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Why do we need club sports?

By Aaron Kasmanoff-Dick
On April 13, 2011

Usually this space in The Daily Campus is filled with the exploits of UConn student-athletes' achievements in club athletics. In light of the lack of available funds for club sports for the remainder of the semester, I'd like to use this space to remind UConn why we need club sports in the first place. With very, very few exceptions, varsity athletics are a mainstay of any university. At a Division I school like UConn, a large profit comes from sales of tickets and apparel related to big name sports like football and basketball. Student-athletes come to a Division I school on up to $120,000 scholarship.

ESPN columnist Dan Shanoff insists that college athletes are able to take advantage of "not just a free room and board: the best dorm rooms on campus [ and ] not just free books and classes: first choice of any classes they want."

Then why have club sports at all? Club athletics make no money for the university, give out no scholarships, entice no applications, sell no jerseys and never appear on TV. Besides a good byline in the university's brochure, intercollegiate club athletics give very little benefit to the whole. In fact, club sports cost the university many thousands of dollars each year. In contrast, the women's basketball team generated a $6.8 million profit after expenses last season. There are no TV deals to be made for club sports, and no exposure in the media for its athletes. The NCAA is fond of saying that "most [athletes] go pro in something other than sports." In club sports, however, all athletes go pro in something other than sports.

Club sports afford students an opportunity to compete as a representative of UConn. More importantly, they offer the average student a chance to participate in a team that they simply do not have at the varsity level. It offers them the chance to continue to develop skills of coordination, courage, responsibility, strength, speed, and teamwork in a formal setting. Club sports are important because they teach regular students the value of hard work and offer them nothing but the satisfaction of having achieved their goals as a reward.

Even more significantly, though much is made of the fact that NCAA athletes are not supposed to accept compensation for their services, they receive all of the benefits of a free college education, and as Shanoff argues, not just what everyone else gets, but much, much more, including the chance to be famous in college. While Kemba Walker was giving his news conference Tuesday, club athletes were working at a job or studying for exams. Club athletes at UConn receive nothing: no free gear, no scholarships and never appear on TV. They receive none of the academic advisement and assistance given to varsity athletes. When they left UConn, only 31 percent of the men's basketball team earned diplomas in 2010 (based on a program of six).

Members of the men's crew team wake up at 5 a.m. for practice. Members of the women's hockey team train in the weight room and run for miles. Members of the timber team cut wood until their hands bleed. Club athletes at UConn give almost as much as varsity athletes, but receive much less. The state of club sports at UConn is an indication of the state of the school, a marker of how much money is being spent for the pure benefit of average students.

The opportunities that club sports provides to UConn students are invaluable. In the coming months and years, funding cuts will be necessary, both from USG and the university. As a school, it is vital that we realize where our priorities lie. UConn club sports must continue to be funded and expanded in order for students to realize the fantastic goals they set for themselves. In these times of financial crisis, the education that club sports provide is even more vital than any time before.

Why have club sports? Club athletics teach teamwork, responsibility and dedication. They teach students that sometimes they may give a lot, to get a little. They teach the value of winning and the value of learning from defeat. These are life skills that are directly applicable to the workplace, and to the future lives of UConn graduates. Each year, the Club Sports Council sponsors a talk for all of its student-athletes. This year's was entitled "The Complete Athlete." In truth, the title was not ambitious enough. Club sports do more than build complete athletes; they build complete students who exit in May of their senior year with more than a winning record or a title - they leave as complete people.  

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