Middlebury Club Sports: GAME ON

By Isabelle Stillman

Middlebury offers the chance to play the following nine club sports: cycling, fencing, equestrian, sailing, Quidditch, rugby, figure skating, chess and badminton. Our editors caught up with a few of the participants. For a full view of the design and layout, check out the PDF version here.

Recruitment

Women’s rugby faces a few challenges in attempting to recruit new members to the team. While the sport requires 15 players on the field, often the team struggles to fill the roster for a variety of reasons. This year, however, recruitment is high, as the team has 22 women on the official roster.

One of the biggest challenges that Marea Columbo ’13 cites for the team is that rugby does not cross over from any other sports for women. Columbo is the only member of the team who had played before the transition to college athletics.

Another club on campus is the Sailing Team.  Although they accept anyone who wants to learn how to sail, part of their recruitment difficulties are that not very many people on campus may realize that Middlebury does, in fact, have a sailing team, said Nick Dragone ’14, vice commodore. They do, however, recruit a decent number of students each year and currently have 30 members on their roster this year.

“The majority of our members became interested in sailing at the activities fair at the beginning of the fall and spring semesters,” said Dragone. “We have sailors from all experience levels, from walk-ons who have never sailed before to those who have competed on a national and international level before [coming to] Middlebury.”

As for the Equestrian Team, most of their riders come to them. “We get a lot of emails from students who are already at Middlebury and are interested in taking riding lessons or seeing what we do as a show team,” said team captain Oonagh Ziegler ‘13. “And then we get a lot of emails from high school kids, who are looking at NESCAC schools or schools on the east coast, who competed at the high school level.”

Like the sailing team, the equestrians attribute the small size of their team to the little visibility they receive on campus. But excitement tends to be high when students do find out that the college has horses near campus.

 

Finance

Women’s rugby faces a few challenges in attempting to recruit new members to the team. While the sport requires 15 players on the field, often the team struggles to fill the roster for a variety of reasons. This year, however, recruitment is high, as the team has 22 women on the official roster.

One of the biggest challenges that Marea Columbo ’13 cites for the team is that rugby does not cross over from any other sports for women. Columbo is the only member of the team who had played before the transition to college athletics.

Another club on campus is the Sailing Team.  Although they accept anyone who wants to learn how to sail, part of their recruitment difficulties are that not very many people on campus may realize that Middlebury does, in fact, have a sailing team, said Nick Dragone ’14, vice commodore. They do, however, recruit a decent number of students each year and currently have 30 members on their roster this year.

“The majority of our members became interested in sailing at the activities fair at the beginning of the fall and spring semesters,” said Dragone. “We have sailors from all experience levels, from walk-ons who have never sailed before to those who have competed on a national and international level before [coming to] Middlebury.”

As for the Equestrian Team, most of their riders come to them. “We get a lot of emails from students who are already at Middlebury and are interested in taking riding lessons or seeing what we do as a show team,” said team captain Oonagh Ziegler ‘13. “And then we get a lot of emails from high school kids, who are looking at NESCAC schools or schools on the east coast, who competed at the high school level.”

Like the sailing team, the equestrians attribute the small size of their team to the little visibility they receive on campus. But excitement tends to be high when students do find out that the college has horses near campus.

 

Competition

Women’s rugby faces a few challenges in attempting to recruit new members to the team. While the sport requires 15 players on the field, often the team struggles to fill the roster for a variety of reasons. This year, however, recruitment is high, as the team has 22 women on the official roster.

One of the biggest challenges that Marea Columbo ’13 cites for the team is that rugby does not cross over from any other sports for women. Columbo is the only member of the team who had played before the transition to college athletics.

Another club on campus is the Sailing Team.  Although they accept anyone who wants to learn how to sail, part of their recruitment difficulties are that not very many people on campus may realize that Middlebury does, in fact, have a sailing team, said Nick Dragone ’14, vice commodore. They do, however, recruit a decent number of students each year and currently have 30 members on their roster this year.

“The majority of our members became interested in sailing at the activities fair at the beginning of the fall and spring semesters,” said Dragone. “We have sailors from all experience levels, from walk-ons who have never sailed before to those who have competed on a national and international level before [coming to] Middlebury.”

As for the Equestrian Team, most of their riders come to them. “We get a lot of emails from students who are already at Middlebury and are interested in taking riding lessons or seeing what we do as a show team,” said team captain Oonagh Ziegler ‘13. “And then we get a lot of emails from high school kids, who are looking at NESCAC schools or schools on the east coast, who competed at the high school level.”

Like the sailing team, the equestrians attribute the small size of their team to the little visibility they receive on campus. But excitement tends to be high when students do find out that the college has horses near campus.

 

Perception

“I think that we’re in a unique position because we are a women’s team playing a full contact sport, so you can imagine the stereotypes that come with that,” said Columbo. She says that often people understand women’s rugby to be a “butch” sport. “The fact that someone would stigmatize it as a very butch and large girl sport is humorous to me,” Columbo added.

“I think people respect us as a real sport because they’re purely intimidated by what it is that we do,” said Columbo. “They obviously know it’s a club sport and people don’t pay a lot of attention to it. I think we are respected because we are playing a full contact sport with no padding whatsoever.”

Although the sailing team may not have a very high profile on campus, they do try to make it an accessible sport for the whole campus.

“Along with our racing team, we offer a PE class, a free weekly recreational sailing day for the wider campus community,” said Dragone.

The Equestrian Team is made up of only 15 students, so recognition on campus is small. “A lot of people don’t even know we exist,” said Ziegler. Furthermore, the organization is not officially recognized as a club sport, but rather a student organization. “I would love to reopen that conversation and see if there’s something we can do about that,” said Ziegler.

 

Injury

While injury may seem impossible to avoid when playing rugby, Columbo said that when played correctly, the game is actually quite safe. She added that many understand rugby injuries in a different light than non-contact sports because of the nature of the sport.

“The reason [perception of injury is high] is because a lot of people think we bring it upon ourselves,” said Columbo. “If a soccer player gets injured, people would say that’s really bad luck, [but not with rugby]. It’s really hard to be treated that way because if you’re playing rugby safely it should be injury free.”

Despite the perception of injury being skewed, any contact sport comes with its risks. Concussions tend to be the biggest issue because of the length of time it takes to recover. The women’s rugby team does have access to the training facilities and is taken seriously by the staff.

“Only recently have we been viewed as contributing athletes in that facility,” said Columbo. “I’m really close with a lot of the trainers there and really like them, but my freshman year I was petrified.”

 

Commitment

Rugby practices are similar to that of a varsity team. Practices are held three to four times a week for two hours a day. While the team has the potential to reach varsity level, Columbo said that the varying levels of commitment on an individual level pose a challenge to the organization of the team.

“I think some of us could, if rugby became varsity, fulfill all of the requirements that would make a varsity team,” said Columbo. “But a lot of people know they’re a club sport and they know that things are not mandatory like they are on varsity, so there’s more resistance individually.”

The equestrian team has two levels of commitment. The show team, which is competition-based, participates in six to eight shows in the fall. “We ask that you commit to lessons for an entire semester, and that’s once a week for an hour,” said Ziegler. “But it’s about two and a half hours total, when you factor in getting to the barn, getting ready, etc.” If riders are not interested in competing, they can take lessons without participating in shows.