Here at Brandeis, we have 21 club sports teams and 30 intramural sports teams, as well as various other recreational teams that are not under either organization’s umbrella, such as Brandeis Football Club (soccer) and Brandeis Tennis Club. In contrast to over 50 non-varsity sports teams, Brandeis boasts only 17 varsity teams. It’s fair to say that a lot more students play on Brandeis’ recreational sports teams than its varsity teams, yet non-varsity teams are treated as second or third tier compared to varsity in every situation, even though they are also competing as Brandeis athletes. Per administration rules, no recreational sports team can reserve space before the varsity sports teams have finished entering their semester schedule. Even then, the varsity teams can change their schedule last minute and kick out any of the recreational sports team practices or events, with little effort and no prior notice. Now, there are some club sports teams that have been able to establish a yearly event—the Archery Club’s Shamrock Shoot and Banshee’s Blizzard Bonanza have been hosted (almost) annually for more than 5 years. For the most part, however, reserving space inside the main gyms for a major event is incredibly difficult, and starting an annual event seems impossible.
I am one of the captains of the gymnastics team, and we have been trying to have a competition on campus for three years. Gymnastics is a sport that uses a lot of equipment, which requires a lot of money and a lot of time and effort to set up. We planned all through the fall semester, called rental companies and made plans with other teams, expecting that we would soon be told the open slots for the Gosman gym for the spring semester. But we didn’t get that schedule until mid-January, and although we wanted to continue planning and hoped we could still get a competition to work, the other teams in the league had already set their dates, and we were stuck. The frustrating thing—or the even more frustrating thing—is that the same thing happened last year. So, to us, it seems that the only way for Brandeis Gymnastics Club to have a competition is to not have it at Brandeis. I’m not sure how the process works for varsity scheduling; maybe it’s just as difficult for them to set up their schedule, and maybe I am judging them too harshly since I don’t have the other perspective. But from my perspective, varsity coaches—if they are in fact the ones who make the schedule—do not consider the fact that there is an entire school that also has a right to the gym, and they procrastinate putting in their schedule because they do not care, or care to find out, how hard it is for club and intramural sports to reserve spots.
Another problem that has to do with Brandeis’ varsity sports program is students’ low interest in varsity games or competitions. Brandeis has tried without much luck to encourage students to attend games and competitions, even making an app to give awards for people who attend the games. In the 2020 edition of The Princeton’s Review College Rankings, Brandeis ranked first in the category “There’s a Game?,” demonstrating the clear lack of attendance. But part of the reason why Brandeis sports games have such low attendance is that varsity athletes are often kept separate from the rest of us. For the most part, they keep to their teams: because of how much time they spend practicing, they often don’t have the time to make friends outside of the team. In a school that doesn’t focus a whole lot on sports, if students don’t know and are not friends with anyone who is playing, it’s hard to incite interest in attending their events. Furthermore, due to this same disconnect, varsity athletes often don’t hear or understand the concerns of the rest of us lowly club and intramural sports athletes.
My only suggestion that might help us overcome this situation would be to create an interdepartmental committee that would allow leaders from club, intramural and varsity sports to discuss their problems and find a way to coexist. If we had this mode of communication, maybe we would be able to avoid this intense disconnect between students at the same school who use the same gym, and maybe we would even incite a little more interest in attending each other’s games.
This article is not to underestimate or minimize the amount of effort varsity athletes put into their sports. I am fully aware of how hard they work, and I admire their dedication. However, varsity sports are only a small part of Brandeis athletics and the rest of us deserve a little more respect for the efforts that we make and the dedication that we have to our own teams.