LEONEL DE VELEZ/THE HOYA The club swimming team advertised for members at Sunday’s Student Activities Fair.
The club swimming team advertised for members at Sunday’s Student Activities Fair.

For an athlete headed to one of Georgetown’s 29 varsity teams, recruitment means visits and calls from coaches and a deal-sealing trip to the Hilltop.

But for the majority of Hoyas who aren’t Division I athletes, club sports are a common option. Unlike varsity sports, club teams are organized by students and are funded through the Center for Student Programs. Instead of competing against other Georgetown students, as intramural teams do, club teams compete against club teams at other schools.

While club teams offer an opportunity for students to keep competing in the sports they played in high school, they involve a vastly different recruiting process than the Blue and Gray’s varsity teams.

The first battle for club sports teams is spreading the word.

“We have a couple of flyers up in the locker rooms at the pool, and that has been pretty successful,” club swimming cofounder Kate Connors (NHS ’15) said. “Facebook is our major tool. That’s probably our best, and we already have 60 people signed up on there. We do use email, but Facebook is the easiest way to spread the word.”

Club swimming, which was founded last year, has been busy establishing itself and is using this year’s recruitment to grow its membership. But recruitment methods aren’t particularly different for Georgetown’s club triathlon group, which was founded in 2005.

“We have people join in the fall and people join in the winter, around January,” Caroline Stout (COL ’13), the women’s captain for the triathalon team, said. “We flyer, and we get a lot of people that way. And then we have a lot of people who come through word of mouth.”

In fact, word of mouth seems to be among the most common ways that club teams find their members in the first place.

Nick Santaniello (COL ’16) signed up for club swimming at Sunday’s Student Activities Fair, where many of Georgetown’s club sports were out in force, searching for new members.

“I heard from Kate, who was one of the people who started it,” he said. “She knows me from home, knows that I’m a swimmer and … told me to sign up.”

The Student Activities Fair also helps to shed light on some sports that incoming — or even returning — students might not have heard of before, including the triathlon team.

“We’ve gotten a lot of freshmen, obviously, and there have been a solid number of sophomores, juniors and seniors that we’ve gotten to sign up, too,” Stout said. “It’s been a pretty good scene.”

And although freshmen make up the bulk of club sports teams’ new members, some students join during their sophomore or junior years after hearing more about them from friends. Kelly Thomas (SFS ’15) made her foray into club sports by joining the women’s rugby team at the beginning of the semester.

“I’d never played a contact sport. I did debate, and that doesn’t count,” Thomas said. “One of the girls was a friend on my floor last year, and she told me about it.”

And while getting athletes to the Hilltop is the most important step for Georgetown’s intercollegiate teams, getting a student signed up is just the beginning for club sports.

According to Stout, the triathalon team invites interested students to an information session, after which they are given a month-long trial period to determine whether they’re serious about joining the team.

For club swimming, the approach is similar, consisting of a meeting and then practice sessions so prospective members can determine if the team is a commitment they can manage.

“We have a meeting to tell kids more about it and then an initial practice to see where everyone is,” Connors said. “I have a feeling some kids will drop and some kids will feel they aren’t really ready for it.”

Club teams must also tackle the thorny question of whether to cut some prospective members or remain open to anyone who shows dedication.

“It’s going to be tricky. We’re shooting for around 30 dedicated kids,” Connors said. “In terms of going to away meets, we can only bring a certain number of kids.”

But the triathlon team, which has about 30 active members, doesn’t make cuts.

“We don’t cut people, so it’s open to anyone who is willing to make the commitment,” Stout said. “Triathlon is a pretty self-selecting group anyway, so we usually get a good-sized number of people, and the club has been growing a lot.”

Thomas has found that rugby practice and conditioning have bolstered her comfort level and helped her find her place on the squad. When the team plays its first game next week, Thomas expects to make it out onto the field.

“We’ll rotate out, [especially] because some players are hurt right now, and we’ll fill in for them,” Thomas said. “Even though I am a rookie, I’ve already been calling plays in practice.”

Although they have to go through a different recruiting process, club athletes are happy with the niche they get to fill.

“I wanted to keep swimming, but nothing too serious,” Santaniello said. “I think club is the perfect level for that.”

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