Competitive nature of club sports attracts many Villanova students

Rachel Bleier

Like many students at Villanova, Jeff Schumaker played basketball throughout his high school career. He is an extremely competitive guy and longed to have the same experience in college. 

Coming into ‘Nova, Jeff knew he wouldn’t make the Villanova men’s basketball team because, he just was not on that level. However, he kept his dreams alive through club basketball. 

Jeff tried out for the men’s club basketball team both his freshman and sophomore years to no avail. Like many at Villanova students who don’t get into a club, or don’t make the team, he was disappointed. 

Jeff decided to give it a final try his senior year to prove he could make the club team. He worked out all summer and put his other activities on hold to focus on basketball. 

In the end, Jeff’s hard work paid off, and he is now a proud member of the Villanova men’s club basketball team. 

The University offers a wide variety of club sports, including tennis, men’s and women’s basketball, equestrian, lacrosse, field hockey and badminton to name a few.

According to Maxwell Miller, Coordinator of Intramurals and Recreation, there were 1,151 “unique participants in club sports, including 450 females.” 

This statistic represents approximately 16 percent of Villanova’s student population, making club sports extremely popular.

However, the reasons students participate in club sports vary widely. 

For some, it presents an opportunity to meet new people on campus and broaden their social circle. 

For others, club sports provide an opportunity to continue playing sports in a competitive environment throughout college. 

Ross Pontrelli, a senior on club lacrosse, cited the fact that joining the team allowed him to meet people he otherwise would not have become friends with as a major benefit to club sports. 

“The team is full of players from all of the colleges, which allowed me to meet people I otherwise would not have met,” Pontrelli said. “That has been the best part for me, being able to branch out and meet new people.”

Katie Cecere, a senior on the club tennis team also suggested that the social aspect of club sports is what really motivated her decision to join the team. 

“The social aspect is the biggest part of it,” Cecere said. “We do other activities with each other as well, and just because people are so into club tennis, we always have a huge crowd of kids hanging out at tournaments, even if they aren’t playing.”

For Schumaker, making the club basketball team was all about the competitive atmosphere and continuing to play basketball at a high level. 

“Pretty much everyone on the team was a captain, or played a pivotal role on their team in high school, so you go to practice and everyone can really play,” Schumaker said. “That’s what I love most about it, being able to be part of such a competitive atmosphere and being able to play with people who know what they are doing.”

While many students are athletic, very few actually make it to the collegiate level. Club sports give students whose academics and athletic abilities did not match up in the college search process a chance to continue playing their favorite sports in college. 

“I was playing at a very high level, which meant I was being recruited to play in college,” Pontrelli said. “During the college search process, my academic and athletic choices did not quite line up. I chose to enroll in the university that fit me best academically. Naturally, I still wanted to play lacrosse and as soon as I heard about club sports, I knew I wanted to join.”

Overall student participation in club sports is on the rise nationally, and that phenomenon can be seen here at Villanova as well. Several students discussed how the tryout processes for the various club teams had to be adjusted over the last year because so many people wanted to try out.

For example, Kirsten Stepanek, a sophomore on the women’s club basketball team, said, “The first day of tryouts determined who came back for the second round because there were so many girls trying out and a limited number of spots on the team.”

Similarly, Pontrelli mentioned how important it was for guys trying out for club lacrosse to really put everything they have into it because so many guys want to make the team. 

“It can be difficult to be noticed due to the number of people who usually try out, so players have to give it their all the entire time,” he said.

Students participating in club sports at Villanova also benefit from an enhanced experience on campus. 

According to Miller, “Villanova University club sports enhances a student’s experience in the following ways: culturally, emotionally, intellectually, physically, socially, and spiritually. Participation on a club sports team increases the student experience through the creation of a community the student is a part of with similar ideals, interests, and recreational activities.” 

Considering the many positive effects of club sports, it is no surprise that so many students want to be a part of  club teams at Villanova.