Varsity, Club, In tramural — Oh My! Sports on Campus Side by Side

By Tia Vierling

If somebody asked you what “Rosie’s Legends,” “Murph’s Smurfs,” and “Hold Ma Stick” had in common, you’d likely guess at random. But not if the question asked you to relate Colorado College women’s soccer, men’s ice hockey, and women’s tennis. “Easy,” you might say, “those are all sports teams at CC!” What you don’t know is that these two questions have the same answer — “Rosie’s Legends,” “Murph’s Smurfs,” and “Hold Ma Stick” denote champions of intramural broomball tournaments in CC’s history.

There is an obvious difference between collegiate intramural and varsity sports based on the names of the teams. There are, however, far more distinguishing features between the two than that, especially when club sports are added to the mix.

Many students are confused about the different tiers of athletic competition on campus. Common questions that come up are: how does Division I differ from Division III? Does a club sport need to be labeled with division designations? Do intramural teams have coaches? 

Varsity, club, and intramural sports offer a clear hierarchy of commitment and level of competition. The several options allow any student, no matter their skill level, to participate in the joys of college athletics.

Photo courtesy of Catalyst Archives

Varsity sports are the most intense at the college level; with everything from full time coaches to field practices and weightlifting nearly every day, varsity teams compete in national conferences and against teams from other colleges. If a high school student is recruited by a school to play a sport, it’s not at the level of club or intramural. Only varsity sports, denoted by NCAA levels, scout out new talent before students enter college.

Varsity athletics themselves are split into three tiers: Division I, Division, II, and Division III. According to the NCAA, Division III athletes may receive no financial aid for their athletic engagement; Division I and II teams, however, do offer money to draw students in to participate in their programs. The three divisions are further split by the requirements set upon schools before they may host such teams. For instance, colleges with Division I teams must sponsor at least 14 sports teams, usually seven for men and  seven for women.

Varsity sports are distinguished by the high level of commitment required to participate in them. Students who intend to pursue a professional sports career will usually find themselves in a collegiate varsity athletics program.

Club sports may or may not have coaches — they are primarily student-run and usually consist of students already matriculated in the college who attend club tryouts. While club teams still compete against other schools, the competition is regional and against other club programs. There is only one club team for each sport within the college, similar to varsity athletics. There are not two different women’s soccer teams, for example.

Intramural sports are the most informal of the three types. Consisting of multiple small teams of college students within a single school competing against each other, there is no budget allotted to each team. Team names, unlike at a club or varsity level, are determined by student team members — hence the 2014–15 dodgeball winning team “The Swamp Donkeys.”

 Students participating in intramural sports do so recreationally. Practices are not required. Varsity athletes are disallowed from participating in the same intramural sport that they play at an NCAA level; otherwise, the field is free for anyone who wishes to start or join a team.

With so many options available for students, it’s clear that sports at CC really are an opportunity for anyone. From the feeling of getting an intramural team name onto the list of past winners to the sweet taste of victory on a varsity field, CC students know what it’s like to run, kick, throw, and climb their way to the top. With different flavors of athletic competition to match individual abilities, the system of varsity, club, and intramural sports sets each student up for success.  

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