Joining the Club
For Kennesaw State sophomore Courtney Muller, “The best thing about participating in club…
Georgia (Nov 18, 2014) —
For Kennesaw State sophomore Courtney Muller, “The best thing about participating in club sports is all the great people you get to meet from different schools and the experience of being on a team again.”
While there are no scholarships as with varsity sports, students participating in the KSU Club Sports program play for the love of the game.
“I wanted to compete at this level since I started gymnastics,” she said, “but unfortunately having wrist surgery my senior year of high school set me back from that goal.”
A member of the co-ed gymnastics team, Muller said it took a while to recover from her injury, but her perseverance paid off. She placed fourth on vault and third in the all-around category at the NAIGC Nationals in Chattanooga, Tenn., this past spring.
Having the chance to compete against athletes from other top-ranked programs is wonderful, she said, but a side benefit is the opportunity to build bonds of friendship that can last a lifetime.
“I have met so many wonderful people through this sport, here and at other schools. I feel I’ve made some lifelong friends as a result,” she said.
For a growing number of students like Muller, the campus experience would not be complete without participation in the club sports program, which was officially organized under the Department of Sports and Recreation in 2007.
At that time, there were fewer than 200 participants spread over a handful of sports that appealed mainly to men. Sports like ice hockey, wrestling, rugby, lacrosse and skateboarding.
Since then, there has been an almost eightfold increase in student participation in club sports. Nearly 1,600 students participate in a wide range of sports from fishing to volleyball, from lacrosse to disc golf. And there’s even fencing, equestrian, waterskiing and rugby.
“We had club sports long before I came here in 1988,” recalled Jerome Ratchford, vice president for Student Success. “But the program has grown so much and today offers so much more to our students.”
Today, Kennesaw State has 38 active teams. Unlike intramural sports, club sports teams compete at home and away against other universities from around the country and adhere to national governing body regulations.
Recent surveys conducted by the department show membership in club sports, which offers a wide range of activities with a surging participation rate, can act as a magnet to attract potential students to KSU and retain them once they enter.
“Years from now, I will remember the friends I made and the pleasure of competing again to represent my school,” said Muller, an exercise science major who expects to graduate in 2016.
For many students, participating in club sports is a major part of the total college experience, and often one sport is simply not enough.
That’s the case with Keya Karimian, who served as president of KSU Club Golf and vice president of KSU Club Speedball.
Men’s speedball, a recent addition, hosted its first tournament in April defeateing in-state rival Georgia Tech to take the championship. Karimian, a computer science major, said his teammates are enthusiastic about their sport. “It’s a great way to stay in shape because it combines elements of basketball, soccer and ultimate Frisbee,” said Karimian.
In addition to speedball and gymnastics, men’s roller hockey and women’s competitive cheer teams played in tournaments, as did co-ed disc golf, co-ed paintball, fencing and fishing teams.
“We compete against some of the best club sports teams in the nation, and our students are getting lots of exposure for us by wearing their KSU jerseys,” said Tara Parker, director of Sports and Recreation. “This past year we competed against more than 60 different universities and colleges in regular and tournament competition.”
The co-ed taekwondo team also made it to the Nationals. Thanh-Van Huyh won a gold medal in her division in the National Collegiate Taekwondo Championships at the University of California, Berkeley and qualified for the World University Games to be held in Shanghai later this fall.
Club sports teams benefit from practice and game facilities at the Owls Nest and the 88-acre KSU Sports and Recreation Park, a recreation complex offering sports fields, running track, sand volleyball pits and a lake.
Another venue, the new 176,000-square-foot Dr. Betty L. Siegel Student Recreation and Activities Center currently under construction across from the student center, will more than triple the size of the existing 55,000-square-foot student recreational center built in 1967. Perfect for many indoor sports and conditioning activities, the center also boasts an outdoor swimming pool and an indoor lap pool that swim team club members will be able to use for practices and meets.
Associate Director Laura St. Onge, who was hired by Parker seven years ago and charged with developing a sustainable Club Sport program as the first full-time director, credits active student leadership in the clubs with the doubling of the number of club sports from 20 just three years ago to nearly 40 today.
“The success and strength of each club depends on the effective leadership of the club’s officers and the involvement of the individual members,” St. Onge said. “Some of our students are talented enough to play varsity, but they choose to play on the club sports team. It also works the other way. One time we had a first-year student join the swimming club because he wanted to learn how to swim. He also wanted the camaraderie, and it was an item he wanted to check off his bucket list.”.
In addition to experiencing the thrill of competition, participants also learn valuable team budgeting, critical thinking, and problem solving and management skills.
“We had 11 students graduate from the KSU Club Sports Leadership Academy,” said Heidi Potratz, coordinator of Collegiate Club Sports. “This new program is a collaboration between KSU Club Sports and the Center for Student Leadership, offering students the opportunity to grow both personally and professionally while developing the skills needed to be effective leaders.”
-- Robert S. Godlewski
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.