By Zach Taylor, University Relations Student Writer
With more than 20 active teams and 450 members, the club sports programs on campus have been able to provide a great athletic and social outlet over the years for a large portion of the student body.
Sam Hobbs, junior goalie for the Men’s Lacrosse team, recognizes how the commitment to playing a club sport has benefited him and his teammates on the field and in the classroom.
“Practicing and playing games year-round with the same group of 30 guys creates a very strong bond between all of us. Some of my teammates may have transferred or dropped out if it wasn’t for the lacrosse team, but getting to compete for the University at a national level, and the pride that instills in all of us, really forms a connection to the school. It may be at a smaller level, but just like the Basketball, Football, and Wrestling teams, we all care about UTC and want to represent it as well as we possibly can,” said Hobbs.
While some teams offer a light-hearted recreational activity, others require try-outs and a more serious commitment. These teams compete against other club teams as well as against funded varsity teams, and have the chance to play in regional and national tournaments.
In most cases, practices are held no more than three days a week, teams carpool across the southeast to games, and players must work around jobs and other on and off-campus obligations. Club sport athletes have the opportunity to continue competing athletically, all while fostering close friendships and becoming engaged on campus.
Robert Espeseth, Club Sports Coordinator and Head Coach of the Rowing team, has seen the club sports programs grow by leaps and bounds in his 20-year career at the University, but he says the same guiding principles still apply.
“The main thing is that the club sports teams are, for the most part, entirely student led and run. For these teams and organizations to continue functioning and playing year after year, there must be enough student interest in a given sport. The leaders of the club sports teams must organize their teams’ budgets, schedules, practices, and basically every other aspect. Without proper leadership and organization, teams can come and go on a yearly basis,” said Espeseth.
Despite the small budgets and laid back nature of club sports and campus recreation in general, many of the programs at UTC have been able to transcend their size and make substantial contributions to their sport, community, and the University.
UTC Rowing boasts one of the largest, oldest, and most visible teams on campus. Despite fielding many first-year rowers, the team regularly competes against varsity programs and in prestigious events, including the locally hosted Head of the Hooch, the world’s second largest rowing regatta.
The Men’s Lacrosse team has grown exponentially since its inception in 2006. The team recently joined the National College Lacrosse League (NCLL), featuring over 120 teams across the country. As a founding member of the Deep South Conference, it has since won consecutive conference championships, reached the quarterfinals of the national tournament, and has finished the season ranked in the Top 25 each of the last two years. Members of the team and coaching staff have also taken up leadership roles in the youth lacrosse community in Chattanooga; helping coach teams and run clinics throughout the year.
The Women’s Rugby team, established only a few years ago, has grown into one of the largest club sports teams at the University. The team has fostered a bond with the local men’s team, Chattanooga RFC, which has led to the development of a rugby facility at Montague Park. The success of this partnership has recently helped kick-start the development of the Men’s Rugby team on campus.
With more than 20 sponsors, the Bass Fishing team is one of the most well-funded and successful of the club sports programs. The team competes in and helps sponsor the Tennessee Collegiate Bass Fishing Trail (TCBFT) and also is consistently ranked among the Top 25 teams in the country.
Student Government Association President Robert Fisher, who worked closely with multiple student groups during his time as SGA Treasurer, stresses the importance of strong club sports programs and student organizations.
“Club sports, like most student organizations, provide a space for students to find commonalities amongst themselves. Student groups, specifically at UTC, are an integral part of the active and student lead community that makes UTC so engaged. Club sports then serve an important role in being bastions of community and support for many different types of students. They serve as great retention tools as well. Students who are engage in extracurricular activities like club sports are often those who return year after year,” said Fisher.
While some teams may take a more recreational tone as opposed to a highly competitive one, they are all beneficial. They push students to be physically, mentally, and socially active. Like any other student organization, club sports act to engage students and to help them foster relationships and connections that can last a lifetime.
Read personal accounts by club sport student leaders below
Adam Harbin – Men’s Lacrosse
This program has grown into something to be proud of. Our players can walk around on campus in a Mocs Lacrosse shirt and walk onto the field with UTC across their chest with a sense of pride and ownership. That is credited to the coaching staff, along with the dedication of many players over the past several years. When you have a strong sense of pride for your team and school you begin to carry yourself in a more respectful and humble manner, which can carry over into being a leader on campus, on the field, or away from UTC entirely. Just like any athlete in college, we have to utilize time management and responsibility; with three practices a week, and workouts and meetings constantly, things can get tough when you add classes in there, but our coaches and team captains constantly remind us to stay on top of our studies.
Spencer Bradbury – Men’s Rugby
The Men’s Rugby team just started here at UTC, and we’re growing one day at a time. Tyler Milton and I started the team for students that want to stay fit as well grow with each other in a lifetime bond. There was a team here 5 years ago that fell off due to limited interest and organization, but we are taking steps to ensure that will not happen again. We will be competing across the region throughout the semester and hope to grow the program into one that will remain stable and successful for years to come.
Emily Fillmore – Women’s Rugby
I ended up joining the rugby team after seeing a poster for the team tryouts, and I have not looked back since. Coming from a very strong athletic background, I can say with certainty that this is one of the most amazing sports and group of people I have had the pleasure of competing with. The camaraderie amongst the rugby community is impenetrable. As a niche sport, you love your opponent because you share the common bond over your love for the game. UTC Club Sports and our coach, Maggie Behringer, have helped facilitate the most valuable relationships and memories I have had in my college career.
For more information regarding the club sports teams at UTC, visit their OrgSync websites through the Campus Recreation page at http://www.utc.edu/campus-recreation/club-sports/teams.php