by Jerry Reilly, Director of Sports Information
While he was still a senior in high school in Lockport, N.Y., John McIntosh came to an important self-realization: there were no college ice hockey coaches beating down his door. If he was going to play his favorite sport in college, it would have to be on a club team.
He began surfing websites of his college choices. That’s how he found the Fredonia State Club Hockey team. “So I sent in a recruiting form,” he said. “That solidified me coming to Fredonia.”
McIntosh is far from alone on campus in his pursuit of an alternative to varsity athletics. With 21 club teams and groups, plus a 12-sport intramural program, there is a slew of recreational choices ranging from serious to social.
Club offerings range from traditional sports such as ice hockey, soccer, volleyball, and field hockey, to some not-so-traditional options. Fredonia State’s Club Ultimate Frisbee open division team is among the best around, while the Quidditch club – the Harry Potter-inspired sport currently the rage on many college campuses – gains new participants with each incoming class. There’s a club devoted to hip-hop dance (Envied Xpression) and one to most Nerf sports (Extreme Sports of Fredonia).
Fredonia State Intramural Director Geoff Braun said about 900 people – roughly 1/6 of the campus – participated during the Fall 2012 semester in broomball, dodge ball, flag football, sand volleyball and indoor volleyball. Spring semester sports include basketball, soccer, inner-tube volleyball, softball, floor hockey, tennis and another season of broomball. There are separate leagues for men and women.
Braun says he employs between 40 to 45 students to help run the leagues – not including officials for basketball, which last year drew 62 teams. Broomball and dodge ball also have high participation.
Each champion receives a highly coveted t-shirt, a different color for each sport.
“Being part of intramural sport,” said Braun, who also serves as varsity women’s volleyball coach, “allows students to meet new people, blow off some stress, compete and stay in shape.”
Club activities offer the same health and wellness benefits as intramurals in a more formal setting. Each club, most of which are co-ed, elects its own officers who are charged with many of the duties that varsity coaches and managers handle, minus the larger budgets.
While the Student Association provides varying levels of financial support, club members are asked to come up with the rest.
Members are also responsible for finding new players. They rely on open houses, new-student orientations, social media, and word-of-mouth. Some have contacted student-athletes who fail to make the final cuts with varsity teams.
Katie Elkins, a junior Mathematics Education major from Rochester, N.Y., played field hockey at West Irondequoit High School. She first learned that Fredonia State had a field hockey team during freshman orientation. She followed up during Activities Night, where she met some of the players.
She and high school friend Julia Burns joined the team together. After two years of learning the ropes, Elkins and Burns have become field hockey President and Vice President, respectively. They have incorporated some of the drills they used in high school, and some of their competitive intensity.
“It’s a great way,” Elkins said, “if you want to continue to play field hockey and have the time to still play on a fun, competitive team. Yet we try to keep it fun. I want hard practices, but that’s not for everybody. So we try to find a balance so it’s competitive enough and still laid back.”
Members of Fredonia State’s Club Ultimate Frisbee have made the transition from laid back to competitive in recent years. Founded around 2005, the club – in the words of Captain Doug Urbino – became “prominent” in 2009, when members formed separate open division and women’s teams.
The open division team has begun to make a name for itself nationally. It ended the 2011-12 season at No. 11 in the USA Ultimate rank of NCAA Division III colleges and universities. Urbino, a senior Business Administration major from Bliss, N.Y., expects the open team to earn an even higher ranking – possibly as high as No. 2 – at the start of the 2013 spring semester. Fredonia State defeated three D-I schools – Cincinnati, University at Buffalo, and Ohio University – to win the 2012 Autumn Showcase in Lebanon, Ohio, last October.
“Our goal is to win D-III nationals,” said Urbino, who often finds himself explaining Ultimate – the registered trademark Frisbee has been dropped from the official name – to novices, while being careful not to bury them in too many details.
In short, Ultimate is a hybrid sport. Like football, the field dimensions form a rectangle, there is lots of passing, different plays and defenses, and the object is to advance the disc into the end zone. Like basketball, players cannot run with the disc and must establish a pivot foot before passing. Like golf, the games are self-officiated – although at bigger events, an observer is used to settle debates.
“There’s a spirit of a game that is involved,” Urbino said. “And there’s a lot of information to digest for newcomers. It can be overwhelming, so some people tend to quit. But if you stick to the sport, you’ll learn to play it – and when you learn to play it, you’ll learn to love it.”
Another club team that has made a national impression is men’s ice hockey. It has qualified for three American Collegiate Hockey Association tournaments recently: 2009 in Rochester; 2010 in Fort Myers, Fla.; and 2011 in Hope, Mich. This year’s tournament is scheduled for Springfield, Mo., in March.
The ACHA D3 national tournament brings 16 teams together from throughout the U.S., broken into North, South, Atlantic and Pacific regions. Fredonia State is part of the Atlantic Region and the only New York State member in the seven-team College Hockey East. The other six are all from Pennsylvania: California, Penn State-Altoona, Penn State-Behrend, Pitt-Johnston, Robert Morris and St. Vincent.
In addition, Fredonia State plays teams from NCAA Division I schools. Already this year, they’ve faced clubs from North Carolina-Wilmington and Fairfield – where no varsity hockey exists. Translated, a lot of these clubs have much larger budgets.
Yet McIntosh, the outgoing club hockey president, says that financial disparity makes things all the more interesting. It’s just another of the challenges he accepted when he first chose Fredonia because of its club hockey team. “When people hear ‘club hockey’ they think ‘beer in the water bottles’,” he said. “Even I thought that before I got here. But the ACHA, our governing body, is very legitimate. The legitimacy of it is better than
I ever thought it would be.”
Student Association sponsored clubs:
- Black Horse Rugby (#)
- Blue Ice Step Team
- Club Hockey
- Club Lacrosse (*)
- Club Ultimate Frisbee (%)
- Dance Team
- Envied Xpression
- Extreme Sports of Fredonia
- Figure Skating Club
- Fredonia Field Hockey
- Fredonia Recreational Outdoors Group
- Fredonia Tennis Club
- Fredonia Quidditch
- Ground Fighting Club
- Men’s Club Soccer
- Men’s Club Volleyball
- Orchesis Dance Company
- Ski and Ride Club
- Student Dance Organization
- Women’s Club Soccer
- Women’s Club Volleyball
(#) Separate men’s and women’s teams
(*) Currently men only; women’s team forthcoming
(%) Separate open and women’s teams