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Good Sports

Club athletes pursue the sports they love

Karen Martin, president of the women’s ultimate club at UVA. Luca DiCecco

If you’ve recently meandered along Rugby Road past Madison Bowl, you may well have witnessed a group of women chasing a plastic flying saucer around with much the same intensity as the athletes who compete in Scott Stadium on fall Saturdays.

They’re playing Ultimate Frisbee, or simply “ultimate,” a sport that’s gained popularity on college campuses over the last 30 years. As in football or rugby, players advance up the field toward an end zone by completing several passes of the flying disc.

Members of Virginia Women’s Club Ultimate Frisbee are among hundreds of athletes at the University playing on nearly 70 club teams, which exist somewhere between the well-supported world of scholarship varsity sports and the recreational approach of intramural sports. Some take up a sport for the first time in college and seek to pursue it at a competitive level; others aren’t quite ready to give up a sport they have played for years.

“I played varsity sports in high school, but I had no idea what ultimate was until I got here,” says Karen Martin (Com ’08), president of the women’s ultimate club team. “I started playing ultimate on my dorm team my first year and fell in love with the sport. It’s a great way to meet people and stay in shape.”

Playing for the women’s ultimate club team requires a significant time commitment. After holding tryouts in the fall—Martin estimates 50 women originally came out for the team, with 27 remaining on the roster entering the spring season—the women’s ultimate club takes on a year-round schedule that hits its peak as the weather warms in March and April.

“We practice three times a week in the fall and five times a week in the spring, including a track workout. We also have events on the weekends,” Martin explains. While the team travels predominantly up and down the East Coast, it has made treks to Texas and Georgia for more prestigious events.

“It’s definitely a big time commitment, especially with all the group work you have to do in the Commerce School,” Martin says. “I know it’s mentally and physically trying, but I definitely like to stay busy and it’s a great group of girls.”

As president, Martin has added responsibilities to ensure the team maintains its club status with the University, which allows it to apply to Student Council for student activity funds. Martin, who describes her position as a liaison between the club and the school, meets with University officials to discuss funding, practice times, scheduling and budgeting. (The club, like many at the University, receives money-management assistance from the Alumni Association’s UVA Fund.)

Unlike varsity sports, which are fully funded by the University, club sports get some money from student activity fees, but rely most heavily on yearly dues from the players—they were $75 this year—and an occasional pass of the hat when needed.

University support helps pay for hotels and gas when the team hits the road. “If it runs out, the rest comes out of our pockets,” Martin says.

With a vice president to coordinate scheduling, two captains entrusted with player-coach responsibilities and a social chair eager to organize nighttime outings, the women’s ultimate team, like most club sports at Virginia, has a sense of autonomy that its varsity peers cannot match. With that autonomy comes responsibility and accountability, but Martin says that’s just part of living her passion. “We put in a lot of time and don’t get the perks of varsity athletes, like the academic support. That’s why time management is such a big thing with us,” Martin explains. “All of us are academically focused, and school always comes first.”

Something for Everyone

Club sports offered at UVA:

Field hockey
Horseback riding
Ice hockey
Swimming & diving
Table tennis
Ultimate Frisbee
Volleyball (men and women)
Water polo (men and women)
13 dance groups
11 martial arts groups