By ELIZA GUION
“We dare you to find a school with a more active student body,” the Colorado College Athletics and Recreation webpage boasts. The college’s commitment to athleticism is demonstrated by the popularity of club sports, with about 350 students, participating, or one sixth of our campus. While clearly proud of these numbers, finding ways to adequately support club sports still proves a tricky business for CC.
“Part of the reason that I came to CC was because I knew they had a competitive women’s club Ultimate Frisbee team,” explained Frances Gellert ’19, co-captain of Strata Ultimate.
“Having that as part of the identity of the school was really important for me,” said Ellen Buford ’20, the ultimate team’s other co-captain. “I also think club sports are really valuable because they are different. The variety that we have available in club sports programs at CC is awesome.”
While this wide array of athletic options is appealing for students, it also poses administrative challenges. Sam Toulmin ’19, vice president of finance for CCSGA, explained that club sports funding is primarily handled through the Athletics Department.
“There’s a reason that student government does not directly allocate to teams, because that’s like much more involved than a regular student group,” said Toulmin. “It can be much more expensive, and the expense fluctuates wildly from team to team.”
Director of Intramurals, Club Sports and Wellness Chris Starr noted the unpredictable nature of club sports funding needs as a challenge. “When I took [club sports] over several years ago, the person before me had each captain establish a budget for the coming year, and it was really fixed,” said Starr. “When I took that over, I thought that was really hard because, often times, schedules are very organic in nature.”
As a result, the Athletics Department decided to implement a different structure. Now “We’ve got a club sport manual, and we outline very clearly things we will fund like team registrations, official’s fees, field rentals, some things that are very established,” said Starr. “And what we’ve said is we will pay for 100 percent of what we’ve established we will pay for.”
Historically, athletics has also received extra money from CCSGA to support club sports, which is allotted for “extraordinary performance,” according to Starr. “That’s those performances, those games, those competitions, those races that go above and beyond, that are outside of the regulation season,” said star. “So, we’re talking about regionals, sectionals, nationals, or invitationals.” These competitions are funded up to 80 percent.
Because of the large variety in club sports, competition is often organized very differently between teams, which can make it difficult to reach these funding stipulations. “For an invitational event, you get costs covered,” said Benjamin Swift ’21, a captain for CC’s Nordic Ski team. “But for Nordic, just by virtue of what the sport is, we compete in USCSA, and that’s just a conference.” Nordic competitions aren’t organized according to team standing, so “because they aren’t technically called invitationals, we don’t get the same funding,” Swift said.
For Ultimate Frisbee, it’s an entirely different deal. “The tournaments that we go to, we’re invited,” said Gellert. “It’s very competitive, and it’s based on your standing from years’ past, but there aren’t that many of them.” As a result, Frisbee tournaments are often out-of-region, meaning ineligible for funding.
“Within our region, there is only really one tournament that is a high caliber invitational tournament that qualifies for funding,” said Buford. “So, if we want to compete at high levels, we have to go out of region, and then we don’t get funding.”
It all comes down to how much room there is in the Athletics and Recreation budget. “There has not been flexibility, because there isn’t the money,” said Starr. In fact, club sports often exceeds its allotted amount; “To be quite honest, my budget in club sports runs out by spring break, and then we start pulling from other budgets,” said Starr. “It’s a dollar and cents decision.”
Despite these difficulties, both Strata and CC Nordic remain committed to making their sports financially accessible for players. “We do provide scholarships for those who can’t afford the dues,” said Buford. This money comes primarily from the team’s own fundraising efforts.
Swift felt passionately about keeping costs down for Nordic racers. “It’s really important that Nordic is accessible, and skiing in general, especially because CC markets itself as such an outdoorsy institution,” he said. “I think that for so many people, the finances of skiing are a barrier to actually being able to do it. It’s a very elite and white sport in general, so I think it’s important to try to break that down and make it accessible for more people; and I think that funding is a big piece of that.”
The Nordic team uses crowdfunding to buy equipment, meaning students don’t have to invest in their own gear to participate. But despite the donations from outside, Swift would still like to see more support from the school. “I think just having a bit more equity in how club sports are funded between teams would be great,” he said.
Aware of this increasing need, CCSGA upped their contribution to club sports for the 2018–19 school year, with money from the increased student activity fee. “We gave an extra $10,000 to club sports with the expectation being that it would help reduce out-of-pocket costs,” said Toulmin. In response to this money, “CCSGA has recognized the importance of club sports and the number of people it touches, and I’m really pleased,” said Starr.
If club sports still find themselves short of funding, Toulmin recommends reaching out. “Be vocal about your funding situation,” he said. “If it’s not enough, or if things change, let us know.”
Toulmin explained that depending on the year, CCSGA may have extra money to help out, citing CCSGA’s initiative funding. This is “money that we set aside every year for no particular purpose,” said Toulmin.
In the past, when other funding wasn’t available, initiative funding has supported activities like the Aspen Bike Trip and Wastrabi, the new all-gender Frisbee team. “That is definitely a source of funding for teams, especially down the stretch as the normal club sports funding runs out and there is a clearer picture of how much the rest of the season is going to cost,” said Toulmin.
So, for teams struggling to get off the ground or make it to the next competition, this money could offer some relief.