College Club Sports Lure Many Athletes to Rivers and Fields
Noto, Melanie, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Ed Bowers rolls out of bed at 4 a.m., not to study for a full day of business classes at the University of Notre Dame, but to make a two-mile trek to St. Joseph's River in South Bend, Ind., for rowing practice.
In a time when college students are reputed to do little but guzzle beer, students like Mr. Bowers, a senior, are dedicating their time and energy to club sports in record numbers.
According to the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association, 80 percent of America's 15 million college students are participating in various recreational sports. Only 2 percent compete in varsity sports.
Those involved say their activities help, not hurt, their academic performance.
Mr. Bowers, 21, a business major, spends 15 hours per week on the water as one of eight in a boat sporting gold shamrocks on its large navy oars.
On land, Mr. Bowers is president of the men's rowing club - overseeing the club's budget, schedule and fund-raisers.
"As president, I run all the workings of the team," the Bensalem, Pa., native says. "We run like a corporation, like a small business."
Other officers aid the president in managing the club's $100,000 budget and meeting all the athletic department mandates. While the club receives funds from the university, the 75 rowers pay $1,300 in annual out-of-pocket expenses and have many fund-raisers.
Yet, the rower claims the benefits of the experience outweigh all the sacrifices.
"Club sports give all individuals the chance to participate in intercollegiate sports aside from having to make a varsity team," Mr. Bowers says. "[People] get to represent their university on the national level . . . maintain physical shape and become more responsible and ordered in their lives."
An estimated 800 students participate in the other 24 club sports at Notre Dame - ranging from boxing clubs for both men and women to water polo and cricket clubs. The university is adding more clubs next year.
Dave Brown, the assistant director of club sports at Notre Dame, estimated that they attracted an additional 100 students this year.
"I really believe it's growing dramatically in terms of the numbers of club sports nationally," he says.
In club sports, there are no tryouts and no one is "cut" from the team.
"One of the main points of club sports is it affords students a leadership capacity and allows them to grow by giving them responsibilities," Mr. Brown says.
In most cases, the organization and management of the club falls completely on the shoulders of elected officers. Club presidents, such as Mr. Bowers, dedicate an additional 15 hours of behind-the-scenes work each week.
Officers put in "tons of time," Mr. Bowers says.
The United States Rugby Football Union, based in Colorado Springs, Colo., deems rugby the fastest growing club sport on college campuses. Clint Henderson, program manager of USA Rugby, attributes this popularity to the uniqueness of the sport.
"I think a lot of it has to do with the same reason that extreme sports are becoming so popular," Mr. Henderson says. Athletes seek an experience different from popular sports such as basketball and baseball, he adds.
Unlike other sports, rugby places more emphasis on camaraderie and less on individual performance. It also gives women a rare opportunity to participate in a contact sport, Mr. …