Varsity athletes from cut teams consider club sports

by William Owen | 10/6/20 2:05am


The club swim team will welcome former varsity swimmers but will be unable to compete this fall.

Source: Courtesy of Margaret Hubble '21

In his July 9 campus-wide email explaining the College’s decision to cut five varsity athletics programs — men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s swimming and diving and men’s lightweight rowing — College President Phil Hanlon encouraged former varsity athletes to consider club teams. Some athletes on the cut teams, however, have read the guidance in Hanlon’s email as an ill-thought-out consolation.

“Dartmouth offers club sports in both golf and swimming and some interested former varsity athletes are welcome to join,” Hanlon wrote. “Fortunately, the national governing bodies for club golf and swimming allow immediate eligibility for former varsity athletes.” 

There is no club alternative for rowing or diving at Dartmouth, and club sports are operating under strict training guidelines for the foreseeable future. Teams are also unable to compete and are struggling to recruit new members, leaving former varsity athletes unsure if they will even be able to join club teams.

Tim Cushman ’23, a member of the now-eliminated swimming and diving team, was unhappy with the club sports alternative.

“I feel like the comment that there’s a club swim team is a little degrading or disrespectful in some of our minds,” Cushman said. “It kind of takes away a little bit of our accomplishments as a team.” 

Another swimmer, Mia Leko ’22, shared Cushman’s sentiment. 

“College swimming is pretty high-level, right before the Olympics. There are so many international kids who come to America just to train at this level and to go from there to club swim is a huge drop,” Leko said. “It’s like comparing going on a bike ride with your friends around the neighborhood to training for the Tour de France.”

Leko also called attention to the lack of a club diving team at Dartmouth. 

“Divers are given zero options. They’re done. I think for [the administration] to not think about that is offensive to our entire team,” Leko said. 

Varsity athletes were not the only ones who felt blindsided by the College’s announcement — some club sports leaders were also left scratching their heads at Hanlon’s email. 

“We didn’t ask [Hanlon] to say that club sports could be a home for former varsity athletes,” said Zack Gottesman ’22, president of the club golf team. “We don’t see club sports, especially club golf, as a replacement for varsity golf.”

Margaret Hubble ’21, president of the club swim team, expressed the sadness she and the rest of club swim felt for the ex-varsity swimmers and said she welcomed all who would like to join. However, she noted that a large influx of swimmers could prove difficult amid a pandemic. 

“It looks like there’s only going to be eight people allowed at a time on the pool deck, and with a coach and a lifeguard, that already cuts the number of people able to practice at a time to around four,” Hubble said. 

Gottesman said that no former varsity golfers have expressed interest in joining the team. In fact, Gottesman noted that during his time at Dartmouth, an ex-varsity golfer has never joined the club team.

However, a campaign to reinstate the varsity golf program, led by Friends of Dartmouth Golf, has inspired former members of the team to consider joining club golf. Former varsity golfer Mark Turner ’22 hopes that the Dartmouth administration will recognize the golfers’ dedication to the sport and reconsider the decision to cut the program.

“We plan to go ahead and play club golf until we can get our varsity status back,” Turner said. “It’s a way for us to show we are still very committed to the whole program.”

Turner emphasized that the hope for reinstatement is not the only reason he and his teammates will join the club team. He expects former varsity golfers to be equally involved as the rest of the club team.

“We would compete and practice with the rest of the guys, and maybe even host outings to share our experiences in varsity competition with the other club golfers,” Turner said.

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