What are the Differences Between College Club and Varsity Sailing Teams? by Jen Mitchell, Airwaves Writer
One of the questions that arise when you start looking at college sailing teams is what is the difference between a club team and a varsity team? I come from a varsity sailing program and I learned the difference when I was looking at sailing in college, however I recently gained more insight on club sailing, from the coaches of the University of Minnesota Sailing Team. Here is what I know.
A varsity sailing team is one that is funded by the school. Some teams have an endowment and/or other financial support from generous alumni donations. They can benefit from the use of school facilities and transportation. Often varsity teams have a sailing venue that is either on campus, or quite close. They have a full-time head coach hired by the school and typically a second full-time coach. The coaches handle the politics, logistics, and paperwork that the school requires and the governing bodies of college sailing require. This allows the sailors to spend much more time on the water focusing on sailing.
A varsity team holds try-outs at the beginning of each year and not all students will make the team. Due to this exclusion, sailors on the team are required to attend all practices, which is different for club teams. Sailing, as a varsity sport, is what people are most familiar with when it comes to school athletics; it is like any other varsity athletic team on a college campus.
A club sailing team is one that is not fully funded by the school and is most often student run. A club team may or may not have a coach that is either full or part-time. All of the logistical and financial matters need to be handled by the student sailors. The students do most of the recruiting and fundraising. The students are responsible for making their team function. A club team does not typically hold try-outs and will welcome anybody who is interested in joining. Due to this flexible arrangement students may not be required to show up for every practice if they have other commitments, but the result of this could be they will lose a spot sailing in a regatta if they are not practicing as much as other sailors in the club.
I sat down with Cappy Capper and Dave Elsmo, coaches for the University of Minnesota, and they spoke with me about coaching a club sailing team. They explained that they have a contract with the team and their role is to run practice, handle the team roster, and assign sailors to regattas. This way they are able to relieve the students of the stresses of making decisions about their peers. In exchange the team is able to pay them a salary for each semester out of their small club budget allotted by the University.
Because this sailing team is a school club they are required to follow the school’s club guidelines, which includes having five officers who manage the team, such as a commodore (president), vice-commodore, treasurer, etc. The experience of running a club team as a sailor, Cappy explains, is that you are “developing skills you will use the rest of your life…you learn crisis management. It’s a journey you are taking in the sport.” The thought here is that there is a long term pay off, that not only are you taking away sailing skills, but also life lessons in running a small business.
Dave, who sailed for the University of Minnesota as a student, and who now coaches the team with Cappy responds: “yes, I enjoyed sailing for the University, it was a balance of fun, education, and being in charge.” Dave was the commodore of the team and in his first week he took responsibility of the whole team as Cappy had a ski accident that kept him hospitalized for some time. For Dave, being a commodore also counted for three credits at the University, which shows the amount of work required to keep the club functioning.
Cappy’s official title is the Executive Director of the Wayzata Community Sailing Center and Dave is the Director of Programming, the two are able to use this Sailing Center as the venue for the University and pool the resources of both the University and the Sailing Center. They are fortunate to have this situation and they said that they are the only club team in their district (the Midwest), which has full-time coaches.
Varsity and Club differ most in what the responsibilities are of the sailors and what kind of opportunities are available. A varsity team provides more funding, more coaching, and more regattas. This means that varsity teams can travel and attend more regattas each weekend in and outside of their district. Varsity teams are able to interact with prospective students and recruit off campus with more ease, while a club team relies heavily on its sailors to build the team within the school’s student body. A club team may not have the money to travel to regattas and leave their district, so they will not attend as many events, or the students will have to use their own resources to travel. However, travelling less does not mean the team is not able to go to Nationals or big events; they just have to work a little harder to get there. There is no right or wrong when looking at the two types of teams, especially because each school’s team carries with it a different atmosphere, it is more about what school best suits you.
The most important aspect of sailing in college is that disregarding the type of team you are on, you are guaranteed to make great friends and have a lot of fun sailing!