Club sports persevere despite practice time woes

With the arrival of new Assistant Athletic Director Jessica Cherry and plans for a new and improved Athletic Center, Colby Athletics are certainly in for an upgrade. Yet despite these improvements, there is a shortage of an essential element to any sports team: practice time. This year, several club sports teams have been having trouble simply scheduling practice.

After winning the New England Small College Rugby Conference and making it to the first round of the national tournament during the fall season, the Colby Women’s Rugby Football Club (CWRFC) had all the momentum to go into a successful spring season. Yet as of March 14, members of the team do not know when their next practice will be. When asked if rugby has a practice schedule currently, co-captain Jess Edlund ‘18 said “kind of,” stating that the person in charge of scheduling practice times gave them practice times over Spring Break.

“We ended the fall season with a historic high of winning our conference and going to the DIII National Championship, and now we can barely get one practice a week,” said the other CWRFC co-captain, Hannah Kwasman ’17.

CWRFC’s first tournament is coming up on April 8, two weeks after students return from Spring Break, but the team has only had six practices this semester, according to Edlund. Many members of the team are worried about how the lack of practice will impact their performance and safety. “For a team that gets so many new rookies, it’s extremely important to have practices to not only be able to teach them the fundamentals, but to teach them how to play safe,” said CWRFC Vice President Sara Pipernos ’19. Edlund shared this worry, stating that “if our veterans haven’t practiced tackling and we go to a tournament, the risk for injuries is much higher.”

Rugby is not the only club to struggle with scheduling practices. “Many of my emails to the scheduler were not responded to, resulting in two to three weeks at the beginning of both semesters this year without any scheduled practices. “When I finally heard back, the gym had been booked because it was so late and it was difficult to make a cohesive schedule for the semester,”  said Joe Forzano ’19, co-captain of the Colby Club Volleyball Team.

For clubs like volleyball, practice is the only meeting time outside of competitions. “It’s important to have a regular practice time so that the members of our team can have a regular schedule,” said Forzano. “When practice times are switched around, people cannot make the commitment to the team as easily and everyone suffers from lower quality practices and missed practices,” he said.

Rugby had the same problem with short notice scheduling. “We will be told the day of that we are given a time at night, which is not enough notice for our team to shift around meetings and class,” said Edlund.

Sarah Whitney ’18 captains the Ultimate Frisbee team and said their practice times have become gradually shorter as the year progresses. During JanPlan the team managed to book four to five practice times each week, though they had to take odd times and shifting schedules to make it work. Even so, Whitney said that the team was happy with the playing time that they got, given that they are a club team and usually do not have priority over other groups for practice times.

Now during the spring semester, the team only has two practice times: Monday from 8-10 p.m. and Wednesdays from 6-8 a.m. on the field hockey turf, which can’t be used in the snow. Whitney said that it has been frustrating to have so little playing time, especially during the spring season when there are usually more fields open. 

Rugby, volleyball, and frisbee are all well-established clubs on campus; the challenges with available practice times are amplified for the Cricket Club, which is in its first full year as a club sport here at Colby.

“As a young club it’s important that we have weekly practices in order to establish a reputation of legitimacy and to increase our numbers,” said Haransh Singh ’18, captain and co-founder of the Colby Cricket Club. “Also, we need the consistent practice in order to be suitably prepared for our inter-collegiate matches later in the semester,” Singh continued. So far, since they have not been able to secure consistent practice times, the Colby Cricket Club has only held one official practice this spring semester.

So why are club sports not getting the time they need to practice? It’s no secret that club sports are not a high priority for Colby, but why are they going without practice for two weeks? Why is the frisbee team stuck with only two times, one of which is outside from six to eight in the morning? It may come down to poor scheduling and communication—Singh, Forzano, and Whitney all said their interactions with the scheduling office have been slow and difficult to maintain consistently.

“Despite us persistently asking—one of my co-captains often sends at least one email per day kindly reminding the scheduling team that we would still like more field time—we have not gotten any more than those two time slots,” said Whitney.

Gianna Nappi ’17, Treasurer of CWRFC, who has worked with the Athletics Department for three years as Treasurer, shares this sentiment. “It seems like Colby Athletics is more disorganized than in years past: there have been mixups, miscommunications, and last minute changes to the schedule,” she said.

Though these clubs are frustrated with how the scheduling has been managed, they also said they were sympathetic to the work of those in the athletic office, like Assistant Athletic Director Jessica Cherry. Whitney said those she has communicated with seemed kind and genuinely concerned about helping their club schedule practices, and she said that since the office handles a lot of requests from a lot of teams, it’s understandable that they might not be quick to respond every time.

Having practice times that are always moving around can discourage people—especially any newer members—from consistently showing up, meaning that they fall behind and don’t always come back again. Whitney also stated that with the short times it’s been difficult to develop the skills they need and could have with more practice.

Forzano shared this sentiment, saying that the club has lost out on time where they could build their strength and strategy before competing against other schools. “It also left people somewhat disappointed with the amount of playing time they were getting during the week, changing the morale of the team to a certain degree,” said Forzano.

It’s been an added challenge for rugby, since the sport demands certain spaces in order to practice specific skills safely. Kwasman explained that using the basketball courts, which is where they’ve been scheduled the most this spring, really limits their options in practice. She also stated that the team can only practice tackling outside. “We can only practice tackling on the football field, but that’s usually under snow, because it’s not in season,” she said. In addition, when the team practices indoors, it “limits our ability to kick the ball, and people often skin their knees or develop some sort of shin splints,” Kwasman said.

Although the rugby, volleyball, frisbee, and cricket teams have had difficulties scheduling practices, they have still found success in competition and in the camaraderie of the clubs. The Colby Club Volleyball team has entered several intercollegiate competitions this year, and consistently practices on Sundays and Wednesdays.

Whitney also said there was some good coming out of the odd practice times. “We do end up bonding over these times, so maybe as a silver lining this strengthens and hardens the players we do have that consistently show up, and I commend all of them for their dedication and effort.”

However, not having consistent practice times does have a detrimental effect on the clubs. Rugby, volleyball, and frisbee compete in intercollegiate tournaments in the spring, and without consistent practice times they cannot efficiently prepare. “The best way to improve as a team ourselves is to get people to practice so we can work on building chemistry and skill, and consistent practice times help people plan their schedules so that they can make it.”

Whitney noted growth in her club, and in the level of their play. “We’ve seen a huge growth in numbers, commitment, and skill level this year, especially with the women’s team, and I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished,” Whitney said. Ultimately, Whitney stated, the clubs need someone to advocate for them and schedule consistent and reasonable practices that will allow the teams to realize their full potential.