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

There was a group to construct, a schedule to make, practices to hold. But as opposed to NCAA-level teams, she had small employees assistance — it was mainly her team’s duty.

Club sports are increasingly well known at Maine colleges. They match involving the NCAA-level teams and the far significantly less formal intramural teams. They get some monetary enable from their schools, but considerably of the perform 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 certain if I could deal with it at initially, but then speedily discovered it requires a village and the group was additional than prepared to enable out exactly where they could,” she mentioned.

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

Asked about the greatest challenge of beginning a club sport from scratch, Bourque was blunt: every little thing. 

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

That does not even involve the time commitment. 

“You have to devote so considerably of your time to preparing events, basketball games, volunteering and fundraising,” mentioned Bourque. More than the previous handful of months, she has superior perfected the balancing act of time commitment and, as she describes, mixing really serious competitors with the exciting of club sports. 

“At the finish of the day it is a club group and every person is there to have exciting, make close friends 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 knowledge and some had no athletic knowledge 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 individuals had been on competitive dance teams. 

“Rugby is such a special sport in that there is no accurate blueprint for accomplishment. No matter your background or knowledge, 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 perform is, likewise, Ko’s principal challenge, although rugby has been supplied at Colby for years, initially as a varsity sport, then as a club sport in current years. 

She and her vice president perform alongside the college’s athletic division on budgeting and match logistics (travel, lodging and meals for road games, settling on a begin time, and making sure referees will be on hand for house 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 difficult to remain on leading of administrative tasks although 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 Good 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. 

Just after a $two,500 contribution from its university to cover jerseys and basketballs, the UMaine group need to fundraise $500 in the offseason — although it normally nets $600 to $800 — to cover travel. 

Busy, but favorable, schedules 

Throughout the season, UMaine holds biweekly practices for two hours and sets aside an hour each and every Wednesday to volunteer with a neighborhood elementary college basketball system. Weekends include a doubleheader series, at house 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 evaluation how the group can enhance off its most recent weekend match. 

Road games make for lengthy 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 simply because the trips had been as well far for its standard carpooling. Given that considerably of the roster hails from about New England, players stayed with their teammates’ relatives, except for their initially two-day playoff knowledge, 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 had 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 involving our group are extremely sturdy,” mentioned Ko. “I believe that rugby delivers the atmosphere to develop our self-assurance, and create physical and mental strength that we will have for the rest of our lives.”

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

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

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

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

“They could have very easily mentioned it was chaotic and as well complicated to retain up with, but I got particularly fortunate to have these girls,” mentioned Bourque. “They have had my back from the begin. They are the explanation the difficult moments weren’t all that negative and produced 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 individuals 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: george@themainemonitor.org. 

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