BY KARI FOSSUM ’20
Spanning six sports, Mount Holyoke’s club athletics have a definite presence on campus. Club-level teams include the dressage and western riding teams, ice hockey, fencing, rugby and ultimate frisbee. Each team competes regionally, often against the same schools that Mount Holyoke varsity athletics competes against, but club sports differ from varsity and NCAA athletics in several ways.
One of the most controversial differences is that varsity athletes receive PE credits while club athletes do not. Supporters of this discrepancy argue that, due to the intensity of varsity practices, workouts and competition schedule, that is why varsity athletes receive credit.
Although the schedules of most Mount Holyoke College club athletics teams are not as rigid as those of their varsity counterparts, they still maintain busy schedules with little respite until the weekend. Practices for each team follow regular schedules, comparable to those of varsity sports. While team workouts are not usually mandatory, they are encouraged by coaches and captains and add to the busy schedule of any student athlete. Depending on the seasonality of a sport, weekends are occupied by travel and competition across the northeast. Even home games and competitions can be time consuming.
“Between set-up, tear-down, and actually competing at home shows, there really isn’t any time left over during those weeks,” said Abby Dombrowski ’21, of the dressage team. “While I personally am enrolled in a PE riding class and value that extra time in the saddle, I think that club athletes being given the option of PE credit would make the semester much lower-stress for many of us.”
Rugby player Marth Kent ’21 echoed this sentiment. “The varsity teams should definitely have some unique privileges of their own, but we work and practice plenty, too. Being able to get PE credits for my participation on the Rugby team would make it even more worthwhile.”
Mount Holyoke’s club athletics have seen steadily increasing participation over the past few years. Some athletes think that providing PE credits would draw even more people to join club rosters. “I know many people who are interested in club sports, but find it difficult to incorporate an athletic endeavor with no opportunity for credit and a gym class into their schedules,” said western riding team member Sarah Adler ’21. “Making club sports for-credit would make them more accessible to a greater number of people, and growth is great for any team, no matter the sport.”
PE instructor Kelli Wainscott added, “As the IHSA western team coach, I feel that it is imperative that students earn PE credits for being a member of a riding team. Our riders are held to the same physical standards as varsity team athletes and the amount of physical activity that riding and taking care of a horse entails is certainly worthy of recognition in the category of physical education. These riders are strong and not only ride regularly but work out regularly as well. They have to be able to compete in temperatures that sometimes reach below freezing, and in order to do that you have to be fit and physically capable of completing that task.”
Debra Basili who is the coach of the fencing club also agrees. “In my opinion,” she said, “there is no difference between a club sport member and a varsity athlete when it comes to the dedication needed for fencers to prepare and participate.”