Club sports deserve more respect: Acknowledge both club and varsity

Anna Lang

As a member of the NMU crew team, I’m used to hearing people say things like, “Oh, it’s only club, not varsity.” Club teams may not compete at the same level as varsity, but it takes a lot of effort to prepare a team for competition, even if it’s “just club.”

To be able to compete at the varsity level is amazing, and I could only dream of possessing a varsity athlete’s talent. I don’t expect people to hold club teams to the same standard as varsity teams, but I — and many members of the club teams — would like a little more respect.

I’m not saying varsity athletes have it easy; I know they don’t, but club teams have so many more obstacles to overcome.

I can’t speak for other club teams, but the crew team practices six days a week. Since the Lower Harbor is frozen over, we condition and use the rowing machines at the PEIF.

There are only seven rowing machines, so we must practice in groups. It can be tricky working out practice times because we have to plan around everyone’s schedules.

Most practices are also at 6 or 7 a.m., and it can be wearisome waking up when I could be sleeping two or three extra hours a day. But I wouldn’t trade those precious hours of sleep for crew.

Many members of the crew team also have jobs — including me — so we can afford to play our sport. Club teams get some money from the school, but it’s mostly up to members to pay for regattas and other fees.

The expenses add up and it can be stressful trying to figure out if your next paycheck will cover dues.

Varsity teams get plenty of money from the school and on top of that, many varsity athletes get scholarships to play their sports.Some club teams, like the crew team, don’t have coaches because they can’t afford to hire one and no one with experience will volunteer.

When we get to row on Lake Superior in the fall, our captains and teammates who have rowed in previous seasons sacrifice practice time to run practice and instruct the other rowers from the chase boat.

Club teams also have to find their own accommodations when they travel, and this is just added stress to the member in charge. These accommodations could be a teammate’s house or anywhere with a roof.

The crew team usually spends their nights before regattas on the floor of the host school’s gym.

Members of club teams deal with a lot, only to get little credit.

Club teams give athletes who can’t roll with varsity the opportunity to continue to play the sports they love. In the case of crew — and other club teams like women’s hockey or men’s track and field — being a club team gives us the chance to represent NMU because NMU doesn’t have a varsity team.

Not only do club teams represent NMU, they represent our school well.

Boat groups from the crew team have placed in the top three at regattas against schools bigger than NMU. Many of the club teams successfully compete against larger schools.

The men’s club hockey team recently made it to their first playoff game in the history of the team, winning games against Division I schools. You can’t say that’s not a big deal.

If I didn’t row, I wouldn’t work out nearly enough to stay in shape. I know it’s easy to become a couch potato, especially if you don’t have a strong support system. Crew provides that for me, and for many athletes of club teams.

Club sports are not clubs. To me, use of the word “club” implies a group that doesn’t require a lot of effort to join and is just for fun.

While rowing is fun for me, I take it seriously. Other club team members also take their sports seriously.

We practice consistently, improve and compete. Just like varsity teams, club teams win together and lose together.

It can be overwhelming to deal with so much and get so little recognition, but I wouldn’t trade crew for less stress and more free time.

Part of my college experience is being a rower, and I’m proud to represent NMU as an athlete of a club team.