They’ve got game

March 13, 2009

JUMPING THE FENCE: Equestrian club member Ashley Zibura ‘11 competes at Tufts last November.   The Brandeis Equestrian Club co-hosted a competition last weekend at the Rising Star Equestrian Center. Beth Bowan ‘10 was named high point rider at the event.<br /><i>PHOTO COURTESY OF Beth Bowan</i>

JUMPING THE FENCE: Equestrian club member Ashley Zibura ‘11 competes at Tufts last November. The Brandeis Equestrian Club co-hosted a competition last weekend at the Rising Star Equestrian Center. Beth Bowan ‘10 was named high point rider at the event.
PHOTO COURTESY OF Beth Bowan

Few people would honestly say they came to Brandeis for the athletics. But while the school may not be the powerhouse varsity teams of some bigger and older schools, Brandeis is far from devoid of athletic prowess. One look at the club sports program and it becomes evident that perhaps Brandeis’ athleticism, or lack thereof, has been criticized a bit too harshly.

With over 20 club sports and teams, Brandeis is actually home to quite a number of talented teams that compete on the same level as the varsity, institutionally-funded teams of other schools. Whereas club sports rely on Student Union funding and their own fundraising efforts, varsity teams have a budget reserved specifically for their operation. Transportation, uniforms and food are all covered.

With this kind of investment, schools seek out the players who will make the most of this pricey investment. Thus, varsity teams are more highly regulated by organizations like the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the University Athletic Association, and control of a team is left to the professionals.

The Brandeis Crew Team is one of the older club sports teams, and is an example of how the word “varsity” is no indication of the caliber of a team. Founded in 1985, the team spent its early years building its fleet of boats, which now numbers seven, the newest of which, added in the fall, is named the Swift Justice.

The team paid for all its boats through their own fund raising efforts, as any Student Union funding is used to pay c-oaches’ salaries and the entrance fees for regattas, or crew competitions. The team organizes practices anywhere from five to six times a week, and has risen in prominence, despite the club sport title.

Game on: Brandeis' men's crew team sculls at the fall '08 New Hampshire Champs Regatta. They took 25th place out of 31 teams in their first showing in the men’s fours division at the Head of the Charles Regatta in the fall.<br /><i>PHOTO COURTESY OF Haley Baron</i>

Game on: Brandeis' men's crew team sculls at the fall '08 New Hampshire Champs Regatta. They took 25th place out of 31 teams in their first showing in the men’s fours division at the Head of the Charles Regatta in the fall.
PHOTO COURTESY OF Haley Baron

The success of the club teams can be attributed to the students themselves, explained Ben White, the Club Sports Coordinator. White, who helps teams manage their budgets, hire coaches, and keep a record of practice and game schedules, explained that club teams are, “entirely self run. They have their own [student] leadership structure, whereas varsity is all run by the coaches and administrators.”

The Club Sports division within the Department of Athletics is relatively new. with White was hired just under two years ago in June of 2007.

Before the distinction, club sports were chartered through the Student Union and had no administrator. To be considered a club sport, the chartered club must present before the Club Sports Council. The club’s designation as a “club sport” lies in the hands of this seven student advisory board.

The men’s crew team did the club sport title proud when they raced a four man boat in the 44th Annual Head of the Charles Regatta in Cambridge back in the fall. The team also placed 25th out of 31 boats in the collegiate Men’s Fours division, their first time in the division that included the likes of first place teams from the University of Michigan and the University of Chicago.

There are even benefits to existing without the varsity title, and the regulations that come with it, including limiting practices and interactions with coaches. As Crew Team alumni coordinator Ashley Zibura ’11 noted, “ a lot of non-NCAA crew teams are more competitive because they can practice more.”

In fact, there is no men’s NCAA rowing because of that very reason. Teams want to be as competitive as they can, and that allows a club sport like Brandeis crew to gain some ground on other, more established, teams.

Zibura continued, “The only difference between Brandeis Crew and a team like Harvard is that we start from square one. We get people who find out about the team over the summer and have never done it before. Many people go to Harvard having rowed all their life, so their team starts from square ten.”

The Brandeis Equestrian Club, of which Zibura is the secretary, also competes at the varsity level despite the team’s club sport status.

The team triumphantly returned from the Rising Star Equestrian Center in Medway, Mass. where they co-hosted a competition this past weekend

The team’s treasurer, Beth Bowman ’10, was named high point rider for the event, the Equestrian way of saying she took first. Another team member tied for second, and the team overall is shooting up the ranks.

Each show has six divisions, each divided into three or four classes, and one rider is chosen for a division to be the point rider, the rider whose points will count toward the team standing.

For such a small team, ten members plus two riders currently studying abroad, Brandeis’ performance this past weekend is no small feat as filling all those divisions can be hard. But in the end, Brandeis came through despite not having a rider in each division.

“You need to have at least one person in every division because it’s all on a points system. You can get first in all the divisions you’re in, but if there are divisions that you don’t have people in, you just can’t get the points,” explained Zibura.

The Equestrian team, as well as most club sport teams, remains competitive in spite of certain factors that could complicate a team’s existence.

Teams in club sports are certainly growing in number, and they are becoming more recognizable on campus. Eventually, we may be getting e-mails to go out and support these teams, much the way we are being encouraged to go support Brandeis’ Women’s Basketball team as it advances to the NCAA sectional semifinals tomorrow

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