As a high school athlete, I played three sports year-round — volleyball, basketball and tennis. I always had a pair of sweaty sneakers in the backseat of my car and toted my letterman jacket from game to game with pride. That pride was integral to my identity, but I didn’t know it until I left my hometown to attend the University of Idaho — sans athletic scholarship.
Being from a small town and having a big-time academic dream of attending a four-year university, I never pursued college sports. It wasn’t until my junior and senior years of high school that I began to excel in athletics. Even then, brains beat brawn in my vision of the future. I applied for a plethora of academic scholarships, earned enough to comfortably leave home in pursuit of my degree and never looked back.
Fast forward to the spring semester of my freshman year; I’d gained upwards of 15 pounds and lost a great deal of motivation on all fronts of my life. Going to the gym didn’t appeal to me because I never had to in the past. Sports kept me active.
One fateful day in late February I came across an obscure flyer in my residence hall, advertising the UI Women’s Lacrosse Club. I emailed the team captain on a whim, never having held a lacrosse stick in my life. She immediately invited me to practice.
I made friends, remembered how good it felt to run, was challenged and forced to learn outside of the classroom. I slept better, ate better and looked forward to practice because I knew I was bettering myself. Most importantly, I reconnected with a piece of me I lost when I left my athletic side behindUI’s Campus Recreation department offers more than 20 club sports — anything from soccer to bass fishing to horse polo. Some clubs travel far and wide and others keep to a more low-key schedule. There’s a perfect fit for anyone looking to get back into a certain sport or sports in general. Membership costs and gear requirements also vary from club to club. The UI website provides basic information and contact information for club coaches and captains if students have further questions.
Students can also reach UI’s sport club office if they want to start a club team the university doesn’t already offer. Campus Recreation will do its best to fulfill that request.
On the webpage, Campus Recreation says sports clubs “fill the void between intramural sports and varsity athletics.” Not every university student can be a Division I athlete — in my case, it just wasn’t in the cards. That doesn’t mean sports can’t be an integral part of my life.
Joining women’s lacrosse has reminded me that I am an athlete in my own sense. Every interested student at UI has the opportunity to find a home on a club sports team.
I may have abandoned my letterman jacket, but I’m still proud to be an athlete, and I am proud to attend an inclusive university that wants to help me remain one.
Lyndsie Kiebert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @lyndsie_kiebert