For more than 700 Central Michigan University students, such as senior Steve Copp, club sports are an opportunity to continue playing sports they loved in high school or try something new.
"You don’t really meet people sitting in your residence hall watching movies all day, so I decided to join the lacrosse team,” said Copp, a finance student from Lake Zurich, Illinois, and treasurer of the men’s club lacrosse team. "Now I exercise, use finance skills and continue playing the sport I love as an executive board member. It’s what made me stay at Central."
CMU University Recreation offers more than 35 traditional club sports, including volleyball, swim and dive, soccer, and basketball. Many nontraditional club teams also exist, such as martial arts, equestrian, ultimate Frisbee, quidditch and dodgeball.
Marisa Enos, a children’s literature graduate student, didn’t imagine she would play a club sport while at Central, let alone quidditch – the sport from the wizarding world of Harry Potter. She began playing quidditch when she was an undergraduate student in fall 2013 after one of her classmates suggested coming to a practice. Now, after serving as the 2016-17 team captain and president of the registered student organization, she can’t envision her life without the sport and her teammates.
"The Central Centaurs are my second family. That sounds really cheesy, but if I’m hanging out with friends, it’s friends from quidditch,” Enos said. “I have friends in other club sports, and I know they would say the same things about their teammates being a home away from home, too."
Jennifer Nottingham, University Recreation’s director of programs, said the popularity and development of club sports teams often mirrors trends in popular culture.
"Quidditch and dodgeball both are very popular. Similarly, disc golf is a young sport in our program and it’s growing but, nationally, disc golf also is a growing sport," she said.
Club sports also provide students with a litany of transferable skills – leadership, team building, conflict resolution, administrative organization, finance management – that can help them in future careers.
Angeline Skowronski, an accounting junior from Mount Pleasant, serves as the 2016-17 team captain and president of the women’s club soccer team. Skowronski played soccer since second grade and looked to play varsity soccer at CMU before deciding club soccer was a better fit.
“I didn’t know what it took to run a club sport at all before this,” Skowronski said. "It’s communicating with administration to make sure we have practice time, use of facilities, a travel budget, managing the girls to find out who can come to practice, those kinds of things. I’ve learned a lot about time management and communication as the president.”
Club sports are registered student organizations under the Office of Student Activities and Involvement, but they receive support from University Recreation. Nottingham says University Recreation acts as the governing body for club sports, providing advice and leadership for the teams.
"We give them foundation, tools, support and can provide advice, but what they want to accomplish and their structure is really up to them,” she said. Individual club teams set their goals for the year, and it is up to them to enforce them.
Skowronski, Enos and Copp all acknowledge the competitive level at which their teams play. Skowronski and the women’s club soccer team play in the fall, against teams from Michigan State University, Ferris State, University of Michigan and other schools from as far as Wisconsin. The quidditch team just returned from the United States Quidditch national tournament in Kissimmee, Florida. The men’s lacrosse team plays in a conference of 12 schools from as far as Minnesota to Tennessee. Teams frequently add schools in and out of their conference to play at the highest level.
“I give a lot of credit to my teammates," Skowronski said. "You can always see their dedication to this team and in how they represent CMU.”