Behind the scenes of ASU club sports

Health solutions junior Thomas Boyle practices at an ASU rugby practice on the Sun Devil Fitness Complex fields on Nov. 8. (Photo by Kyle Newman)

The club sports’ programs at ASU may not be NCAA affiliated, but the students involved are hardly different than the scholarship-funded athletes in all other ASU-sponsored sports.

These student-athletes still take pride in wearing maroon and gold and representing ASU on and off the field. The intensity and passion for their specific sport may arguably be stronger, as they truly pay to play. The University does not provide any scholarships for club athletes.

Most students may be unaware of the 37 club sports programs on campus, and most don’t know how they exist without being funded by the University.

“All sports clubs are student organized and student operated,” ASU club sports program coordinator Tara Yesenski said, who advises the 37 sports. “Some teams have coaches, but these are either volunteers or paid by the club.”

Club teams are directly handled and associated with the Sun Devil Fitness Center, and handle many of their season operations through Yesenski and Laura Vreeland, the program coordinator for marketing.

“I advise them on how to follow policies and procedures of the University, register all their members, educate their club officers and coaches, advise the Sun Devil Sport Club council, and require them to complete university paperwork for travel and reimbursements,” Yesenski said.

But how do the clubs sustain themselves without funding from the university?

“The clubs self-sustain themselves by charging club dues, fundraising and seeking out sponsorships,” she said. “The clubs also (receive) funding from student government.”

Providing and conducting most of the sport’s clubs becomes a full-time job for many. Setting up travel arrangements, collecting fees, creating schedules and putting a team together becomes a different responsibility without the University’s help.

Those aren’t the only guidelines that club sports programs have to follow.

While ASU does give the right to the teams to wear the respective maroon and gold — black and white as well — the teams are not allowed to use the Pitchfork logo that teams under the athletic department dons.

“The ASU Athletics Pitchfork and the Sun Devil Bold font are exclusively reserved for use by Sun Devil Athletics,” Yesenski said. “Sparky’s Pitchfork — different than the Athletics Pitchfork — is approved for use by recognized student organizations.”

As young adults and athletes, the ASU Athletic Pitchfork is the pride and honor of representing the University as a whole. The fact that these clubs cannot display the Athletic Pitchfork is disappointing and frustrating for some club athletes, as they believe these students pay their tuition and fees to go to school just like all the other ASU Athletics student-athletes.

“I think the team is definitely bummed a bit about it, because we feel we are just as much of a school sport as the rest,” ASU freshman hockey player Jordan Young said. “We try to help represent the school in any way we can, and we love being part of such an amazing university. So, we would like to be able to show our pride with such a prestigious logo as the Pitchfork.”

And even more than that, each club sports athlete pays to play their respective sports — some more than others.

The process, however, for a club team to become NCAA-affiliated and part of the University’s official athletic department is not an easy switch.

“This is really rare throughout the country,” Yesenski said. “If this were to happen at ASU, it would need to be initiated by the University and not the NCAA.”

The goal for many of these club sports organizations, and more importantly the students, is to become an official ASU student-athlete. Some of their sports may never see the daylight of NCAA affiliation, but that doesn’t stop them from representing their team and the maroon and gold of ASU.

 

Reach the reporter at msterrel@asu.edu