Activities Fee reshapes the club sports landscape

Fifty dollars.

It won’t make much of dent in Yale’s finances. But multiply that sum ­— the amount of the Student Activities Fee — by a few thousand, and suddenly club sports can feel the impact. The optional fee, implemented two years ago, has dramatically altered the way non-varsity athletes organize and compete.

The funds have largely been divided amongst three groups on campus — the Yale Student Activities Committee, the Committee for Campus-Wide Activities, and the Club Sports Advisory Board. Regina Goldman ’08, chairman of the CSAB and captain of the women’s water polo team, said because the funds have facilitated improvements in the number and quality of their endeavors, the fee has dramatically helped the club sports program expand at Yale.

Before the fee was implemented, funds were extremely limited and the teams almost exclusively depended on their own wallets and fundraising for equipment, travel, and other necessities needed for a successful club sports season, Yale’s Director of Club Sports Tom Migdalski said. With the help of the fee, he said, the CSAB — which is comprised of nine club sports players — has been able to give teams triple the amount of money given to them prior to the 2005-’06 academic year.

“The Student Activities Fee has had a major impact on club sports here at Yale,” he said. “The money has made funding for a club sport much easier to come by.”

Melissa Campos ’08 said club sports are very different than sports at the varsity level in that nearly everything needs to done by the members themselves — player dues must be paid, schedules set, and trips coordinated. Before the creation of the SAF, club members put a significant amount of their time into fundraising activities, she said.

With the SAF, more equipment has been purchased, more teams have been able to travel to different events including national tournaments, and the clubs have evolved, Goldman said. The SAF helps out tremendously in those regards, but it does not contribute towards paying for coaches and some other facets of putting together a sports team, Laura Chandhok ’08, captain of women’s club soccer and a member of the CSAB, said.

“The activities fee has been great because it has brought in funds that we would have had to come up with ourselves otherwise,” she said. “It has given us a good portion of what we need, which is great compared to what club sports got from Yale before the installment of the fee.”

The CSAB decides which club teams receive money raised from the SAF. Each club submits an application for funding explaining its financial and travel plans, and funding is then allocated to the various clubs based on the CSAB’s determination of their needs.

“We [the CSAB] make our best effort so all clubs are best represented through the application and are given a proper portion of our funds,” Goldman said.

The SAF brought in $40,000 for the 2006-’07 academic year, Goldman said. The Yale Athletics Department also gave an extra $15,000 to the club sports program in the same year. In addition to funds from the CSAB, a few sports such as the men’s rugby team receive funding from alumni.

“Alumni support is significant in what we can do like going on tour and other events,” Andy Detty ‘09, a member of the men’s rugby team said

Migdalski said this year over 900 students are participating in the 45 club sports offered on campus, a notable increase from the 38 offered prior to the implementation of the fee. The 45 sports range from mainstream sports like baseball and basketball to niche sports such as polo, ballroom dance and archery.

Club sports give both beginners and players with prior experience the opportunity to participate below the varsity level. Several students said the club level appeals to those who don’t have the Division I talent or the time to commit to a Division I schedule and also draws those who are looking for more competition and commitment than they can find through intramurals.

“A large portion of the student body looks to club sports for a means of satisfying their competitiveness and just to have a good time,” Chandhok said.

Some of Yale’s peer institutions, such as Princeton University and Harvard University, charge optional fees that are higher than Yale’s SAF. Dartmouth has a mandatory fee of $71 per semester. Jake Conway ’11 said the amount at Yale seems very reasonable.

“Even though I haven’t yet participated in club sports, I think it’s great that the fee was implemented,” he said. “Student activities are essential to college life.”

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