Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Club Sports Seek Success Despite Lack of Funds, Facilities

Courtesy Senior forward and co-captain George Livadas helped propel Georgetown’s club ice hockey team to the finals of the ACC hockey postseason tournament.

In May 2000, Georgetown’s club sports took a tremendous step forward when former Dean of Students James A. Donahue agreed to give formal recognition to the program through the formation of the Advisory Board for Club Sports.

While the ABCS provided university funding to its member teams, it did not guarantee access to facilities, leaving that matter in the hands of the Athletic Department.

Many campus groups have suffered as a result of Georgetown’s space crunch, but perhaps none as much as the club sports program.

“There is constant competition for space among varsity teams, club sports teams, intramurals and the Georgetown community,” David Vaughan, director of club sports, said. “There simply isn’t enough room to go around.”

Even the varsity sports’ facilities have shrunk in recent years, with the conversion of the baseball field into Lot T and the demolition of the track on Kehoe Field.

The end result of this practice is that club teams have to play all of their games away from Georgetown. This means that a greater portion of the budget must go toward travel-related costs – rental cars, buses and hotels. These additional costs only makes travel to tournaments, which often have hefty entry fees of their own, even more draining on finances.

“It’s frustrating,” said Lee Barnes (COL ’04), the ABCS chair and administrative assistant for club sports. “But when we approve new teams for club sports, we try to make it clear that field space is one of the things we can’t really offer.”

The men’s soccer team, which played 14 games in the fall, played all of them on the road. Six of them were tournament matches; the other eight would have been home-and-home series against their four rivals in the Capital Collegiate Soccer League if there had been any available facilities. Instead, they played all eight contests at their opponents’ fields.

“It’s a shame that we can’t ever get fans out to our games,” Michael Day (COL ’04), president and captain of the men’s soccer team, said. “Most of the other teams we play can reserve space if varsity teams aren’t using it.”

The club sports teams also have trouble just scheduling practice time. Teams are forced to share Kehoe Field or to use it very early or very late, or to find off-campus facilities to practice.

“We generally have the most marginalized practice times,” said Day, who adds that he has practice from 9:30 to 11:30 p.m. that night. “But then again, we’re college students, so that works for our schedules.”

But recently, the National Park Service informed the department that several of the facilities that teams had been using were “not available for private organizational use,” according to Barnes, ending the women’s soccer team’s chance to play at Grover Cleveland Park.

Barnes adds that the other team with which she’s involved – club softball – has surrendered its field space at 34th and Volta to the local Little League.

“The coach of the Little League team is really nice,” she said. “He lets us use the outfield to practice because he knows his kids don’t hit that far.”

The baseball team has secured a field in Wheaton High School in ontgomery County, Md., a venture that was not without a huge price tag. Fortunately for Jonny Rogers (COL ’06), the team’s president and founder, his parents made a hefty contribution to the ontgomery County Little League to allow their son’s team access to the space.

“Without that donation, we never would have been able to play there,” Rogers said.

Other programs look to parents and alumni for funding help not for their regular season schedules, but for playoff tournaments and trips to championships. The water polo team found success in 2001 and 2002, ranking among the top 20 teams in the nation and going to the national finals both times – once in Florida and again in California.

“The first year, we got lucky,” Team President Darrell Zlotnick (COL ’05) said. “We got a huge donation from one of the parents. But the second time, we had to pay our own way.”

The men’s ultimate Frisbee team manages to find space in the high-traffic areas on campus, particularly Copley and Healy Lawn, said David Hartzler (COL ’06), a member of the men’s ultimate team.

“At the beginning of the year, we flier campus and have a table at SAC Fair,” Hartzler added, “but we try to stay visible through the year throwing on the front lawn.”

And while many teams collect dues to offset costs, Hartzler said that his team tries to avoid this practice.

“We pay mostly out of pocket,” he adds. “If we collected dues, it would hurt recruiting.”

A few clubs – the men’s soccer and volleyball teams, in particular – have worked particularly well with the Athletic Department and developed strong relationships with the varsity men’s soccer team and the varsity women’s volleyball team.

“We usually practice in Yates. It’s hard to get practice time in McDonough . but we’ve developed a rapport with the athletic department,” said Ernesto Soriano (COL ’04), president of the men’s volleyball team.

Both teams also take advantage of their varsity counterparts to earn some extra funding, working as ball boys during games. The relationship between the club and varsity men’s soccer teams has grown so that they even work together for training.

“We scrimmage the varsity team a couple of times each spring,” Day said. “The scrimmages are essentially open tryouts.”

Two players, both goalies, have been pulled up from the ranks of the club team to play.

Rogers said that the club sports program lost a huge proponent when former Vice President of Student Affairs Juan Gonzalez left Georgetown last summer to take the same position at Arizona State University.

Rogers said Gonzalez, who served as vice president for Student Affairs from August 2000 until his departure last summer, felt that club sports were a “wholesome activity, which gives students something to do on weekends.” His requests of current administrators have not been successful.

“It’s an activity they should be promoting,” Rogers added. “I’ve talked to Patricia Brody in the president’s office, [Athletic Director] Joe Lang and [Director of Athletics Facilities and Operations] Chaz Kennedy. They all say, `We’re sorry, we just don’t have the space.'”

Despite the persisting space crunch, the club sports program has managed to expand – in terms of funding, equipment and number of teams.

“We have seen a lot of progress over the past four years,” Vaughan said. “The most impressive change has been the increase in the number of teams and student participants. From humble beginnings the club sports program has grown to nearly 20 teams with over 600 active players.”

Even with Gonzalez’s departure, the budget has continued to grow. The university Funding Board has allocated $32,117 for the ABCS to distribute for the 2004-05 school year, the most that has ever been given to club sports. The largest portion of that funding will go to the water polo and ice hockey teams, who need money to cover the costs to pay for pool and ice time.

The ABCS will meet on Friday to divvy up those funds among the 18 to 20 club teams that will exist next year.

And the future holds promise as well. “Next fall, director of club sports will become a separate position,” Vaughan said, “allowing the director to devote 100 percent of his or her attention to club sports.”

“As the first wave of club sports participants graduate, we’re going to see a lot of support from alumni and a lot of calls for the university to do more,” he added.

But while the department may be growing, students are still mostly concerned with having room to practice, play and compete in front of a friendly audience.

“We reevaluate the situation every year,” Barnes said. “We just haven’t come up with a system-wide solution yet.”

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