Senior Anne Bowlus always loved to sail.
When she was making her college decision four years ago, she was recruited to sail at the varsity level at several other schools. Eventually, however, she fell in love with Duke, which has no varsity sailing program.
She didn't want to give up her love for sport, so like 1,600 other students annually, she decided to participate in club sports when she arrived at Duke. She discovered the club sailing team, and now three years later as the current president of the club sports governing body, she finds her choice both relaxing and challenging.
"I really liked what club sports had to offer because it was competitive. It wasn't [intramural athletics], and it wasn't varsity," Bowlus said.
Club sports began at Duke in the 1930s with synchronized swimming, and last spring the University added the latest sport, women's basketball. Duke's Division 1 varsity sports largely overshadow the student-run organizations, but the University currently offers 38 club sports, among them tae kwon do, shooting, skiing and ballroom dancing.
Jared Newman, a junior on the club baseball team, said he likes the flexibility of club sports. Like Bowlus, he was recruited to play varsity at other schools, but Duke is where he wanted to go. "You can make club sports a big commitment, or just do it for fun," he said.
Senior Kelly Eagen, treasurer of club sports, agreed. "You can make what you want out of it." As president of the club waterskiing team, she says they have members of all skill levels and that anyone is welcome to join.
Men's ultimate frisbee also takes in any person who wishes to play. The team practices three times a week and often conditions together. What Ulitmate Frisbee Club President Bhavin Parikh enjoyed, aside from the ability to get involved in something he liked in high school, were the strong friendships that had developed from playing a club sport.
"The team's really tight-knit. We hang out outside of frisbee a lot," he said.
Other clubs have gotten started simply because a group of friends had an interest. Michera Brooks, a junior, said she was surprised when she came to Duke that there was no women's club basketball team. When a friend asked her last year if she'd be willing to play on such a team, they held tryouts and began practicing. In their first real season this fall, the girls will be playing teams from schools like the University of Pennsylvania, Loyola University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The level of play varies within the different sports. Some don't hold tryouts and run on a mainly for-fun basis, and others are quite competitive. The men's club volleyball team takes three trips a year to places like Arizona, Texas and Michigan. They also practice twice a week and often play locally, mainly against club teams but varsity as well, noted senior Dave Kolstein.
Although the organization is student-run, administrator Michael Forbes, director of intramural and club sports, runs the day-to-day events of the program and deals with budgets, guidelines and procedures. The equipment for all club sports is funded by the University, but Duke Student Government also gives an allocation to the groups and all club sports members pay dues. The Club Sports Office also provides grants for teams if they want to go to a national competition.
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The Dancing Devils is one of the teams that competes nationally. As the only dance team at Duke that performs for varsity football and basketball, the girls take their job seriously. President Jessica Ward, a sophomore, believes they spend as much time and effort as a varsity team would.
"I wish there was a way we could make the dance team a varsity sport," she said. "I would like us to be able to get more recognition."
The lack of publicity for club sports was something that many participants expressed a wish to change. The Club Sports Office holds a club sports fair--last Friday and this Wednesday--publishes a newsletter and maintains a website, www.duke.edu/web/intramural.