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Club sports an important part of the St. F.X. experience

Brandon Boudreau of the St. F.X. baseball team tries to jump over the UNB Varsity Reds’ catcher, during Sept. 9 action, at the Dr. J.H. Gillis Regional High School ball field in Antigonish. The X-Men lost the contest and went 2-2 to start their season. Baseball is one of several club sports at St. F.X., which really adds to their university experience for a lot of students.
Brandon Boudreau of the St. F.X. baseball team tries to jump over the UNB Varsity Reds’ catcher, during Sept. 9 action, at the Dr. J.H. Gillis Regional High School ball field in Antigonish. The X-Men lost the contest and went 2-2 to start their season. Baseball is one of several club sports at St. F.X., which really adds to their university experience for a lot of students. - Richard MacKenzie

Twelve club sports available to students at St. F.X.

ANTIGONISH, N.S. - St. F.X. X-Men and X-Women varsity sport teams are well known across the country for their success and personalities; past and present. But there is another level of sports at the university, and while those sports and players may not enjoy the same high profile of varsity teams, one should never confuse that with thinking there is less enthusiasm or passion from the participants.

There are 12 club sports at St.F.X. as noted on the athletics website goxgo.ca, including; baseball, cheerleading, curling, dance, field hockey, lacrosse, men’s rugby, rowing, swimming, equestrian, badminton and ultimate Frisbee.

Athletic and recreation director (AD) Leo MacPherson talked, in general, about the differences between varsity and club sports.

“Club sports occupy the space in the middle between intramural and varsity, which would be U Sport related,” MacPherson said. “They’re probably more closely related to varsity sports in the sense they hold try-outs to make the team, but they’re unaffiliated with AUS or U Sports.”

MacPherson was asked about the consistency of the clubs from year-to-year, considering they’re not under those highly structured organizations.

“It’s really driven by student interest,” he said.

“Because the clubs are totally run by themselves, they’re typically required to fund what they need, like travel, uniforms, equipment, etcetera.

“Each of the clubs would operate somewhat independently and they would receive guidance from Gerry Balcom (manager of recreation and club sports) and our St. F.X. recreation team. Really though, their success relies heavily on their own resources; fundraising, donations and things like that.”

And student interest has really driven the growth of club sports at St. F.X.

“Basically, in my 14 years here, we’ve seen tremendous growth in club sports,” MacPherson said. “And if I go back to my days as a student athlete in the 1980s, we only had one club sport – that was men’s rugby.

“We now have 12 club sport teams, close to 300 student-athletes participating on those teams and, if you add the 350 varsity student-athletes on our 12 varsity sport teams, you basically have one in six students at St. F.X. participating in organized team sport, either varsity or club.

“It gives our students an opportunity to experience commitment, challenge and enjoyment of participating in an extramural sports team … they get that experience. These club sports are really important to us at St. F.X.”

MacPherson said a challenge for his department is in how they can support the club sports better, moving forward.

“Last year we brought in an industry expert from the U.S., currently the executive director of recreation at Ohio State University, and she had given us some advice. Much of it had to do with managing risk, especially travel. We want them to make good decisions; winter related travel is particularly concerning given the elements we have no control over.

“Overall, managing the risks are important to us and trying to elevate and best support our clubs. They’re very important to us and we want to get better at supporting them and helping them lead themselves better.”

Lead and become better leaders.

“Not only are there fun pursuits, in terms of their passion for their sport, it’s a great leadership opportunity for the student athletes involved,” MacPherson said. “Because they’re running it, organizing it and everything else, they’re constantly building leadership skills along the way.”

From athletes to coaches

A great example of what MacPherson alludes to can be seen with the cheerleading squad where Katie Kirkham and Dayna Smockum have gone from athletes to assistant coaches.

Kirkham said she brought a lot of cheering experience to St. F.X. and had every intention of joining the team when she arrived on campus as a frosh.

She used that experience to quickly move into a coaching position and now wants to pass along her knowledge as she finishes up her advanced degree in science, this year.

“It has, at times, been stressful … it’s a big job to handle,” she said of the leadership aspect.

“But, overall, it has made me really happy. It feels good to give back to St. F.X. students because they come here and de-stress, they have fun, are all smiling while learning a new skill.

“It’s just a great environment to be around and it, honestly, puts me in a better mood. When I’m stressed I come here and I let go with them, so it has been really good.”

Smockum was on the other side of the coin; coming to the cheerleading team with no experience. She talked about another benefit of club sports; meeting people and making new friends.

The St. F.X. cheerleading team goes through a few warm-up drills to start their Sept. 19 practice. Richard MacKenzie
The St. F.X. cheerleading team goes through a few warm-up drills to start their Sept. 19 practice. Richard MacKenzie

“I had never cheered before so when I came into my frosh year I thought, ‘oh, this looks like fun,’ and one of my friends wanted to go,” she said. “She had a lot of cheer experience, so we both tried out and we made it together.”

A friend was her inspiration for going. and making friends has been a hallmark of her time with the club.

“I have met so many of my friends through cheer,” she said.

“We go out on the weekends, we study together … it’s just a really great place to meet friends.”

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