There’s always a price to play, but sometimes that’s not always so bad.
Despite limited financial assistance from the university, the UCSB Sports Club Program, a division of UCSB Recreational Sports, has excelled. With excellent management and coordination, individual responsibility and a little bit of old-fashioned elbow grease to keep the engine running, the club sports teams have remained competitive and seem to continually challenge for national supremacy.
“Our sports club program is very pure,” said Paul Lee, director of UCSB Recreational Sports. “Our athletes play because they have passion. We encourage participation in terms of interest and not skill.”
According to Sport Club Coordinator Taggart Malone, a Recreational Sports lock-in fee passed in the 1995 Associated Students election, causing students to begin paying $7 per quarter to fund sports clubs, intramurals and adventure programs. Although sports clubs take a sizeable cut – over 57 percent of the allocated funds – the money received from the lock-in fee cannot operate 22 teams on a budget of $115,000 per year. The money is distributed to teams based on elements of both necessity and responsibility. Club sports considers team size, equipment costs, travel expenses, community service and administrative responsibility amongst other factors in allocating A.S. money.
To cover a majority of the costs, clubs collect dues from its players. Unlike NCAA participants, club sports athletes pay to play. Each sport requires different financial obligations. For instance, the Ultimate Frisbee teams ask just $75 per year from their players. Yet athletes from the crew teams, which need to finance a $40,000 boat, forfeit $1,200 per year in dues. Since the financial burden often lies with the athletes, club sports teams have the incentive to keep their expenditures as low as possible. Teams cut costs by carpooling to tournaments and, if geography permits, lodging at the homes of family members and alumni. Athletes must be extremely resourceful and creative in order to participate.
“Our approach is that [club sports] can be used for a vehicle for student development,” Lee said. “We empower them to maximize their individual ability. They are learning management skills, developing relationships and showing leadership.”
Teams frequently hold fundraising events such as pizza nights, ice cream days and sell T-shirts to help lessen the financial burden. The rowing program, when it celebrated its 40th anniversary, raised nearly $100,000 through alumni and friends. Some teams – including the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams, men’s rugby team, and men’s ultimate team – host tournaments to generate revenue with entry fees and also sell merchandise.
“Our tournaments are very successful,” Malone said. “We don’t charge admission because we want to get students to the events.”
Winning can be a hefty price, too. The women’s lacrosse team, the #1 seed in next week’s Intercollegiate Associate’s National Championship Tournament in Blaine, Minn., had to raise entry fee money to participate.
“Money is definitely an issue so we are conscious not to be frivolous spenders,” sophomore women’s lacrosse player Shanna Mota said. “But I think the fact that we choose to pay money to play college sports shows how much we love it. Everyone is there for the same reason.”
Club sports provides an option for talented athletes to pursue collegiate athletic competition. Lee, who has worked at Recreational Sports at UCSB for 28 years, said he sees a societal problem that prevents a barrier of entry into athletics. He said that privileged children have easier access to sports and that competition forces them to specialize and chose one or two sports at an early age. Lee said that many students choose a club sport at UCSB that they had never participated in prior to college.
“As a society, we pay a ridiculous price for entertainment,” Lee said. “It is much better to be a participant than a spectator, even on my worst day.”