March 25, 2023 7:36 am

When Olivia Bourque became president of the club women’s basketball group at the University of Maine, she was staring down a extended to-do list.

There was a group to develop, a schedule to make, practices to hold. But in contrast to NCAA-level teams, she had tiny employees assistance — it was mainly her team’s duty.

Club sports are increasingly well known at Maine colleges. They match amongst the NCAA-level teams and the far much less formal intramural teams. They get some economic enable from their schools, but a lot of the operate falls to the students themselves.

Women’s club basketball is new at the University of Maine in Orono, which has 28 club teams. The group spent the 2021-22 college year recruiting players, practicing and scrimmaging just before joining the National Club Basketball Association for this season. 

Maine has 19 players, with 15 permitted by league guidelines to suit up for a game. 

Bourque has her hands complete as club president. “I wasn’t confident if I could manage it at 1st, but then speedily discovered it requires a village and the group was a lot more than prepared to enable out exactly where they could,” she mentioned.

There is one particular notable distinction amongst club and intramural sports. Each are student-led, but club teams mainly compete against other schools and are a lot more formal and competitive, aligning closer to varsity college teams. 

Asked about the most significant challenge of beginning a club sport from scratch, Bourque was blunt: anything. 

“We didn’t know exactly where to commence. When we did this there have been various meetings about the do’s and don’ts, fundraising, other club sports (operations), volunteering, student government, dollars, traveling — this was the most overwhelming time of beginning the club.” 

That does not even include things like the time commitment. 

“You have to devote so a lot of your time to organizing events, basketball games, volunteering and fundraising,” mentioned Bourque. More than the previous couple of months, she has improved perfected the balancing act of time commitment and, as she describes, mixing severe competitors with the entertaining of club sports. 

“At the finish of the day it is a club group and every person is there to have entertaining, make pals and play basketball.” 

An hour away at Colby College in Waterville, Jackie Ko is president of the women’s club rugby group, overseeing 35 regulars, with 25 permitted on a game-day roster. Sixteen of her players are freshmen, an uncommon — but welcome — bump in newcomers.

Handful of players had any rugby expertise and some had no athletic expertise at all just before joining the group — one particular of the 27 club teams at Colby. A handful had participated in sports such as basketball, hockey, soccer or track, and other people have been on competitive dance teams. 

“Rugby is such a one of a kind sport in that there is no accurate blueprint for good results. No matter your background or expertise, you can understand the sport and contribute to the group,” Ko mentioned. 

Members of Colby’s club women’s rugby group pose for a photo at a playoff match. Photo courtesy Jackie Ko.

The administrative operate is, likewise, Ko’s main challenge, even though rugby has been presented at Colby for years, 1st as a varsity sport, then as a club sport in current years. 

She and her vice president operate alongside the college’s athletic division on budgeting and match logistics (travel, lodging and meals for road games, settling on a commence time, and guaranteeing referees will be on hand for dwelling games), with the occasion and facility departments to coordinate space for group meetings and matches, and with league and college officials to make sure all the essential paperwork is submitted. 

“All in all, it can be hard to keep on prime of administrative tasks though also playing rugby and getting a student,” mentioned Ko.

Most of the fundraising to cover Colby’s $30,000 operational spending budget for the fall and spring rugby seasons comes by way of the Close friends of Colby Rugby group, comprised largely of former players. The college delivers a complete-time athletic trainer, leaving travel and gear expenditures to fundraising by the group. 

Soon after a $two,500 contribution from its university to cover jerseys and basketballs, the UMaine group will have to fundraise $500 in the offseason — even though it normally nets $600 to $800 — to cover travel. 

Busy, but favorable, schedules 

In the course of the season, UMaine holds biweekly practices for two hours and sets aside an hour each Wednesday to volunteer with a neighborhood elementary college basketball plan. Weekends include a doubleheader series, at dwelling or at Massachusetts opponents. 

For Colby rugby, the in-season schedule consists of 4 or 5 practices weekly, based on the climate, and consists of Monday film study sessions to overview how the group can boost off its newest weekend match. 

Road games make for extended days. The closest road game for Colby final fall was one particular hour to Bowdoin College in Brunswick. Its farthest was a 5-hour jaunt to Middlebury College in Vermont, with other road games 2½ hours to Endicott College in Massachusetts and 3½ hours to Bryant University in Rhode Island.

The group left the afternoon or evening just before road games, in rental vans this season for the reason that the trips have been as well far for its regular carpooling. Because a lot of the roster hails from about New England, players stayed with their teammates’ relatives, except for their 1st two-day playoff expertise, when they stayed in a hotel. 

The UMaine group, meanwhile, normally departs Orono about 7 a.m. on game days for the doubleheader just before returning that evening. Every of its 3 road trips this season have been roughly 4 hours, to Massachusetts. Sometimes the group adds a group-bonding element just after a doubleheader. 

Rugby’s offseason permits for about 4 to six weeks of recovery from the fall season just before strength and conditioning begins for the spring. Captains hold practices early in the year till spring practices with coaches are in a position to commence outdoors. 

“Because rugby is so physically demanding, the bonds that type amongst our group are extremely sturdy,” mentioned Ko. “I assume that rugby delivers the atmosphere to develop our self-confidence, and create physical and mental strength that we will have for the rest of our lives.”

The UMaine group offseason is balanced amongst practices, fundraising and neighborhood service, which includes applications for kindergarten and 1st-graders, and with the neighborhood YMCA. 

So with all the administrative operate — from fundraising to logistical — why step up?

“I wanted to do a lot more for this group that continues to do so a lot for me, which is why I chose to play a portion in major the group,” mentioned Ko. 

For Bourque, her most significant worry was not getting a sturdy turnout or assistance. 

“They could have effortlessly mentioned it was chaotic and as well hard to retain up with, but I got really fortunate to have these girls,” mentioned Bourque. “They have had my back from the commence. They are the cause the difficult moments weren’t all that undesirable and created it worth it.”

Which is what tends to make the chaos manageable. 

“There is a sense of pride in saying, ‘I am the president of the women’s rugby group at Colby,’ ” Ko mentioned. “I wanted to make other people really feel as inspired and connected to the group as I do.”


George Harvey is the multimedia editor for The Maine Monitor. Attain him by e mail: 

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