Living in a college town with a Division I sports program and a few professional teams nearby, often the only athletes that show up in the local news are professional athletes or the exceptional varsity athletes from the University of Colorado.
The ones we don’t always notice — the CU club sports athletes — have been playing 34 sports, competing against some of the best athletic schools in the country, and winning national championships left and right.
The University of Colorado club sports program, established in the late 1970s, has long been a fixture of CU culture, offering those not playing Division I sports a chance to play almost any sport imaginable at a very high level.
The program gives CU students the opportunity to participate in anything from rugby to freestyle skiing to water polo against other college teams from around the state, the region and the country. These student-athletes often get the chance to play for national club championships in their sport.
Kris Schoech has been CU’s club sports coordinator for the past 24 years.
“I think one of the reasons why clubs are so important is … not everyone’s going to be a Division I athlete, so you have to give them an opportunity to play at a certain level, and we’re giving them that level,” he says. Schoech is also proud of what the CU student athletes have been able to accomplish, and rightfully so. Winning national championships has become a staple of the program.
“In 2005, we had five national championship teams, which is unheard of,” Schoech says.
Even when the Buffs’ club student-athletes don’t win national championships, they often make it to the highest level of national competition. Out of 34 teams, 21 made it to a national competition last year.
“I think we’re in the top five programs in the country,” Schoech says. “And the reason why … is that each year we may not win [top championships] in every sport, but we’re [close].”
Not only is the club sports program beneficial to the community of students at CU, but it is also helpful to the university in terms of bringing in prospective students.
“The first thing is recruitment,” Schoech said.
“If parents know that their son is coming onto campus and he’s not going to play Division I sports, but they still want him to play a sport and get a great education, this is a great place for him to do that.”
Once students are brought in to CU, the ability for students to play club sports offers an incentive to stay in school and be involved in the CU community.
“We’re a retainment tool,” Schoech says. “Once that student-athlete gets on our team, more than likely they’re going to stay for four years … They’re getting invested.”
The program certainly has pulled in CU students; approximately 1,400 student-athletes participate each year.
The majority of those who are active in club sports are involved in snow sports. For example, there are about 150 members of the CU snowboarding team.
With so many sports, athletes and championships in the CU club sports program, how has it managed to stay relatively under the radar in the Boulder media?
“Our teams are known more nationally maybe than they are locally, because locally the Boulder Daily [Camera] and some of the other prominent papers focus in on the varsity athletics and not so much on clubs,” Schoech says.
It looks like Schoech and all the club studentathletes will just have to let their achievements speak for themselves.
For a list of club sports available to students, visit the club sports website at www.colorado.edu/rec-center/clubsports.