Cal Poly Club Sailing practices at the Morro Bay Yacht Club

After her busy day of classes, biological sciences sophomore Andie Tetzlaff suits up in her one piece and goalie cap for two and a half hours of water polo practice at Anderson pool behind Mott Gym. She and her 39 teammates do this five days a week during winter quarter.

Tournaments are almost every weekend and extend into spring quarter for regionals and — if they win that — nationals. 

Tetzlaff is not a Division 1 NCAA athlete. She’s a member of a club sport. Cal Poly does not have a D1 women’s water polo team, so the club team acts as the highest representation of the sport. 

Cal Poly is home to 21 D1 collegiate sports in which traveling and other accommodations are covered by the university. Most athletes are on some sort of scholarship, from partial to full-ride, for playing at this level. For the 29 collegiate club sports home to the campus, the traveling and commitment looks similar, yet the athletes are expected to fund themselves.

Commitment for club water polo is through the entire academic year, with fall quarter being preseason with one or two practices a week. Tetzlaff jokes that everyone calls the first week of winter quarter “hell week” because of tryouts. 40 women make up the A and B team for the club sport, the only difference being that Team A can be seeded for nationals.

The team practices five days a week from 6:30-9:00 p.m. during winter and attends tournaments multiple weekends throughout the quarter. Their tournaments extend into spring quarter, with their next one being regionals at USC from April 22-23. The winner of this tournament wins the league and is seeded for nationals.

“I always joke that this is a D1 team,” Tetzlaff said. “I was not expecting the commitment when I joined last year and feel like I experienced burnout.” 

Only seven of the club sports are dually represented at the D1 level at Cal Poly. The other 22 are the only representation of the sport at the university, women’s water polo being one of them. 

Before the start of each school year, the Cal Poly Club Sports Council sends in an application to ASI to receive funding for the entire year. For the 2022-2023 school year, Club Sports was awarded $75,000. Around $35,000 goes to supporting staff members, paying student assistants, covering insurance for every athlete and running council meetings.

The remaining $30,000 is then divvied up between the 29 clubs, with teams that practice off-campus that have to pay for that space and larger teams receiving a larger share. In all, each team received between $700-$1200 to cover their expenses for this academic year. 

“A lot of these can spend the money just like that — in one day if they have to,” said Ashley Jones, the coordinator for clubs and organizations. “If they travel over the weekend and have to pay for hotels, that can be gone in one weekend.” 

Jones also acts as the advisor for club sports. Part of this job includes meeting with the club sports representative from each team once a month.Tetzlaff is one of those representatives.

Another club sport that serves as the lone representation for cal poly is the club sailing team.

Sailing is a no-cut sport, with 45 active members who practice multiple times a week at the Morro Bay Yacht Club. The sailing club is fully student-run, relying on student officers to run practices since they do not have a coach. 

Microbiology senior and sailing club president Macy Rowe had never sailed competitively before the first week of her freshman year.

“I was a bit hesitant at first about joining a club sport because I didn’t know what the competitive atmosphere would be like, but I was really pleasantly surprised to see that it’s definitely more of a supportive environment,” Rowe said.

The sailing team competes in an average of 18 regattas a year, with the most during winter quarter. The dues for the sailing team are $100 per quarter and that money goes towards gas to and from practice/regattas as well as regatta entry fees.

Because of the small number of colleges with a sailing team, Rowe says that the community is tight-knit, meaning it’s easy for the team to find housing accommodations by staying with other collegiate sailors. 

Some of the top sailors on Cal Poly’s team traveled to Oahu at the beginning of the quarter to compete in the Rainbow Invite at University of Hawaii. Travel expenses from this trip were not covered by dues. The athletes had to cover a lot of their own expenses. Money from past fundraising was also used.

The sailing team fundraises in a variety of ways: partnering with Blaze Pizza to have some of the profits from one night go to the team, hosting a craft sale with local vendors that give 15% of their proceeds to the team and hosting an annual auction.

The Alumni Friends and Family Regatta raised $2300 for the sailing team last year through combined efforts of a silent auction, attendance checks and donations.

Women’s water polo and women’s club volleyball also host fundraisers throughout the year to cover expenses.  

For women’s club volleyball, their dues are between $800-$1000 a year, with most of the athletes paying their own dues, according to business administration senior Courtney Holl. Holl also plays libero for the gold team (gold is equivalent to A and green is equivalent to B). 

Back in February, the both the gold and green team won their brackets at the Far Westerns Tournament in Sacramento, earning $1000 for the club. 

“We’ve been doing pretty good,” Holl said. 

Members of the team recently hosted a fundraiser in which they taught volleyball to the younger players from the volleyball club their coach also teaches at.

Crowdfund is also utilized by all club sports teams, which basically is a donation page that teams encourage friends and family to use and donate.  

Sometimes fundraising does not mean the financial needs of the club and teams cannot compete in coveted tournaments, like nationals. Last year, the women’s water polo team could not afford to travel to their nationals in Alabama.

“I was pretty upset about it,” Tetzlaff said. “I felt like we had worked hard and earned our spot.” 

The nationals this year will be hosted by UCLA, a much shorter journey for the team if they end up qualifying.

While the commitment to a club sport is demanding time-wise and the lines can start to blur between club and D1, a main difference is that with club sports, success is welcome, not expected. Athletes can get that competitive fix without the pressure of a D1 sport.

“Nobody is getting mad at me if I make a mistake at the end of the day, but at the same time it’s still competitive,” Holl said. 

Once students realize the commitment of a club sport and know how to manage their time, they really thrive.

“I think club sports in general really deserves the light to be shown on us just because it’s such a cool opportunity to be able to practice the sports people love so much in high school or might not have been able to play, like me,” Rowe said.