For love of the game

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Rugby's Season Opener Against the Outlaws (Stephanie Burns/GSO)

It’s not easy being a club sport.

Sure, it has its perks. For the most part, tryouts are largely a formality. Practices are a ‘show up if you can’ affair.’ And there’s the underlying idea that you’re there because you love the sport. Not for endorsements, or a scholarship, but for pure love of the game.

It certainly has its downsides though.

Traveling consists of packing into as few cars as possible and sharing the cost of gas. Equipment purchases are limited to the small funds given by the College and what’s garnered from fundraising. And while Basketball has played to sold out crowds in the TD Arena, club teams struggle to get a lone spectator to their games.

“I know it’s hard for kids to get to games,” Men’s Lacrosse Coach Jonathon Davis said of the commute to games off the peninsula. “But we would love to have fans out there.”

But perhaps that’s what makes watching these teams all the better. I’ve been to my fair share of college sporting events. There’s nothing quite like walking into that jam packed arena and spending a good 90 minutes chanting ‘C-O-U-G-A-R-S’ with half the student body.

When I go to a Quidditch gathering though, I don’t have to wait in line and get shuffled into some small seat in the student section. Instead, I just perch myself on the grass and watch, what captain Laurin Grabowsky says is, “a sport with its fair share of blood and gore”. After the meeting and a few practice games of Quidditch, played by those on the team, it’s nothing to go up to the captain or the star player.

But maybe, you might suggest, that’s because I’m watching several students run around throwing bright red balls at each other and a couple chasing a kid with a tennis ball sticking out of his shorts. After all, Quidditch isn’t technically a ‘club sport’, as that requires a set schedule (hard to come by in the ‘muggle’ world) and a designated coach. It’s just a club that happens to have a very athletic tendency to its meetings.

But lacrosse, now that’s a whole different animal.

I’ve always found it hard to believe that the College didn’t have it’s own Lacrosse team. As Davis said, “This place just naturally attracts the lacrosse type. I’ve worked with an affiliated Lacrosse program at a college, and we struggled to get as many players there as just naturally show up in Charleston.” Lacrosse just seems to be the epitome of East Coast sport.

And while Men’s Lacrosse already has a season under their belt, the Women’s Lacrosse team is just now getting up and going.

“A lot of people were interested, but we had to go through a lot of hoops,” Women’s Lacrosse team founder Rebecca Szer said, “but we finally got everything turned in and became official last month.”

Men’s Lacrosse was once forced to drive around each practice and claim any field they could, all the while keeping an eye out for the police that would invariably kick them off. Today they are now allotted space at C of C’s James Island facility, where they share it with the newly formed Women’s Lacrosse team.

Despite this interest, lacrosse has faced some steep challenges in getting recognized. Though, getting people interested in playing is no problem. However, getting people interested in going to watch seems to be an insurmountable obstacle.

Just as varsity sports that play at Patriot’s Point are all too aware of, getting students out to the games is tough. This is coupled with the fact that as Quidditch and men’s lacrosse are both young teams, each just coming into their second year, they tend to be dealt the worst of schedules. Away games are a frequent occurrence, and travel times tend to be long.

For Men’s Lacrosse, this is a point of particular trouble. Last year, they were free to use the school vans to transport their 20 or more players to away games. All through the summer, they were led to believe this would be the case again. However, that abruptly changed just a few weeks ago.

“They just told us that we’re not allowed to use them,” Davis said. “Now, what do you think is a better idea: putting 30 kids in two school vans and a mini van all driven by coaches, or having those kids split into 15 different cars all driving up to Myrtle Beach?”

Depriving the team of vans also packs another cost onto their already struggling budget. Though many clubs participate in fundraising, such as Hockey players hosting a golf tournament and Quidditch having bake sales, it’s often not enough. The school, by way of the SGA, puts forth money, but they’re not bound to give the whole amount. While sports like Quidditch use most of their money for travel, other sports are not so lucky to be able to put all their funds into that.

Lacrosse and Hockey, for instance, are both incredibly expensive sports, each requiring extensive attire and costly training equipment. Hockey will run you $900 and Men’s Lacrosse isn’t too far behind, charging a hefty fee of $500 in order to meet the demands of the team.

“I know parents are taking the brunt of this cost,” Davis says, sympathizing with the costliness associated with club sports. “We need more money, but I can’t ask that of the parents or the kids.”

And while the thought of being a varsity sport is certainly alluring to CofC’s hockey team, money is an issue there as well.

“…without a generous benefactor to come in and donate that money or our fan base grows and the College decides to invest I cannot see it becoming a collegiate sport in the near future.” said hockey captain Ryan Mullin.

The premise of not being a collegiate sport might cause some teams to be laid back in their sport, which is certainly common, that’s not the case with hockey.

“…we try to act like a collegiate program with our work ethic and dedication to the team and sport .” Mullin said.

And while no team plans to lose in any game, it’s not quite as serious as may be found in hockey, lacrosse, or crew. The CofC Men’s Rugby Team, for instance, seems perfectly content to go out to play purely for the fun in it.

“We don’t have to take it seriously, we get to have fun,”said senior and president of the men’s rugby team, George Woolston.

While crew and lacrosse are out practicing constantly and always striving for another win, Woolston and the team are happy to sit back, relax, and just enjoy the game.

For club sports, this seems to be the underlying feeling. Even the College’s cricket team, which hasn’t held any collegiate matches yet but fully intends to in the future, it all about simply wanting to be out and playing.

“I grew up playing it. I played for a good ten years. I lived in India most of my life, and got used to playing the sport, and then I got here where they don’t play it and I didn’t like that,” said Nakul Thakore, founder of the current CofC Cricket Club said.

The College’s Ultimate Frisbee team, whose pick up games in Marion Square frequently draw a crowd, expressed the same sentiments.

“Big benefits about club sports are that you can commit as much or as little time as you want to it, and that the more time you put into it, the more the team becomes family to you.” One of the Men’s Team’s Captains, Louis Oliver, said. “I know personally, I have made the best friends in my four years on the team than I could ever hope for, and a lot of my teammates would probably say the same.”

You’re not going to get the same experience at one of these events, where people are out there to have a good time and revel in the love of their sport, that you’ll get at a professional game. There won’t be giant screens giving you a play by play and in most cases there won’t a commentator egging on the excitement of the audience. Instead, you’re going to see students who have dedicated a huge chunk of their life to a sport that will ultimately grant them no monetary gains. You’ll see a family out on the field, celebrating their triumphs and falls together, sticking it out for the long haul.

To keep up with club sports, be sure to follow @GSOClubSports and watch out for news right here on cisternyard.com.

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