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The Scarlet & Black

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Ultimate, Water Polo Struggle to Find Funding

For athletes on Grinnell’s Ultimate Frisbee and Water Polo teams, preparation for competition involves far more than practice. Members of Grinnell’s two club sports teams must also deal with logistical problems and budgetary restraints that varsity teams never have to consider.

“We get four hotel rooms every tournament, and we normally send forty people,” said Ultimate Frisbee Captain Jon Davis ’12. “Ten people per hotel room can get pretty interesting.”

The teams hope that this year may mark the end of these money-saving situations. SGA President Gabe Schechter ’12 and members of the administration and the athletics department are discussing a new system of financing for club sports, after years of dependence on narrow SGA funding and emergency use of the president’s discretionary fund.

“The College doesn’t support Ultimate Frisbee and Water Polo right now, besides providing space for them to practice,” said President Schechter. “We’re working to amend that.”

The proposed changes include channeling institutional support through either the athletics department or the Student Programming Committee. The College’s role would be to give money for transportation and medical expenses, with the SGA providing matching funds during a two-year trial period of the new system. Although discussed in the past, it is only now that changes are being seriously considered.

“I don’t know why this process has taken so long,” said SGA Treasurer Kathy Anderson ’13. “I’ve done research on this, and schools like Haverford have a very good system of funding in place for their club sports. With some work, Grinnell could have the same.”

Those involved with the project hope for action soon, because the financial situation is becoming untenable. In this year’s SGA budget, Ultimate Frisbee is slated to receive around $6,000, while Water Polo expects just $3,250. Although these are disproportionately large fractions of the SGA budget per student on the teams, these sums are less than ten percent of what the teams actually require. An SGA report estimates that, for both the regular and post season, Ultimate Frisbee would need up to $63,000 to be considered fully funded, and Water Polo would need around $34,000.

These low budgets have caused chaos for teams in the past. To compete in Division 3 Nationals, teams resorted to asking former President Russell K. Osgood for money from his discretionary fund, as well as organizing fundraising of their own.

“Ultimate Frisbee placed third in the nation. The fact that we had to beg for the money to get there is unfortunate,” said Davis.

“Water Polo is representing the school on a national stage, and we represent Grinnell well. We got fifth in the nation during my second year,” said Water Polo Capitan Sam Sherwood ’12. “The more help the College can provide, the more people we can bring in, and the more inclusive and successful our club can be.”

The teams recognize their precarious finances, so they work to save in nearly every situation, by shaving costs off of lodging and travel. To avoid the infamous overcrowded hotel rooms inhabited by Ultimate Frisbee players, Water Polo has opted to stay at a private residence during an upcoming tournament, and both teams use personal vehicles for transportation.

“I’ve put 15,000 miles on my car in the past seven months, and much of it is related to Ultimate Frisbee,” Davis said. “There’s definitely a large personal contribution when it comes to vehicles and travel.”

However, even SGA’s current limited contribution meets some opposition, adding even more complications to the conversation. Some SGA members are uncomfortable with large spending on single organizations, such as Ultimate Frisbee and Water Polo, because it requires giving team members access to a disproportionate amount of money from the pool provided by the student activity fee.

“They’re a great team, and I’m glad to be supporting them, but some people believe that we over support them. We are aware of that difficulty,” said President Schechter.

The current working group on the issue consists of President Schechter, Intramural Coordinator Tim Hammond, Director of Student Activities Mike Sims, Residence Life Coordinator Dan Hirsch, and Assistant Professor Dave Zeiss, Physical Education. They have been meeting frequently to determine the best route for institutional support—through SPA or athletics—and if the clubs should be held to higher standards because of their increased funding.

Potential changes include hiring a coaching staff to supervise Ultimate Frisbee and Water Polo and providing access to athletic trainers for medical attention. Transportation problems, both costs and liabilities, would also need to be addressed. But before those issues can be solved, some members of the group would like the College to better define its understanding of club sports.

“What is the school’s philosophy?” asked Hammond. “What do we want from these programs? Do we want mass participation or do we want representation on the national level? Nobody has told us, and I believe that highly impacts any suggestions we may make.”

With seasons for both sports already starting, the pressure is on for the group to answer those questions and come up with recommendations as quickly as possible.

“I am optimistic that by the end of this semester, the funding will finally be worked out,” said President Schechter. “To actually check this off the list would be lovely.”

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