy to start your own club. You just have to complete and submit the Sport Club Application (which requires you to include the name and ID number of at least ten interested students), secure a faculty adviser, and submit a “constitution and accompanying bylaws” to Brian Bock, the Director of the Office of Intramural, Recreation, and Sport Clubs, and the office, along with the Director of Athletics, will review your materials for club approval. Once approved, you’ll have access to the Sport Club Finance Committee’s quarterly and annual allocations, funding that makes it much easier for your club to maintain a presence outside of the campus community. And that’s just one of the perks.

So, are you interested in trying out a new sport, one that perhaps you’ve never even heard of before? Or, do you already have experience in a sport and want to continue it at the University of Chicago? Do you just love sports?

Well, join the club.

No, even better—join a club.