Task Force Discusses Changes to Club Sports
Issue   |   Wed, 09/23/2015 - 03:05

A task force will begin meeting this semester to discuss changes to club sports and club sports’ relationship with the Athletic Department. Representatives from the Association of Amherst Students, Athletic Department and various club sports will begin meeting as early as the beginning of October.

The group plans to discuss the increasing demand for field space, facilities, funding, medical resources and transportation for Amherst’s growing club sports program.

“Club sports have sort of been functioning outside of the Athletic Department, or at least on the periphery of the Athletic Department at this point,” said AAS Vice President Will Jackson ’18. “But the hope is to have the Athletic Department a little bit more involved.”

According to Don Faulstick, director of athletics, the department is working on offering more Athletic Department resources, such as specialized medical care, to the growing number of non-varsity athletes.

“I’ve seen the change and the growth in what club sports actually are, and the value they create on campus,” said Faulstick, who served as the director of club sports for 12 years prior to taking on his current role as director of athletics. “The AAS is doing a lot of stuff, so I said, ‘Is there any way athletics can help?’”

One of Faulstick’s concerns is the creation of field space and facilities specifically for club sports, since current facilities have to be shared between varsity and club sports.

“I know the college has other priorities, but I think one of the issues is that we’re running out of space,” Faulstick said. “Our recreational space isn’t great, and it would be great to look into that.”

Club sports are currently under the purview of both the AAS and the Athletic Department in what Faulstick calls a “hybrid model.” Because club sports are official student-run clubs, they are funded by and organized through the AAS. Due to the clubs’ athletic nature, the Athletic Department is responsible for the allocation of field space, equipment, medical care and insurance.

“While I think it’s traditional that either student affairs or athletics is involved, I’m still not quite sure what the best is for Amherst,” Faulstick said. “Just because other schools have a way to do it doesn’t mean it’s best for us. If what we’re doing works best for our students, then there’s really no need to switch.”

Faulstick said that the burden of club sports on the AAS has grown, and that the Athletic Department is trying to help more with the management of club sports.

“If there are ways that athletics can take some of the burden off of AAS, with hiring coaches, helping them with the budget, or allocating funds, I’m up to partnering with them in any way that either AAS or the clubs think that we should,” Faulstick said.

The AAS and the Athletic Department are currently addressing immediate issues such as resource allocation.
However, in the long term, the AAS is considering more significant changes in the management of club sports.

“An eventual goal is to have all the club sports under the Athletic Department, so that the AAS doesn’t have to pay for the club sports anymore,” Jackson said. “But before we do that, we want to make sure that the club sports are getting the resources that they need, and that they’re not taken over by the Athletic Department in a way that they don’t want to be.”

Currently, funding for club sports comprises a significant percentage of the AAS budget. Jackson said that if club sports were shifted to the Athletic Department, then money for other student-run clubs could be more readily available.

The task force will also use meetings to directly establish communication and cooperation between club sports and the Athletic Department.

Over the past year, Faulstick and AAS President Tomi Williams ’16 have also met to talk about club sports teams and their relationship with the AAS and the Athletic Department.

Both Jackson and Faulstick cited increased communication and better handling of club sports as a potential benefit of the creation of this task force, but described mistrust between the two groups as a potential difficulty.

“The athletic program has tremendous resources, and they seem like they’re going to try to be helpful in incorporating club sports,” said Jackson, who is also involved in men’s club soccer. “But people are still a little skeptical because relationships of some teams haven’t been great with the athletic department in the past.”

“I can see them being apprehensive of why athletics wants to be in this role,” Faulstick said. “Getting their trust … will open a lot of communications. We’re just trying to be helpful.”