Club Sports in College

It’s a good way to get benefits of sports without a huge time commitment.

If you played sports in high school, you know that it’s a one-of-a-kind experience. Playing sports can help students learn commitment, focus and teamwork. Participants also gain lasting friendships.

None of that has to end in high school. Collegiate club sports offer the opportunity for serious student-athletes to continue playing in a competitive environment.

What Are Club Sports?

Club sports are intercollegiate athletic teams funded (and often founded) by students. Unlike varsity sports, which the NCAA oversees, many club sports are governed by the National Intramural Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA), a nonprofit organization that promotes intramural and club athletics.

Club sports differ from intramural sports in the fact that teams compete against teams from other schools, rather than from the same school. Most club sports have a national championship. This lends a more serious atmosphere to club sports than intramurals.

The University of Connecticut aptly describes club sports as the bridge between intramural and varsity athletics. They’re for student-athletes who want to compete against other talented athletes, but who want an alternative to intensely committed and highly regulated varsity sports.

What Kinds of Club Sports Are There?

Because they are managed and funded exclusively by students, any competitive activity can be a club sport. One of the more unusual cases is orienteering, a combination of cross-country running and land navigation. One of the few institutions that practices this Scandinavian sport is West Point.

For the most part, club sports mirror their varsity counterparts. Basketball, soccer, water polo, cycling and tennis are all popular. Rugby is also very common at certain schools, such as the University of California, Berkeley, and BYU.

How to Get Involved

To join a club, you typically have to be a full-time student and pay membership dues. For example, Colorado University’s baseball club requires $300 in dues, plus a $50 deposit for equipment. This is because club sports are owned, and therefore funded, by students. Most clubs also have tryouts at the beginning of each season, but some, like the University of Oregon’s swim club, welcome all participants.

Guidelines for creating your own club sport team vary slightly from school to school, but always require an application of some sort to the college’s athletic department. To get involved with club sports at your school, check out your athletic department’s website for sports offered, tryout dates and membership dues.

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