Women’s Club Rugby Captain: Kelsey Wilkinson

By Chelsea Parkes

Believe it or not, club sports are a dominate force on Bryant’s campus and we refuse to silence our voices any longer. Club sports teams are athletes too, and we deserve the same respect as any other varsity athlete on campus by students and facility alike. The life of a student-athlete is supposedly glamorous and fulfilling until that student-athlete is seen for what they are, a mere club sports athlete. Through the duration of my high school career, I was a 2 season varsity athlete who also played on numerous travel teams. However, as I made the decision to not continue my athletic career in college, I thought my days of being considered a “jock” were over.

I was given a second chance to extend my athletic career by playing club sports here at Bryant, specifically Women’s Club Rugby. When I signed up for women’s rugby, I didn’t understand the stresses and demands that came with being a student-athlete for a club sport. There are no scholarship opportunities or free apparel given to us. A trainer doesn’t wait on the sidelines after practices, and there is rarely anyone in the stands other than parents of my teammates. All student-athletes, whether club or varsity, face the pressures of staying up late doing homework, missing out on events because of games or practices, and the 24-48 hour policy of being imprisoned in your dorm rooms before game day. For student-athletes outside of the school’s athletic program, it is a paid membership with stricter rules. Varsity athletes playing for Bryant University are treated exceptionally well and are given more opportunities; for club athletes, these possibilities do not exist. Regardless of the success of a club sport, it is not generally recognized by the school or given attention. It falls upon us to keep our club sport funded and running. The women and men’s rugby team has to spend Sundays volunteering at Gillette Stadium in order to help fundraise for the team. The men’s hockey team has high dues that still don’t cover all their costs, so they have to hold fundraisers at places such as the Thirsty Beaver. The rowing team spends hours at the children’s corner at home football games. Club sports have to go above and beyond just to keep themselves running functionally.

Although club sports miss the title of being division one affiliated by Bryant University, their accomplishments and dedication cannot be overlooked. The struggle of student-athletes to succeed in school, attend their practices, and continue fundraising falls on deaf ears because of the club title. Club athletes don’t compete just for the recognition. The cheers of fans in the stands and the accomplishments of the team as a whole are great motivating factors, but it is the love of the game that pushes club athletes to their limits and acts as the true catalyst for the players. The major lesson I have learned being on a club sports team here at Bryant University is the value of athletics extends far beyond the title of any team.