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Features. Club sports attract athletes for competition and camaraderie

Club Sports - Competition and camaraderie attract athletes to lacrosse and Ultimate Frisbee teams

by Nisha Ajmani '02

Doing sprints in the hail, rain and mud just to practice catching a Frisbee or swing a crosse shows dedication. At PLU, that’s the kind of dedication club sports athletes endure much of the time. So why do club sports attract so many PLU students? Because they’re different, motivating and full of spirit.

“I played every other sport and Ultimate Frisbee brings the best parts of other sports together with a huge emphasis on spirit,” said Aaron Bell ’04, 2002-03 captain of the Ultimate Frisbee “A” team.

Club sports at PLU include lacrosse and Ultimate Frisbee. They were started by students looking for fun, local competition, but have evolved and are becoming more serious, with many PLU teams heading to league playoffs and national championship games. This fall, the teams even have paid coaches for the first time.

To Bell, spirit means more than how well the team plays. Bell started playing based on the nature of the game and the attitude of the players. He loves the game because it’s so personal. There are no referees, it’s laid back, he gets to meet people and, even though it’s competitive, there’s also camaraderie between opposing teams. Each team even makes up a cheer for their opponent after a game and, sometimes they even play other Frisbee games together for fun.

There is such an emphasis on spirit that “you can be the best team in the world and not get invited to a tournament if you don’t have good spirit,” Bell said. In fact, at tournaments there are two trophies, one for the winning team and one for the team with the best spirit.

Another reason Bell enjoys playing is because of his diverse teammates. There are no tryouts, and everyone wants to learn the game. The team is made up of students who might not usually spend time together but remain supportive of each other and develop friendships outside of playing. “People who might not see eye to eye normally are getting along, which makes this team the most satisfying and rewarding team I’ve been on,” Bell said.

Part of what makes playing so gratifying for the lacrosse teams is that most of the members are self-taught. According to the 2002-03 women’s co-captains, Ellen Vaughn ’04 and Jessica Schwinck ’03, it’s OK not to know how to play "We didn’t either,” Vaughn said.

Learning a new sport is part of the attraction. “I’ve always been athletic, but I was burned out from track, soccer, basketball and softball so I decided to try something different,” said Emily Bruce ’06, a sophomore who plays on the women’s lacrosse team.

Jennifer Thomas, PLU’s club sports coordinator, agrees that lacrosse and Ultimate Frisbee offer a great alternative to varsity sports. But they’re still a lot of hard work. Before they can even become club sports, the teams must meet requirements from the Athletic Department. They receive limited funding from the university and, until this semester, their coaches, if they had any, were unpaid volunteers.

Now, players will have help making travel arrangements and completing paperwork, but the teams will still be expected to do a lot of the work. The men’s lacrosse team has a history of going the extra mile to compete in tournaments. From working security at concerts to the annual 100-hour LAXathon on campus, the men’s team worked to raise money for travel, league fees, equipment, uniforms and more. They even did yard work at PLU President Loren Anderson’s house. “The president has actually helped out a lot with supporting the team,” said Kyle Berggren ’03, last season’s co-captain.

Berggren, who will coach lacrosse at the University of Puget Sound this year, thinks hiring paid coaches is a good idea as long as the changes benefit both the university and the teams. He and other players credit the past volunteer coaches Greg “Bubba” Gutherless and Jason Stockton for their success. “They built our program – in five years we moved into one of the top three teams in the league,” Berggren said.

While many of the PLU’s club sports teams rank highly, both locally and nationally, team spirit and friendship are as important to many players as team standings. The women’s and men’s lacrosse teams hang out together outside of practice and even arrange their game schedule so they can be at each other’s games.

"I like Ultimate because it's a different type of commitment than varsity sports," Bell said. "You're out there with your friends."

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Women’s Lacrosse: Kristina Calvert '05, Ruth Bennett

Women’s Lacrosse: Kristina Calvert '05 moves to get into a good offensive position, while Ruth Bennett '06 tries to prevent her from scoring a goal at practice. (Photo by Chris Tumbusch)

Ultimate Frisbee at PLU
Lacrosse at PLU
Information on Club Sports at PLU

Photo Credits

By: Leah Sprain '03
Ultimate Frisbee: Ike Brandt ’03 plays defense at a tournament last spring, while Peter Olson ’04 closely watches the play.


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