More competitive than intramural sports but less intense than collegiate athletics, club sports offer students a balance between rigorous training and recreation — and Hillsdale college offers 12 teams to pick from.
“It’s a great way to take a break from everything,” president of the club baseball team, junior Stevan Bennett said. “I love the competitive aspect, but even more so, I love hanging out with the guys. It’s just a great all-around group and I like to think we have a lot of fun.”
Hillsdale offers a dozen different club sports: archery, baseball, cheerleading, crew, equestrian, firearms, golf, men’s soccer, women’s soccer, rugby, swimming, and women’s volleyball. Each program requires a different level of time commitment and a unique opportunity for competition.
While some clubs have been around for years, others are new to campus. Each club has a different legacy on campus, and a story of its own.
For example, club archery began just last year. Then-freshman Joshua Brown approached Hillsdale Range Master Bart Spieth about possibilities for student archers. At Spieth’s recommendation, Brown formed the archery club. The team welcomes members of all skill levels and hosts practices three times a week.
“The commitment is as little or great as one makes it,” Brown said. “The most committed members will be attending three, two-hour weekly practices and traveling to compete several times per semester.”
Established clubs, like men’s soccer, require greater experience and a larger time commitment. As an associate member of the Central Division of the Midwest Alliance Soccer Conference, the men’s soccer team plays 10 league games each fall against teams from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, the University of Michigan, Flint, Saginaw Valley State University, Wayne State University, and other Midwestern schools.
“Most of us who joined played a lot of soccer in high school, and so club soccer is a great way to stay in shape for college,” junior captain Max Smith said. “More than that, it’s a very competitive group of guys, in a very competitive league, where everyone has tons of soccer experience and everyone is big fans of all the soccer teams around here and professionally.”
Smith worked to develop the team by recruiting freshmen during the summer and encouraging them to tryout this fall. Just last week, the team selected its new members.
Time commitment was a problem in past years, Smith said, but this year he expects the team to be devoted.
“We are doing tons of conditioning,” Smith said. “For the first time in about five years, we’re going to be in great shape for the first game of the season.”
Sure enough, on Sunday Smith and the Men’s soccer team beat the University of Michigan, Flint 3 – 1.
Senior Christina Dressel, a women’s club volleyball player, said that commitment is also a major component of club volleyball.
“I think community is really important to have on this campus,” she said. “And a sense of commitment is really important. Hillsdale students often say they have too much homework to come to practice. I think it’s important to say, ‘No, you can’t do that. You committed to this.’”
Club sports are more than a task on students’ schedules, however. Teams also offer students opportunities to build friendships, try new things, and have fun.
“When I was a freshman, I saw a booth at the Source and thought, ‘Hey I’m in college now, so I should try something new,’” senior equestrian team captain Gianna Marchese said. “I knew I loved riding, so I thought it would be a nice addition to an already-busy schedule. It has proven to be quite an amazing experience for the three, coming up on four, years I’ve been able to be part of the team.”
The equestrian team meets every Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at the Premiere Equestrian Center, located in Hudson, Michigan. Practices are private or semi-private, with riders working with trainers in both the Western and English disciplines.
“I love it because I can use the time it takes to drive to the barn to push aside all the work I have to do and devote an hour or more to bonding with an animal and focusing on riding and technique,” Marchese said. “Then, on the ride back to campus, you can slowly start thinking about what you have yet to do that evening. But it’s a nice way to ease back into a busy life on the hill.”
Club sports teams also welcome students to cheer them on at home games at competitions.
“The games are a blast,” Smith said. “We always do better when there are fans to cheer us on.”