Two weeks before Yale secured a national championship in men’s squash and a share of the Ivy League title in men’s hockey, another less-known Eli team fought its way to a championship win.
A 5–4 win over Fordham gave the Yale club men’s hockey team a championship in the Metropolitan Collegiate Hockey Conference, following months of practice and competition.
With nearly 50 teams, Yale’s club sports program is one of the biggest in the country in terms of both participation numbers and variety of sports offered, Director of Club Sports Tom Migdalski said. Teams vary in their competitiveness and size, but all club athletes interviewed highlighted the program’s large role in their daily lives and a positive experience playing for their team.
Still, members from many of the larger teams called for additional support from the University to run their programs. Teams did not disclose figures for their annual budgets, but members interviewed from 16 of 17 teams said the funding they receive from the University is not sufficient to cover all of their team’s expenses. Most teams supplement their University grants with fundraisers, member dues or alumni donations.
“We fundraise and pay for a considerable portion of our budget,” Yale club skiing captain Dustin Vesey ’17 said. “I know from participating in divisionwide meetings that we are the only team in our division not fully funded by our school. A few schools even have coaches, which we cannot imagine having the money to pay for.”
Vesey added that when talking at meetings with representatives of other schools who participate in the U.S. Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association, he found that the Yale club skiing team seemed to be the only one that worried about “financial issues.”
The club skiing team is one of multiple Yale programs that requires members to pay dues in order to participate in the sport. The club baseball team, for example, gets most of its budget from the University — covering the team’s league fee, equipment and travel expenses — but each member must also pay $100 in yearly dues, captain Noah Asimow ’17 said.
The membership fee for the club gymnastics team is $350 annually. Team co-president Alden D’Souza ’18 said that although the University gives club gymnastics a “fair” amount of funding, members must pay the membership fee and raise funds due to the high cost of the sport.
The club men’s basketball team’s budget is about half University funding and half member dues, co-captain Thomas Aviles ’16 said. He added that the level of funding the team gets has historically been a barrier for members.
“I know the club team at Harvard, in this year alone, joined a league with a fairly steep entry fee, [competed in] the same regional tournament we played in with yet another noteworthy entry fee for one weekend of basketball and flew their whole team to Miami for a similar regional tournament,” Aviles said. “Had we attempted to do all of those things, we would have exhausted all our funding even before factoring in rental car costs to travel to league games, any lodging that would have been necessary, fees for referees or uniforms.”
Still, Aviles said he did not know the details of Harvard’s funding, including how much of the team’s funds come from member dues.
Member dues can be a barrier to increasing diversity in teams. According to club cycling men’s captain Michael Grome GRD ’19, many students cannot race in cycling simply because of the financial burdens of the sport. Each student in the team contributes $45 to $250 annually to cover events, and must also pay for his or her own clothing, bicycle, bicycle maintenance and insurance.
“Club fees can prevent a lot of students from getting into some of the more costly sports,” D’Souza said. “This can be a pretty large issue for more costly sports as you wouldn’t get enough members and many of the people who want to be a part of those clubs simply can’t. If there was a way to have financial aid for these sports, for students who can’t pay, I think that would really improve the climate and the diversity within our clubs.”
Club cricket president Shantanu Gangwar ’16 added that some of the financial issues have been caused by a large increase in the number of club teams over recent years, which he said has not been accompanied by an equal growth in total funding.
The addition of two new residential colleges in the fall of 2017, and the ultimate addition of 800 undergraduate students could spread the funding even thinner. However, Migdalski said the University is “very much aware” of the incoming expansion of the student population and the additional recreation needs it will bring. The fact is currently being taken into account in the University’s and athletic department’s planning, he said.
“[Migdalski’s office] has done a lot for the club in recent years,” Gangwar said. “But I have to say that some of our competitor teams at other colleges receive more support from their respective universities, and in that regard there is more that can be done.”
Although large-scale funding for their teams can cause significant stress, a majority of club athletes interviewed were satisfied with other, less costly types of support they receive from Yale athletics.
Gangwar said the office helped the club cricket team secure a field on the intramural fields last year, so that the team could start hosting home games.
“[Associate Athletic Director of Payne Whitney Gymnasium Anthony Diaz] helped with the team tremendously, allowing us to use Yale Field for a game and getting us a coach bus for the league championship, which we played in for the first time ever,” Asimow said. “[Diaz] also reached out to the coach of the Yale varsity [baseball] team, who in turn gave us some old gear.”
Still, Asimow said, the team still struggles to find transportation to games and practice fields. He added that the team’s success is due largely to the involvement and dedication of its players, rather than support from administrators.
Members of other teams cited similar experiences, and said active student contributions to a club program is essential to keeping their teams on track.
“I think the support we get from the University is limited in a lot of ways,” student-coach and captain of club water polo Calvin Rhodes ’17 said. “We are provided funding and facilities, but the rest is pretty much on us — along with my fellow captains, I’ve had to plan and design all our practices, book travel and organize tournaments.”
The student-run Yale College Council also plays a role in Yale’s club sports program. This year’s YCC budget included $55,867.50 — nearly 15 percent of funds raised from the student activities fee — going toward grants that individual club teams apply for.
Co-captain of club wrestling Matthew Chavez ’16 said the team’s performance depends on having committed leaders in club wrestling, who have responsibilities such as reserving rooms and organizing events.
Migdalski recognized that club sports are largely student-run and said this a key element of Yale’s program.
“The biggest benefits of club sports are that they are non-regimented, flexible and student-organized and run,” Migdalski said. “Unlike varsity sports, club sports athletes receive the learning experience of how to manage a team, fundraise, plan and conduct practices, format match schedules, coordinate travel and work within a budget.”
He added that the skills students learn from running a club sports team are skills and values that can be applied to students’ future endeavors.
Senior Associate Athletic Director Duke Diaz agreed, and said this “student-directed philosophy” is the key to the club sports experience.
“If I was not as involved with club baseball as I am, it probably would not exist,” Asimow said. “Yet I guarantee, if you ask the people who play, it is one of the most valuable things they have done at this school.”