A crowd of 80,203 spectators chanted “USA, USA, USA” at Wembley stadium while watching the USA Women’s soccer team defeat Japan’s team, earning its third consecutive gold medal. This exuberant moment demonstrates that women’s soccer can build strong community. But not here at Hillsdale College, where no varsity team exists.
Hillsdale has not offered a varsity soccer team since 2006. In Spring of 2011, women students formed a club team. Although the club provides an outlet for those who wish to continue their passion for the sport, the characteristics that separate club and varsity teams significantly hinder the success of the program. Club teams have limited resources.
Fred Schebor, Associate Director of Admissions, said it is “hard to quantify” the number of students who choose not to attend Hillsdale to play soccer elsewhere. He said, “soccer is in the top two or three sports asked about by prospective students.” This suggests that Hillsdale could be losing students because of the lack of a soccer program, which is a disadvantage for the school’s admissions department.
Hillsdale College is one of only two schools in the GLIAC conference that does not offer a women’s varsity soccer program. Lake Erie, Ashland, Ohio Dominican, and other small schools in the conference all host varsity women’s soccer teams. When asked if offering a varsity soccer program would help recruit students, Schebor said, “Absolutely. We would welcome it … We lose athletes who want top tier soccer and academics.” Hillsdale has top tier academics, and could support a top tier soccer program.
Hillsdale emphasizes its commitment to fostering community by requiring every freshman to take an oath to become a valuable member of our campus at convocation. A varsity soccer team would be an excellent way to enrich community and to live up to that promise. Soccer Club President Gena Oster explained, “A varsity soccer program would enhance community within our school and bridge the gap between student athletes and those more academically inclined,” Oster said. “Community could be a lot tighter. When fans come and gather to watch a game it really encourages community and makes school spirit rise and students more passionate about where we go and who represents us.”
Hillsdale seeks to produce students who are prepared to lead a balanced, ordered life when they graduate. A varsity sports demands excellence from its participants. It requires time management and discipline, qualities the college wants to cultivate in the student body. Oster agreed, “When you are a student athlete at the D-II level, you have to have this mentality that you can do it all; it is a struggle, but your team helps you and builds you up as you go. It produces students who can seem to do it all and are very well put together after college.”
The women in the soccer club have done the footwork for creating a varsity team. The administration should take the next step and reinstate the varsity soccer program. This would help Hillsdale compete with similar schools for top students. It will also add to our college’s diverse offerings of activities. Perhaps someday the sound of students cheering for the Charger soccer team will echo throughout campus, in celebration of our common desire for excellence.