Club Sports Foster Healthy Lifestyles, Are Outlets for Fun, Camaraderie
Growing Rugby, Cycling/Triathlon Clubs Among Popular Rec Sports Formed, Managed by Student Leaders
Jan. 16, 2014
UT Dallas Men's Rugby player Cameron Broussard, a business administration junior, breaks away from UT San Antonio players at a tournament in Austin. The men's team will host LeTourneau University at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25 at the soccer field; the women's team will host TCU at 4 p.m. Jan. 25.
As a freshman, Vince Dutton signed up for the newly formed UT Dallas Rugby Football Club, even though there weren’t enough players to field a team. This spring, with the emerging media and communication senior as the club’s president, the team boasts more than 40 members.
Not only has it grown numerically, the team has gained enough expertise to win state championships in the Lone Star Collegiate Rugby Conference two years in a row.
The UT Dallas rugby club also has been ranked No. 8 by the National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO), out of more than 200 competing small colleges in the country. The NSCRO organizes playoff competition for Division III and IV schools.
“It’s awesome. We hope to go farther in nationals this year,” Dutton said.
Rugby is just one of the club sports at UT Dallas that has grown in membership and gained national recognition.
Another is the UT Dallas Cycling and Triathlon Club. Since forming in fall 2012, the club has been named the biggest new collegiate club in the country by USA Cycling, an organization that offers competitive cycling programs for more than 2,500 participating clubs and teams.
Seventeen of the club’s members have become licensed to compete in races in just over a year.
Tricia Losavio, director of Recreational Sports, credits Chris McAlpine, assistant director of club sports and special events, with the rapid growth of club sports at UT Dallas.
Students initiate and run the clubs, but McAlpine does the footwork to help them succeed: helping set up their budgets, making travel arrangements, obtaining promotional materials and purchasing equipment so players can focus on getting ready for games and recruiting other members.
The UT Dallas Cycling and Triathlon Club has been named the biggest new collegiate club in the country by USA Cycling. Pictured are many of the group's members from the fall semester.
“I show them I care about being a resource for them,” McAlpine said, admitting he’s a bit obsessive-compulsive about email. “I try to send a response back immediately.”
Club sports are often popular with time-challenged college students because they require less of a commitment than NCAA Division III teams, McAlpine said.
Those who participate in club sports for fun still enjoy the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and leadership opportunities as club officers.
McAlpine says the club leadership experience is so valuable he tells officers to never leave it off their resumes. “It’s like leading a mini company,” he said.
Zack Sutton, a mechanical engineering student and founding president of the cycling and triathlon club, has led the charge in recruiting others who like cycling and triathlon.
Sutton became a cyclist after his 21st birthday. Shortly after, he competed in Ironman 70.3 Austin: a race that includes a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride and then a half-marathon (13.1 miles).
Though he loved running and swimming, cycling quickly became his favorite sport.
UT Dallas Cycling and Triathlon Club member Carlos Caicedo-Narvaez, an electrical engineering senior, lines up at the start of the Men's D Road Race at the 16th Annual Tunis Roubaix at William Penn on March 2 in Brenham.
“It’s the feeling of freedom, the wind in your hair. You can soak up the sights and sounds that you don’t get when you’re riding in a car,” Sutton said.
As a member of the South Central Collegiate Cycling Conference, UT Dallas participates in collegiate races against 15 other teams from schools in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana.
Though club members are serious about competing, their emphasis is on the fun and low cost of entering a collegiate race, Sutton said. “You can get out of town for $30,” he said.
Club members, from beginners to national champions, have competed in all levels of competition, including mountain biking and road cycling.
Road races are for those “who can ride with a pack at 30 mph, elbow to elbow,” Sutton said. “There’s great camaraderie.”
Not every member enters races, Sutton said. Some just enjoy the recreational aspects of cycling.
“It’s very low-impact, a great cardio workout and an easy way to get around,” Sutton said. “This is a sport that is under your own power. You control how well you will do.”
Richardson Bike Mart, where Sutton works part-time, has helped jumpstart the club’s gear collection by providing jackets, T-shirts and two team bicycles. The club holds fundraisers to purchase other apparel and equipment.
McAlpine, who earned a sports management degree from Rutgers University and a master’s degree in recreation administration from Texas State University, said he’s not surprised by the increasing popularity of club sports.
For non-football schools, in particular, rugby is “the quintessential club sport,” he said.
That’s because the game is intense and exciting – with two 40-minutes halves and only a 10-minute halftime break – yet has far fewer serious injuries than American football. The incidence of injury in American club rugby is 10 percent, compared to 52 percent in NCAA football, according to a study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine.
UT Dallas Women's Rugby player Lisa Sturm, a computer engineering graduate student, runs down the field during a match against Rice University.
Rugby president Dutton said that even though rugby players wear minimal padding, rules prevent tackling above the shoulders, so players are more conscious of not hurting their bodies.
And there’s a rugby position for every body type, Dutton said. In other words, you don’t have to be big, just fast and fit.
“It’s nonstop, fast-paced and very intense. You have to rely on your teammates. There’s nothing quite like it,” Dutton said. “There’s no experience necessary. I tell students to just come out and try it.”
With 27 club sports at UT Dallas, there is something for everyone, from bowling to bass fishing to mixed martial arts and rock climbing, Losavio said. More than 650 UT Dallas students participated in club sports last fall.
One of the new groups is the women’s rugby team. About 30 female students signed up in fall 2013.
Losavio tells students that if they don’t see a sport that appeals to them, “Come and talk to us. If we can start it, we will.”