Last week, Colorado College’s women’s ultimate frisbee team, Strata, with support and shared grievances from the rest of the club sports community, sent a letter to President Jill Tiefenthaler and other college superiors outlining their current concerns regarding the college’s club sports program and recommending ways to alleviate said concerns. The letter was spurred by a series of last-minute schedule changes within the athletic department which interfered with Strata’s practices.
The need for this letter was further solidified when the team realized other club sports had been experiencing the same issue. In the letter, the team argues that these unexpected and short-notice schedule changes interfere with students’ abilities to participate in club sports—particularly students who also work on campus to subsidize their education and thus cannot change their schedules at the ready.
“One of the issues that came up with moving around practice times, not only is it inconsiderate to everyone … but it’s downright unjust to those athletes who have to have jobs and can’t make a CC education financially possible without also working through the school year,” said Ellen Buford ‘20, a member of Strata and one of the letter’s co-writers. “It’s inconvenient for schedules to change, but it’s bigger than that for a lot of people … [it’s] a hard choice between your financial security and your place on a team.”
In order to address their specified concerns and more generally improve the program for future students, Strata outlined a series of tangible recommendations for the administration in their letter. These included finalizing athletic schedules at the start of each block and holding varsity coaches accountable for these schedules, additional practice space (be that on or off campus), expanded access to athletic trainers, and an increased annual budget.
According to the letter, club sports currently receive $40,000 per year—serving over 300 students and 14 teams in total—meaning students on club teams “pay out of pocket for uniforms, food during competitions, all necessary equipment, and provide financial support from [their] own funds to enable lower-income teammates to participate,” according to the letter.
Patrick Mahoney ‘19, a member of the men’s ultimate frisbee team, argued club sports should get additional funding not only to benefit its current athletes, but to help attract future athletes as well. “From an admissions perspective, I know of a fair amount of students whose decision to come to CC was influenced by club sports,” Mahoney said. “In order for club sports to continue to be a selling point for CC, club sports need to be adequately financed so that expenses like travel to games and tournaments don’t need to be financed by club sports participants.”
In the end, over 100 students across eight club sports signed the letter in support. Abbey Lew ‘18, one of the co-captains of Strata and the other co-writer of the letter, said she and her teammates “were really excited so many people signed off on it … we hadn’t anticipated it to grow the way it did.”
One of these signatures was from Nora Holmes ‘18, a co-captain of CC’s Cutthroat rugby team, saying she and her team were “on the same page” as Strata. After sending the letter to President Tiefenthaler, Buford, Lew, and Holmes met with the president in person to both reaffirm their gratitude for the administration’s support of club sports and to discuss possible policy changes to improve the program moving forward. These students left the meeting feeling “hopeful” about the future, according to Holmes. Both Buford and Lew said President Tiefenthaler was “receptive” to their feedback and suggestions, with Holmes echoing how happy she is that “this conversation is happening.”
The meeting discussed several key policy changes, including possibly converting Stewart Field into a turf field with lights, which would not only make it accessible to more teams but would also greatly reduce CC’s current water usage. However, as that renovation is unlikely to happen in the near future, Tiefenthaler also said she and other staff members would look into reserving off-campus space and better maintaining Donald E. Autrey Field (Yampa) for club sports practices this coming academic year. Finally, Tiefenthaler said she would talk to the athletic department about holding varsity teams more accountable regarding practice schedules.
One area Tiefenthaler cannot directly influence is the club sports’ budget; because club sports are funded by the student activities fee budgeted by CCSGA according to student votes, CC students actually have authority over the program’s finances.
“If we’re going to get funded, we need CC students to vote,” said Buford. “We need everyone’s support, and in return, if you want to join one of our communities, we’re here with open arms.”
Lew echoed Buford’s point in sharing her personal experience on Strata and the central role the team and sport has played in her four years at CC and why improving the program is so important to her.
“I’d probably be at a different school were it not for Strata, so I want to help make it possible for anyone else to participate in a club sport at CC,” said Lew.
Below is a QR code; students can use their smartphone cameras to read the letter in its entirety and sign.