Physics junior Edward Donohue knew he wanted to join the triathlon team after volunteering at the Wildflower Triathlon his freshman year.
“I felt like a lot of my freshman year was wandering around finding things you can do on campus without really finding my calling, but when I joined the Cal Poly Triathlon team, I think I found it,” he said..
The Cal Poly triathlon team is one of 25 club sports are offered yearly. While some of the teams require tryouts, most of them are open to athletes of any skill level.
“I have been playing four years for Cal Poly rugby, and it’s been the best decision I have made since I’ve been at Cal Poly,” said Zachary Markow, president of the rugby club. “It’s brought me overseas, it’s exposed me to a whole different sport, culture, and the friendships I have made playing rugby are priceless.”
Whether it’s badminton, lacrosse, soccer, ultimate frisbee, field hockey or water polo, each team is student-run and led by club officers. A membership fee is required for each, though the fee varies depending on the team.
“The team environment is great. We’re one big family, we all get along together,” Markow said. “We all strive to pick each other up, and support from your teammates is how you win the game.”
Some of the club sports are more demanding than others, involving multiple practices throughout the week.
“The time commitment is sometimes rough balancing class, practice, training and condition but at the end of the day it’s doable,” Markow said. “It’s doable to succeed in classes and succeed in sports as long as you are willing to put in the work and the time.”
Cal Poly club sports compete against other university club teams across the nation such as UC Santa Barbara, UCLA and Fresno State, having won 18 national championships since 2005.
“We have one of the best club sports programs in the nation. Multiple teams compete at the national level at the highest ranks possible,” Markow said. “The overall club sports program is one of the best things to get involved with at Cal Poly.”
For those looking to stay closer to home, Cal Poly’s Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) offers the chance for students to form their own teams through its intramural sports program. The program allows students to choose from nine different sports and three different divisions ranging from the more competitive Division 1 to the more recreational Division 3.
“Division 1 is like playing on a high school-level varsity team, so it gets pretty intense,” agricultural business senior and intramural sports student manager Olivia Molodanof said. “The second division won’t be as competitive and in the co-recreational divisions you see more laidback and relaxed. We have a third division which only occurs for certain sports and that’s very laidback and recreational, so you get people that have never played the sport before.”
Since the intramural sports program plays its games entirely on campus, the teams formed by the students are playing against each other rather than against teams from other schools.
“People love it. I mean we have over 10,000 participants every year and so it’s a really popular program that people are joining all the time,” Molondalof said. “It’s a way for students to get away from school, meet new people, bond with their friends and escape their everyday routine by playing a sport and having fun.”
The price for each team ranges from $110-160, which is often the main complaint from students, Molondalof said.
“We’ve discussed trying to lower that and budget that a little differently,” Molondalof said. “We’re just trying to make it more student-based because we want people to feel like they’re a part of something.”
Registration occurs on the first Thursday of each quarter through an online process on the ASI website. This upcoming fall registration is on Sept. 24, with staggered registration times depending on the sport.
“We usually hear from freshmen that they wish they would have known about it earlier, and so they’ll join their sophomore year because they didn’t really know how to sign up or what to do,” Molondalof said.
For those who do not have a team to participate with, the program has a free agency process that puts the student on a team based on their schedule and the sport they want to play.
“As of last year, if you wanted to play a sport but didn’t have a team, you would show up to a meeting and we would basically put you on a team,” Molondalof said. “Now it’s similar to how you register for a team, so you would register and pay an individual amount, and then you’ll go to a meeting to meet your team.”
Whether playing against other universities or fellow peers, Cal Poly offers programs for both the up-and-coming athlete and the seasoned professional.
“Get involved and ask around. Most of the leaders of the clubs have their information online, or you can contact the club sports council for contact information,” Markow said. “Also I suggest walking around the club showcase fair; all of the sports will be out there displaying their craft and their players and trying to recruit players. It’s very easy to get involved and I would highly recommend getting involved.”