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UNT sports clubs pushing through recruiting problems

UNT sports clubs pushing through recruiting problems

03/23/17, Denton, Texas Men’s and Women’s rugby team practice every Tuesdays and Thursdays evening at Sports Recreation Complex, which is next to Library Annex Recreational Sports Equipment, 1001 Precision Drive, Denton, Texas. Credit: Koji Ushio

UNT sports clubs pushing through recruiting problems
April 03
18:33 2017

For NCAA sports at UNT, the recruiting process is one that is guaranteed. High school students across the nation are courted by various programs and some are offered scholarships as added incentive.

But recruiting for club sports is an entirely different ballgame that presents an uphill battle every season.

Unlike their school-sponsored counterparts, club sports push through the strain of bringing in new players year in and year out. They do not have the luxury of a list of athletes who are trying to play college sports or any added bonuses to entice players.

Instead, clubs are forced to sit on their hands and wait, hoping students join their team.

“An actual athletic team is allowed to hand out scholarships,” senior executive sports club council member Josh Fuller said. “They are allowed to go recruit in homes of high schoolers. We aren’t really allowed to do that.”

One of the problems facing club sports and recruiting is simply finding players willing to suit up.

While most NCAA athletes have an idea of what sport they will play, students that rely on club sports are often undecided or unsure of what they will participate in. Clubs that are not traditional sports have an even larger strain recruiting than some of their well-known counterparts.

“Bigger teams like hockey, lacrosse, rugby — a lot of people know we have those,” Fuller said. “But people may not know that we have these more niche teams like archery, sailing and powerlifting.”

Most teams try combating this issue with information tables on campus during the Mean Green Fling or Sports Club Fair at the Pohl Recreational Center. The men’s lacrosse team has even taken an extra step to get the word out about their sport by adding a recruiting section to their website with a survey for prospective students to fill out.

This helps the club gauge the interest of new students and a way to reach out to potential new players.

“We can’t really help out a lot,” junior lacrosse club president Jason Felts said. “We can’t offer money. So pitching that joining our team with however much experience you have is worth it is how we complete that first step, which is having men come out to practices.”

Getting new players out to the first practice is not the hard part, however.

It’s getting them to return.

According to Felts, on average less than half of the people that attend the first practice will continue playing with the program. Senior women’s rugby player Sarah Sober concurs with Felts that the team may have a new player come to one practice, but most of the time they do not expect her to come back.

While both of these sports do not have strong roots locally, the reasons they struggle to retain players is drastically different. For rugby, one reason is that the sport is tremendously physical, and when people come out to a practice to see this for themselves it can turn them away.

“When we get people to come out and they realize that we do tackle and it can be off-putting,” Sober said. “We have had moments when we have struggled with having enough people to play and it is hard to get people to come out and stay out.”

On the other hand, the lacrosse team has the problem of having one of the highest dues in the entire sports club program at $1,200. For incoming students who may not have played lacrosse their entire lives, asking them to pay over $1,200 can be overwhelming.

The Recreational Sports Office tries to help by allocating funds for teams, but in most cases, that money is not enough.

“There are programs lucky enough not to pay anything in dues, but lacrosse as a whole is an expensive sport,” Felts said. “At any point you can be holding about 500 dollars in uniform/equipment,” Felts said. “It would be easier if we were to lower dues or have people play for free but right now that is not a feasible goal.”

Unlike the lacrosse team, the women’s rugby team pays roughly $90 between dues and insurance to play and the baseball team only pays $200 in dues.

Having to pay to play is a factor that prevents many students from wanting to take the next step in committing to a sport. Senior club baseball president Marshall McKee also believes that people may not want to join because of the possible interference with school.

All 32 sports clubs are entirely student run and most of the responsibility for the daily operations fall onto the shoulders of student-athletes. When dues and the sheer time commitment are taken into account, many students are skeptical about taking time away from their studies.

“Like any club, people may be shy or afraid to take a leap and tryout, but worrying about interference with class is probably the biggest bar for people,” McKee said. “Personally, I think people like having a competitive baseball team to play for that doesn’t interfere too heavily with school.”

Featured Image: The UNT men’s and women’s rugby team practice every Tuesday and Thursday evening at the Sports Recreation Complex. Koji Ushio

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Samantha Morrow

Samantha Morrow

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