By Caitlyn Wilkes
Youngstown State University’s club sports program is on the rise with more clubs and more participants.
This year, YSU is offering 21 different clubs, with approximately 300 athletes in total. Last year, there were 14 registered clubs.
Club sports may be a good fit for students who wish to continue competitive play of a sport they participated in during high school or who may want to learn a new activity.
Kaylea Dillon, a first-year member and vice president of the YSU Fencing Club, has been fencing since sixth grade, and YSU has given her the opportunity to continue through the club.
“I think it is very important [to have club sports] because people develop a passion for the sport they play in high school and want to continue that,” Dillon said.
Tessa Padilla, coordinator of club sports and camps at YSU, has seen the benefits of student involvement in club sports.
“It provides students the opportunity to be student athletes with the valuable experience of being a part of team, while developing a sense of community and engaging in healthy competition,” Padilla said.
Students also have the opportunity to register their own club if the sport they would like to participate in does not yet have its own group. This year, there is a newly established ski club among the seven new groups available to students.
Students can contact Padilla if they are interested in starting a new club.
Some clubs provide the opportunity to compete against other universities that either do not have teams under the National Collegiate Athletic Association or have separate clubs in addition to the NCAA team. The YSU Ice Hockey Club is an example of this.
YSU hockey is part of the American Collegiate Hockey Association, along with approximately 500 other university club teams in five divisions nationwide. Richard Benge serves as vice president of the YSU Ice Hockey Club.
“The ACHA organizes national championships for its three men’s and two women’s divisions, making it a viable option for students who go to schools without a NCAA team to keep playing hockey at a competitive level,” Benge said.
The club began its third season this month, but YSU hockey has existed for much longer than three years.
“The club is actually in its second stint on campus,” Benge said. “It previously existed and was run based on funding from one of the owners of the Youngstown Phantoms, but had to shut down when they cut the funding. It was restarted in 2015.”
The YSU Ice Hockey Club plays its home games at the Ice Zone in Boardman. Their full schedule can be found on the YSU website.
Whatever a student athlete’s individual passion may be, YSU has either an existing club for it or the opportunity to start one. Club sports are one of many ways to make friends and get involved on campus.
“The personal connections, leadership skills and physical fitness that can all be achieved through club sports participation are important assets that will benefit students not just in the sporting arena, but in academic courses and post-graduation,” Padilla said. “College is meant to be an experience, which is exactly what providing club sports access to all 13,000 YSU students does.”