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Hitting it Big with Club Sports at Quinnipiac

When kids grow up, most of them play at least one sport. For example, most kindergartners start off with soccer, then maybe move to tee-ball. Some of these kids will quit sports altogether once they reach a certain age and some may grasp onto a sport and stick with it for life, and both are okay.

What happens when you want to continue playing, but aren’t “good enough” for the collegiate level? Enter club sports. Across the country, over two million college students participate in club sports.

At Quinnipiac University, there are a multitude of different club sports to pick from, including ones like club powerlifting, golf, roller hockey and esports. 

Associate director of recreation John Somers said that the university is currently closed for expansion, but back in the 2021 school year, “we went from 10 teams to 21 teams.” He added, “We have 60 hours per week of athletic training. So we have three graduate athletic trainers that offer us 20 hours per week. We would need to add at least one more in order to expand, because right now, each takes on seven teams. 

For athletes Matthew Laverdure and Zach Carter, the choice was always going to be club baseball. 

Carter (left) joins a mound visit (@quclubbaseball Instagram)

“I knew from the first day I got to Quinnipiac that I wanted to play club baseball,” Carter, a third-year journalism student, said. “It was the first year that the team became affiliated with the school and they were really pushing for more involvement. The team lets me continue to play the sport I love.”

Somers spoke on one of the main reasons why athletes find club sports appealing. 

“During the regular season, ten hours per week is about the max that you should be seeing,” Somers said. “There's no penalty for missing practice because you have class. For club sports, academics absolutely comes first. This is very much second, third or sometimes even fourth, as it should be on a student's priority list.” 

Laverdure, a fifth-year public relations major, attributed his involvement with the team to the more relaxed time commitment. 

Laverdure (24) gives a fist bump while coming off the field (via Matt Laverdure)

I played two years of collegiate baseball – at Westfield State – before coming to Quinnipiac. Part of the reason I didn't continue with college baseball is the time commitment of practices every day for three hours, as well as the traveling. So club baseball is a good fit for me because you still get three games on the weekend, but you're not practicing every day. You have more time for academics and friends and things like that.”

Coming into a new school can be challenging and difficult for a lot of reasons. One of these challenges for new students can be making a group of friends that they can hang out with. Laverdure and Carter both believe that club baseball has created a very positive environment for new students and players.

“It’s a healthy way to get involved,” Laverdure remarked. “Everyone's super close, and there's no pecking order or anything. Everyone is super friendly. For me, it was really useful because I transferred late. So I transferred – to Quinnipiac – going into my junior year, so I didn't have the established friends that a lot of other people had. Playing club baseball really helped out a lot with that right away. About a month into being at school, I didn't worry about making friends or anything like that.”

Carter, who is assuming the role of president for next year’s club baseball executive board, agreed, saying “The team is really close. We’ve got like 20 guys who are all friendly and it's just a great social aspect to have. Every time we hold tryouts and new kids come on the team, you get friendly with them. We all get along great and it's been a really enjoyable experience.”

Another reason why club sports separates itself from other organizations at Quinnipiac is that it lets any student become involved with the e-board. 

We’re different from the student organization process in which graduate students are allowed to be e-board members and can serve executive roles,” Somers said.

As Somers said, some clubs and organizations around campus do not allow graduate members to hold the position of president or any other e-board positions. Club sports’ flexibility is a great example of its commitment to inclusion and allowing any member to be able to do whatever they want to get involved.

In terms of the quality of the experience, both mentioned numerous instances where they were grateful to continue their athletic abilities at a collegiate level.

My favorite moment is probably no-hitting New Haven on our home field. But as a team, my first year, we won a spring tournament which was cool cause it was double elimination. We lost our first game of the tournament to Syracuse and then we ended up playing Syracuse again in the championship. We were down 7-0 and they even posted on their social media that they were gonna mercy us,” Laverdure recalled.

Laverdure in action throwing a pitch (via Matt Laverdure)

He mentioned that pitching during that tournament took a toll on his arm, but was well worth the pain in the end.

“I was definitely sore, but then your adrenaline takes over. I go out for an inning, I do well, and then my team scores runs. It kind of slowly builds up, and then you kind of get to a flow state. It was awesome,” he said.

Carter also spoke about one of his favorite games as a part of the team, citing “We played in our league’s playoffs last fall. I was hitting pretty well at the time, and I remember having two doubles and driving in the go-ahead RBI late in the game in the semi-finals against Brown. I’m not much of a hitter, but that game was especially memorable.”

For these athletes, club sports have been essential in helping to keep a healthy mental slate and it also allows them to grow as athletes and people. Some kids eat, sleep and breathe sports, so this outlet allows them to do what they love, without the stress of having to keep up with a strenuous practice or game schedule.

It’s a perfect solution, but some students may be wary of joining a team, which is totally understandable.

“I would say there’s really no downsides,” Carter explained. It's a great way to get involved and you get to play your favorite sports with people who have similar interests as you.”

“If someone is on the fence about how a team is, I would tell them to at least try it for a season, and if they don't like it, they don't have to stick with it,” Laverdure said.” We've had a few people that joined, but it wasn't their thing. I definitely would make sure that they know how flexible it is. It’s not like you can get in trouble if you can't go to practices or anything like that. You'll make a lot of friends, and for us, everyone on our team plays, so you wouldn’t have to worry about that.”

Somers also added that it’s a great way for parents to continue their involvement in their child’s athletic careers.

“We have a lot more parents because they're excited to get to see their kid play competitively again,” he said. “It's just as rewarding for them as it is for everybody else. You'd probably be surprised at how athletic and competitive a lot of your friends that you might know on the teams are.” 

If someone is on the fence about joining and they don’t know what the first step is, Somers mentioned to contact that team’s social media.

“Just direct message that team's Instagram account,” he said. Those accounts are monitored by the social media managers and the presence of all the teams. That is the primary method of communication. I actually tell prospective students, ‘DM the Instagram account.’I know that's where students are most comfortable, so DM the account with any questions you have. They can be fully open and honest with you.”

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