From skiing to baseball and rugby to ultimate, club sports are flourishing at Connecticut College. While they aren’t touted as highly as the school’s varsity programs, club sports account for a huge part of the campus community and student life as a whole.
“Conn, as a whole, has an amazing club sports environment, and there’s a club sport interest for any sport on such an active campus,” said Jake Muhlfelder ’17, captain of the club baseball team.
The club baseball team is one of the lesser-known organizations at the College, but it has a close-knit group of players who keep the rich tradition of the team thriving throughout their four years on the squad.
Muhlfelder also described the environment of a club team as far more relaxed than a varsity team, commenting that “The varsity experience is far more vicious and competitive, and full of politics and a lot of other factors other than who puts in the most time and who cares the most, which is what club is all about.”
Andrew Godwin ’19 of the club hockey team shared that sentiment. “I think that club teams have a better perspective on playing the sport for fun, I definitely appreciate being on the ice way more often,” he said.
The Conn club hockey team, most notable for its recent victory against the Coast Guard Academy, is among the more popular student-run sports teams at the College. “We’ve got so many kids that we might do two teams next year,” Godwin emphasized.
Another of Conn’s most popular club sports organizations is club soccer. With several dozen people in connection to the team, club soccer is blossoming as another non-varsity opportunity for student athletes.
“I was recruited by a bunch of different schools for soccer, and I came here looking to walk onto the varsity team at a good school,” commented Brie Duseau ’19. “The coach didn’t want walk-ons, so I joined the club team.” Like with the club hockey team, membership in club soccer increases along with cuts from the varsity squad.
Of course, those cuts don’t happen with teams lacking a varsity option at Connecticut College. Ultimate and rugby are offered only as club sports but still have immense appeal.
“We went to nationals last year,” said Skylar Levey ’19 of the ultimate team. “We didn’t do so well going up against some of the best teams in the country coming from a small school with not a lot of funding,” he admitted, adding that “We’re hoping to do well again this season and to get back to nationals.”
Ege Sakirt ’19, a member of the rugby team, noted the draw of his sport. “The best part of playing on this team is the camaraderie both on and off the field,” he said, “It’s a great sport to play, and everyone who gets involved likes playing it. It really pulls you in to come to more practices. I love the sport.”
Both Levey and Sakirt agree that, while club teams do not operate on as strict a practice schedule as varsity organizations, getting people to commit to practice strengthens their personal relationships as well as their athletic performance.
While many of the aforementioned players had former athletic experience from high school or varsity careers, Fiona Kinmonth ’18, president of the figure skating club, says that the environment for club sports has improved this year. “[Dean of Student Life] Geoff Norbert is totally involved in club sports, and he’s really taking the initiative to make sure that we’re getting involved and keeping up with monthly captains’ meetings, maintaining membership, etc.,” Kinmonth said.
Jackie Hiner ’19, a dedicated member of the ski team, also discussed how interactions with administration and the student government association have helped her team this year. “We’ve got a big team, and with help from SGA, we’re able to get funding for coaches, housing for meets, and dues for lift passes and races.” She also mentioned how, as such a large team, “sometimes it’s hard to take in so many new members,” while noting that the team is “always looking for new members, no matter what the race experience is.”
Each of these student athletes agreed that one of the best parts of playing on a club team is being able to play the sport they love without having to deal with the rigor of a varsity schedule. “There’s definitely more involvement from everyone, with the club team being less intense,” said Kyle McNamara ’19 of club basketball, “It’s great to be able to play pickup basketball year-round, too, without being confined to just winter for a varsity team.”
Maximizing its wide spread of players of different backgrounds and abilities, the club sports environment at Conn has improved over time. With ample opportunities for new members to become involved and successful seasons, meets and competitions, the club sports environment at Conn promises to improve moving forward.
“I didn’t want to stop playing [baseball] after high school,” said Muhlfelder, “Joining the club team has allowed me to continue playing the sport I love.”