Club and intramural sports allow new and former athletes to play
Seasoned athletes and those looking to pick up a new hobby are guaranteed to find a community and space in campus athletics.
This article is featured in the 2021 Freshman special issue.
For former athletes or those looking to pick up a new hobby, club and intramural sports offer the opportunity to continue a sports career in a less intense environment upon coming to Dartmouth. For members of the Class of 2024 and Class of 2025, joining one of these teams can be a great way to find a new group of friends with similar interests, and have fun at the same time.
For Chris Picard ’23, club hockey was the perfect way to keep playing the sport he loved. He knew he wanted to keep playing hockey at some level in college, and after meeting then-captain Chris McCorkle ’20 at the club fair early his freshman fall term, he was sold.
“It seemed like a really good fit with the schedule and the competition level and the group of people that I met,” Picard said.
Having attended a high school without sports teams, Rae Docherty ’23 decided it was better late than never to give athletics a try when she arrived at the College. She began her sports career with the club swim team, and by the end of her freshman fall had decided to join the women’s water polo team.
“[Club teams have] a big walk-on culture,” Docherty said. “So that’s kind of good. Some people will come to a few practices and never show up again, but if you keep coming and keep coming, you’re a part of the team.”
Throughout her freshman year, Docherty made close bonds with upperclassmen on the team and found some people that would end up being some of her closest friends at Dartmouth.
“Having upperclassmen girls to look up to was great,” Docherty said. “Because I came in not knowing a lot about Dartmouth, they were my people to make connections with. That’s how you learn things — your best networking is through upperclassmen.”
Unlike Docherty, who had never played her sport before, Jack Shire ’23 knew he wanted to continue playing baseball in college and tried to walk onto the varsity team when he first arrived on campus.
“I played baseball all through high school — pretty much my entire life,” said Shire. “ I wasn't nearly good enough to play college baseball, but I still tried. [I] worked out with them for a couple weeks, but realized it wasn’t my level and I got cut. It was a bummer, but I knew I still wanted to be able to pursue baseball.”
Resilient after that first disappointment, Shire has found a more suitable environment in the club team. Casual practices, social events and the overall camaraderie define the team’s atmosphere.
“We look like a ragtag group,” Shire said. “We don’t have a single uniform, we all just show up, and half of us don’t have hats on.”
He told a story from a game against the University of Vermont’s club team that he believes captures how the team plays.
“[The University of Vermont] don’t have a varsity baseball team, so their club baseball team is all they have,” Shire said. “They have like 30 kids on the team, five different coaches — they take it crazy serious. They played in a minor league stadium, and we rolled up as they were playing the national anthem. So we just kind of scurry out to the third baseline, hands over the hearts, like, in sweatpants, just looking violently tired — and then we get out there, and we absolutely smack them.”
“It was so fun,” he recalled. “They’re looking at us, like, ‘Oh, we’re gonna win this game 15-0,’ and we torched them.”
In addition to the adrenaline that comes with a little competition, club sports on campus provide a space to meet new people and settle into the social life at Dartmouth.
“I love hockey. I love hanging out in the locker rooms,” Picard said. “I love talking with my friends and also seeing people from all around campus that you don’t usually see anymore with such a large amount of [students participating] in Greek life. When you have club sports, that kind of disappears, and you guys are all just like one team again.”
Now president of her water polo team, Docherty has made it a goal to focus on social aspects of the team in addition to the competitive nature of the sport.
“Freshman winter, we practiced five times a week and it was so fun,” Docherty said. “I got really close with the girls. I’d never been a part of a team before so that was very cool. We had social events — the first time I ever played pong was with water polo in the basement of [Epsilon Kappa Theta sorority]. It was a very chill way to learn how to play.”
The format of club sports varies by team. Whereas club baseball lacks tryouts or formal coaching staff, others — such as club hockey — have tryouts, coaches and uniforms, with some teams even fielding multiple groups. Therefore, while Shire simply showed up to the first day of practice, Picard went through multiple days of tryouts under the team’s two coaches before making it onto the club roster.
If you end up cut from one of the club teams, or are simply not looking for that much of a commitment, there are a variety of intramural sports teams eager to have first time players and seasoned athletes alike.
Intramural sports are offered on a termly basis and provide the most casual way to get involved with athletics on campus. Housing communities sponsor teams to compete for points put towards the annual House Cup competition, according to the South House website. Liam Prevelige’23 helped lead the South House IM basketball team — composed largely of his dorm-mates — to a tournament win his freshman winter.
“We had this great comeback,” said Prevelige. “We originally lost a bunch of the first few games, and then we had some new members join — not club basketball players, but guys at that level. [We] met some awesome new people from outside our dorm and ultimately ended up doing really well and winning the actual house tournament.”
With teams composed of rookies and seasoned athletes alike, Prevelige explained that IM sports are more about having fun and making connections than winning. Even within the inter-house tournament, Prevelige noted the uniquely positive environment in the gym.
“It was really fun because they're high energy games with everyone cheering for each other,” said Prevelige. “And it was fun to be playing against your friends from the other houses too and make that other connection”
Outside of the inter-house tournament, groups can be formed from simply a group of friends.
“It [is] crazy easy to make a team,” said Shire. “All you have to do is submit a request and then send emails out to your friends and beg them to sign up, and then you’re good. They set up literally everything, you don’t have to have any gear at all. We played IM hockey, and half the team didn’t know how to skate. I played goalie. We lost a game 15 to nothing and it was a great time.”
From basketball to football and hockey, IM sports are a low stress way to try something new and have fun with some friends. No matter how you find your way to sports at Dartmouth — through varsity athletics, club teams or IM sports — you can be sure that you will be welcomed with open arms and find a new group of people on campus.