The battle to practice and compete
The men’s rugby team runs their club like a varsity sport, but somehow they still don’t have a permanent place to practice.
These days, the entirety of Walker Field is covered with a layer of thin ice and hard-packed snow. When the field is lacking a group of people running around — either chasing a ball or each other — typical students walking past don’t look twice.
However, those that do look over will notice animal tracks that have created a picturesque imprint on the otherwise clear patch of white land. These tracks highlight the absence of another set of prints from those who are missing the field the most: the Men’s Rugby team.
Because the rugby club operates like a varsity team, it is one of the most organized club sports. However, despite this fact the group has still had difficulty maintaining membership due to the lack of a practice space.
The club has had a difficult season this semester since Walker Field, the only space designated for them to play and practice on, was unusable due to inclement weather conditions.
The poor weather, paired with the fact that outdoor club sports don’t have priority to book basketball courts at the RAC over any official school team — not even over athletes playing two-on-two — has led the team to attempt practicing at some questionable places in order to squeeze in some playing time together.
Junior Corey Fraer, a biology major, said, “We’ve had to get a little creative. [We were] reserving a classroom on the third floor of The Commons, and until last week, we would work out in the hall up there, but we’re no longer allowed to do that.”
The difficulty of finding a practice space isn’t the rugby club’s only problem; the number of competitions that the club can compete in is significantly lower than that of an official school team due to underfunding.
However, with regards to the funds club sports are allotted, the President of Men’s Rugby, Tyler Tippett, a senior majoring in business technology administration, insists that he’s anything but ungrateful. He explains that schools like Salisbury get almost three times less funds from the state than UMBC does for club sports, and that the department is lucky to have larger funds available to them.
Even so, the task of splitting a set sum of money between 26 clubs is in no way easy, especially when those clubs then have to decide whether to spend that money on competition or gear.
What makes it even harder is that there are only two people who oversee the Department of Club Sports. According to Tippett, with a job like that, “It’s pretty much impossible to make everyone happy.”
Men’s Rugby asks members to pay dues after they join, and usually officers can identify who is committed to playing by the amount of people who pay and show up to practices. Money from dues then goes to fund customized gear for players, as well as pay for the gas spent to get to and from competitions.
Yet sometimes the dues still aren’t enough. Since the department is so small and decisions, such as who to give money and how much, can’t be made overnight, there are times when the club’s leadership has to make sacrifices if they want to see their team compete.
Tippett, for instance, had to pay out of pocket for the team to play in a last-minute upcoming game. Though he will get reimbursed later, such a display only solidifies how devoted the club is to playing.
Those who hear about the struggle of the Men’s Rugby often sympathize with their situation, but as Tippett vocalizes, there’s not much that can be done to change the University of Maryland system. He said, “All we can do is play when we get the chance, and hope that people come watch.”
photo by Courtesy of Lynn Tippett