Club Sports Debate Priorities

By J. Harvard Feldhouse

Anxiety and frustration continue to mount as several club sports will begin another coachless semester.

These non-varsity teams strive to train at the varsity level and see coaches as a key to achieving their vision, but unlike varsity, club sports players must do much of the behind-the-scenes and administrative work themselves, including hiring and paying for coaches.

For the sake of safety, women’s rugby, ice hockey, men and women’s lacrosse and soccer teams are required to have a coach.

Youngstown State University will pay a $1,000 yearly stipend to each of the five clubs’ coaches. However, Ricky Koewacich, a senior mechanical engineering major and men’s lacrosse president, said he believes $1,000 is not enough.

“It’s money, time and the lack thereof,” Koewacich said. “When you’re only offering $1,000 a year, it’s really difficult to find someone who’s going to dedicate the time.”

If a club sports team wants more funding to pay for its coach, it must apply for funding through the Student Government Association, an experience Koewacich describes as, “A long, aggravating process that gets messy at times.”

Patrick Bonnette, a more experienced fencer in Fencing Club, coaches less experienced fencers.

Koewacich also cites lacrosse’s foreignness in the Youngstown area as a hindrance when looking at coaching options. In fact, most club sports, such as the equestrian team, ultimate frisbee and fencing, are relatively unfamiliar to the Mahoning Valley.

The fencing club has been actively searching for a coach, but have been unable to find one, according to Brianna Owoc, the team’s secretary and a sophomore early childhood education major, and Patrick Bonnette, treasurer and junior accounting major.

“There are not a lot of coaches in the near area,” Bonnette said. “The best coaches are typically people who already own a club.”

These professional clubs tend to be in bigger cities, such as Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Owoc and Bonnette said they found a coached fencing program, but the fencing club would have to travel to the coaches every time, coaches would vary and the club would have to pay a lot of money.

“We do have a few experienced people in our club, and we teach people what we know from other people,” Owoc said. “We need a professional who knows what they’re doing and how to help us improve.”

Joy Polkaba Byers, director of Campus Recreation and Intramural Sports, is aware of the students’ concerns regarding funding and finding coaches, but she challenges the clubs to take more initiative.

“Some coaches do it strictly because they love the sport,” Byers said. “Then, there are others that want to be paid, and if we’re not able to do that, what can the clubs do to fundraise or charge dues to accommodate that?”

She encourages the clubs to join a larger governing body for their sport to gain access to more resources that could help them find a coach, and she wants the students to consider what the Club Sports Office’s priorities are.

“Are the coaches what we need, or is the funding to be able to send the students to travel? Is the funding for equipment? Is the funding to look more at risk management and things that we need to provide safety to our clubs,” Byers asks. “If I had a choice in the funding, I’m always going to look at risk management and safety of our players, and then move along the line in priorities for what our clubs need.”

Compromises between club sports and the club sports administration continue to be made. For now, club sports will keep searching for coaches with their existing resources, and club sports administration is also working with YSU to gain more funding and grow the program.