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For the fun of the games by Nancy Kolsti
Fall 2003      

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Recreational sports at UNT

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When Jacob Provence entered UNT, he thought he'd said goodbye to playing baseball. An avid player with more than 10 years of experience in the sport, Provence had received baseball scholarship offers from several junior colleges, but he turned them down to go to a four-year university.

Once at UNT, however, he found himself missing the game.

"I was being really lazy. I thought I was burned out on baseball, but it turns out I wasn't," he says.

Fortunately, he found a way to play again. Provence became an outfielder for UNT's baseball club, one of the sport clubs sponsored by UNT's recreational sports office. The team plays 14 games during the spring semester.

"When I joined, I started to see why I got into baseball in the first place. I really missed it," Provence says.

The competition

In existence since the 1970s, UNT's sport clubs include soccer, rugby, cricket, and even billiards and chess clubs.

They differ from UNT's intramural teams because students in the clubs compete against students from other colleges and universities, not just other UNT students. The clubs may also compete against community teams.

Most are in leagues and have competitive schedules similar to National Collegiate Athletic Association teams. The baseball club plays in the Gulf Coast Conference of the National Club Baseball Association. The rugby club is a member of Division II of the Texas Rugby Union. Members of the weightlifting club go to collegiate-division tournaments sponsored by the USA Powerlifting Organization, and fencing club members compete in the North Texas division of the United States Fencing Association.

Learning as you go

Many students join the clubs as an alternative to playing on NCAA teams, says Sue Delmark, director of the recreational sports office.

"Members of sport clubs don't have to follow NCAA rules, and they don't have to have a certain skill level to join a club. The clubs all take beginners and teach them the sport," she says.

  David Alexander

David Alexander


The clubs also differ from NCAA teams by not having paid coaches. They have volunteer coaches approved by the recreational sports office.

Some coaches are club members. Max Winter, who serves as the fencing club's coach, placed 20th out of 180 fencers in national competition two years ago.

"Fencing is not a sport you can pick up out of a book. You have to practice constantly," he says.

Billiards club president David Alexander moved from Division C, the lowest division for players at tournaments, to Division A, the highest division, within two years after transferring to UNT from a junior college. Now he's teaching other billiards club members.

"Most members are C players. For every tournament, we want to move at least one C player to the B division," Alexander says. "Everyone on the club learns from each other."

Michael Ashmead had heard little about rugby before he learned the game from rugby club members four years ago.

Josh Rodriguez
Josh Rodriguez

"I played football and ran track in high school, and I wanted to still play a competitive sport," he says. "It was rewarding for me to walk off the field after a game when I didn't know the game the year before."

Students already skilled in a sport join the clubs to continue playing.

Rugby club president Josh Rodriguez belonged to a community team in his hometown of Round Rock.

"All across the United States, rugby isn't a varsity sport in high school or college," he says. "It's seen as similar to football, but football has just a few minutes of activity at a time, while players in rugby can run for 80 minutes straight."

Hours of practice

Regardless of the reason for joining, many sport club members say they're committed to their sports — financially and otherwise.

Landy Warren
Landy Warren

Unlike members of NCAA teams, sport club members receive no scholarships for playing. And while the clubs receive funding each year from student service fees, no set amount is guaranteed.

The recreational sports office provides partial funding for travel to tournaments and games. Members, however, often pay out-of-pocket expenses.

"We're creative about allocating our money," says fencing club president Jessica Martin, "because we always want to send at least one person to the national tournament, and that costs $1,000 a person."

Sailing club members pay $25 a semester to practice at the Dallas Corinthian Yacht Club on Lake Lewisville.

Baseball club members buy their own uniforms and spend a large amount on travel for two- or three-game road series, says Landy Warren ('01), the team's pitcher.

"We've paid for each other if necessary," he says.

Hours of practice

  Andrew Harbour (left) and Bobby Claxton

Andrew Harbour (left) and Bobby Claxton


In addition to financial commitments, sport clubs can require a large time commitment from members.

Several students say it's not enough for members to attend practices — they must also practice and exercise on their own to become skilled and fit enough for the sport.

"Our scheduled workout time is Mondays through Fridays from 1 to 5 p.m., but that's really the minimum workout time for competitive weightlifting," says weightlifting club president Bobby Claxton. "I put in more hours in the evenings."

The billiards club has a set 3-hour practice time in the University Union Syndicate each week. But Alexander says he practices at least 10 hours a week between classes and on weekends.

Sheena Connell
Sheena Connell

"I add an extra five hours before tournaments," he says.

However, no sport club members are penalized for not coming to practice, games or tournaments.

"If a member has a big paper due, we won't kick that person off the team for not showing up for a few weeks, even though we have to scramble to make substitutions," says Sheena Connell, co-president of the ultimate disc— non-contact Frisbee football — club.


Victories and friendships

Delmark says that with no pressure for members to come to practices or games, club sports "are often seen as not as competitive as varsity sports."

However, the clubs usually represent UNT well in competitions. The rugby club qualified for the Texas Rugby Union tournament in 1998, 1999 and 2002. The baseball club had an 8-5 record for 2003, posting big wins over Texas Christian and Texas Tech universities.

  Jessica Martin

Jessica Martin


The fencing club has sent members to the national tournament for the past four years, and Claxton and another weightlifting club member, Andrew Harbour, qualified for the national tournament of the USA Powerlifting Organization this year.

Sport club members say friendships with those interested in their sports are often more important than competition, however.

"In ultimate disc, you can go to a strange city and play with a team for one day, and everyone treats you like you're part of the team," says ultimate disc club co-president Scott Wray. "I also like to play with people of all ages. I've played with 50-year-olds who are great."

Ashmead agrees.

"I've made some of my best friends by playing rugby," he says.



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