by Vicki Hildner | University Communications
During the 2011 CU Denver Homecoming festivities, sophomore Lubna Mazin went to the club hockey game
and noticed there was something missing.
“There weren’t any cheerleaders, so I was leading the crowd, trying to get everyone pumped up by cheering, and I guess that’s where this all started,” said Mazin.
She had been on both the cheer and the dance teams at St. Mary’s Academy, and she was on the cheerleader squad for Metropolitan State University of Denver. “I was going to school at CU Denver and cheering for another school,” said Mazin. “Something just didn't feel right about cheering for a school other than my own.”
What CU Denver needs, thought Mazin, is some school spirit.
This year, thanks to CU Denver students and an enterprising graduate assistant, school spirit has arrived in a big way with the club sports program
According to the Colorado High School Activities Association, there were 132,000 student athletes competing in Colorado high schools in 2010. So it did not come as a huge surprise to Aaron Wilson
, club sports graduate assistant, that an open meeting for students interested in club sports attracted 60 students in September 2012. Wilson was mildly surprised, however, that the students expressed interest in 18 different club sports
, including ones you might expect (soccer, volleyball, cheer/dance) and ones you might not expect (Brazilian jiu-jitsu).
“Right now, we have nearly 400 students signed up in the club sports program,” said Wilson. “I’m really pleased that we have seen this much interest in the first year of the program.”
It was also a perfect place to prepare for the task he faced when he was hired to design the university’s Club Sports program last March. “Most traditional campuses at least have intramurals. We are stepping into something completely new,” said Wilson.
The one thing he had going for him was a hockey player named Gordon Nytes
When Nytes transferred to CU Denver from the University of Northern Colorado in 2010, he had no intention of giving up ice hockey. “I loved being able to represent the school I attend and play the game I love,” he said. With no team at CU Denver, he tried to join Metro’s hockey team, only to learn that league rules stipulated he had to play for his home team—a home team that didn’t exist.
There was only one solution—create a home team at CU Denver. Nytes set out to do it, talking to anyone who would listen, never giving up and finally succeeding.
The CU Denver ice hockey team played its first season last year under the oversight of Metro State. This year, its second in the American Collegiate Hockey Association, the team moved under the administration of CU Denver and Wilson.
“It’s a step in the right direction for school pride,” said Nytes. “I think the people who come to see us are not so much people who love hockey but just people who love to support their school.”
By day, Brooke Fitzpatrick is a senior human resources consultant in the university’s Employment Services office. But in her spare time, she is coach of the women’s club volleyball team, teaching skills she learned as a collegiate volleyball competitor.
“Team sports changed who I am,” she said. “It just gives you more confidence and enables you to connect with people, which is so important in any job.”
Fitzpatrick started volunteering to coach the women’s club volleyball team in January, inheriting a group of young players who had essentially been “self-coached.” It took her a few weeks to put in place some systems, but the players became believers when their performance improved with each successive tournament. By the final tournament of the year, the CU Denver women’s club volleyball team was two points away from beating the team that eventually won the tournament.
“We made huge leaps in just a matter of months,” said Fitzpatrick. “The players now see that having an additional level of organization and a coach makes it more fun to play because you are competitive.”
Since that first organizational meeting last September, the Club Sports program has grown to include eight teams: hockey, both men’s and women’s soccer, cheer/dance, women’s volleyball, lacrosse and both men’s and women’s tennis. All the teams are run by students.
“If somebody wants to start [a team], they have to lead it,” said Wilson.
directs the cheer/dance squad, which just launched with 14 young women. Their goal is to attend at least two games of each club sport, perform at on-campus and off-campus events and compete with other cheer/dance teams.
For Mazin, organizing the team has been a terrific learning experience. “It’s helped me with time management and organizational skills,” she said. “It taught me to be responsible and not lose everything!”
A junior marketing major, Nytes credits his involvement in club sports with helping him learn the tools of his trade. “I had to learn how to sell an idea to the school, market the idea of a team to potential athletes, keep it going by promoting it and handle the finances and communications.”
“These students are getting great real world experience in time management, peer-to-peer leadership and financial management and planning,” said Wilson. “All this will make them valuable to future employers.”
Published: January 7, 2013