Puget Sound athletes under appreciated and unsupported: Non-traditional sports need funding too
By IDA DUNN-MOORE
Loggers clad in down vests and Carhartt pants flock to Tacoma’s two climbing gyms.
They fill the pool on weeknights in plastic kayaks, practicing roles and paddle strokes for adventures out on local rivers.
Skiers pore over weather conditions and learn avalanche safety, anticipating the next big powder day.
Ultimate players cultivate the activity of tossing a Frisbee into a competitive sport.
Cyclists train hard over every local road, picking up a number of strong wins and top 10 finishes in the North West conference.
These are the athletes of Puget Sound who engage in sports that border on esoteric.
By esoteric I mean that these sports are non-traditional and get more publicity in smaller circles.
They pay for their sports out of pocket, and they consider their money well spent.
They train hard; they perfect their practice, and compete at high levels.
But they are student athletes nonetheless and that alone makes them an important demographic in our University’s athletic community.
Puget Sound bills itself as a progressive university.
Each student matters, academic departments constantly explore new fields, and the campus concerns itself with current affairs and social issues.
What is not progressive, however, is the management of our athletics.
When the climbers, kayakers, backpackers, skiers and cyclists must pay out of pocket, their commitment can suffer because the gear and travel costs necessary for their sports is a huge expensive for a college student.
The traditional sports such as basketball, football and baseball, however, thrive with big budgets from the University.
To truly live up to the label of a progressive institution, Puget Sound must reconsider its budget and place their faith in non-traditional sports.
The One of a Kind campaign website states: “The Campaign for University of Puget Sound supports our one-of-a-kind, pioneering spirit, making it possible for another generation of Puget Sound graduates to realize their full potential in building the best and brightest future imaginable.”
The One of a Kind campaign can be assumed to share the values of the University.
Thus, if the campaign supports the pioneering spirit of students to recognize their full potential, then supporting the activities they are passionate about is essential.
The Ultimate Frisbee team is a good example of an athletic team that is student-led and independently funded that gets a lot of wins for the University.
They ranked number two in the nation last year after barely losing their last game at National Championships in Madison to Middlebury College.
Each member of the team paid for his own ticket to this tournament, as well as numerous others.
On the other hand, our football team continues to falter, losing so often that the rare win is as much cause for surprise as it is for celebration.
There is something wrong with this picture.
I don’t know the specifics of the football budget or any other NCAA team, but they are large enough to feed, train, equip and transport many athletes.
How much money do they get? Couldn’t they share the love?
The point is not that the money should go to the winners.
Rather, that Puget Sound students should be supported in the pursuit of whichever sport they choose to engage in.
Record aside, the football team deserves to be supported as much as a team up and coming such as the climbing team.
They are both groups of student athletes engaging in competition for the University doing an activity they love.
I assume a lot of the problem has to do with the difference between NCAA and not NCAA teams.
A member of the men’s crew team observed that their team receives significantly lower funding than the women’s NCAA team, even though they are identical sports.
Being in a larger athletic league doesn’t warrant a greater budget for any one team.
Lack of NCAA climbing shouldn’t be a reason that the climbing team can’t receive more school funding.
A sport with a traditional background shouldn’t merit a big budget on incumbency alone.
The passion and commitment of students on our campus speaks louder than past trophies or records.
Sports and clubs like cycling, climbing, Frisbee and beyond are student formed, student organized, and student-led. They represent the core of what it is to be a Puget Sound student, to create and take advantage of opportunities, and to work hard to achieve your goals, especially when they are so closely threaded to your passions.
Organizing every sport, large and small, NCAA or not, under the athletic department would make more sense. This would keep smaller sports clubs to have to fight for a tiny part of the ASUPS budget.
It would also allow a reshuffling of the athletic budget to support every team, not just the traditional ones.