Club sports may not get the same level of recognition as their varsity counterparts at Grand Valley State University, but that doesn't mean they are not worth following.
While the club sports landscape features 55 men's, women's and coed teams, the high-profile teams such as hockey, soccer, lacrosse, dodgeball and rowing receive much of the attention. That variety is also demonstrated by the more unique, lesser-known club sports, ranging from water skiing to synchronized swimming.
For Mark Trippiedi, vice president and captain of the dodgeball club, part of the appeal of club sports is the autonomy.
"We are mostly self-governing," he said. "We have an executive board, which is composed of all the students who are players in the club. This board makes the majority of the decisions for the club."
Like with most of the club sports, new members are always welcome on the dodgeball team.
"We are a club sport that doesn't cut players, so if a student wants to come play dodgeball, the only requirements we have are that they pay the club dues and show up to practice, which is very relaxed and welcoming," Trippiedi said. "It's a great experience."
Eric Garvelink, club sports graduate assistant in the Office of Student Life, said the primary difference between varsity sports and club sports is university funding, not athletic ability. While GVSU does allocate more than $8,000,000 to its varsity athletics, the Student Senate, responsible for allocating about $1 million in Student Life Fund money, gives about $358,000 to be divvied up between 55 club sports.
"Not a whole lot is given to [club sports], whether it is facility usage or funding, and yet they put in four days a week of practice, plus their events on the weekends, and they get out of it more than some varsity programs," he said. "We have a handful of club sports that compete against varsity programs and actually beat them in that sport. That's just a testament to how dedicated and hard working these players are."
To obtain the funding for facilities, equipment and coaching, GVSU club athletes turn to fundraising in creative and often profitable ways. The club rowing team's annual Rent-A-Rower program has been a huge success, and this year, many players from various GVSU teams will work as the set-up crew and security for the upcoming Mike Posner concert on Oct. 28 to raise money.
Because of the dues, which can reach up to $1,500 per athlete, the athletes truly have to be dedicated to their sport, perhaps even more so than players on a varsity team.
"When students come here, they are students first," said GVSU rowing club head coach John Bancheri. "If they choose to pick athletics, that's to their benefit if they can manage the time commitment. On top of that, club sport athletes have to fund raise, so it engages them even more in their sport."
For more information about club sports, visit www.gvsustudentlifesports.com, for a list of all competitive teams, or follow club sports on Twitter at @gvclubsports.
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