Club sports struggle for funding

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Club sports at Occidental serve as an outlet for competition without the rigorous time commitment of a NCAA sport, but the lighter schedules do not come without their fair share of challenges. In order to compete against other schools in the Southern California area, club sports require their own source of funding to cover transportation costs, equipment and coaching — arguably the most important components of a team sport. The organizations receive their funding from the Associated Students of Occidental College (ASOC) and, while sufficient in covering basic costs such as league fees, the allocation from ASOC does not give teams as much financial flexibility as those in the NCAA.

The funding provided by ASOC partially covers the costs necessary for a club team to function as a viable organization, but coaching salary in particular remains an issue. Teams struggle to pay coaches what they believe coaches deserve. According to women’s rugby vice president Grace Gowen (sophomore), coaches are essentially donating their time.

Women’s rugby treasurer Leah Winfrey (junior) added that the coach’s hourly rate, when calculated, fell below minimum wage.

“We would obviously love to pay [our coach] more — the amount we think he deserves — but our funding is limited which makes it hard to pay [him] the desired amount,” Winfrey said via email. “We have a set budget [from ASOC] and need to use it sparingly throughout the semester.”

On the men’s side, rugby team president Andy Eichar (senior) echoed the difficulties in compensating coaches for their time.

“I am constantly stressed about funding,” Eichar said via email. “A generous budget can only account for the regular season and, while we have playoff aspirations, it is hard to make those aspirations become reality. We need a certified coach who can teach the game safely and, speaking on behalf of the team, our coach is underpaid.”

Eichar maintained that funding from ASOC is fair and equal between sports, but the costs incurred by competitions and practices force teams to hold fundraisers and pay dues.

The Occidental men’s lacrosse team is no stranger to such dues. According to president Farhad Ranji (junior), some players have left the program because of financial issues. Even with dues reaching around $400 per member per semester, Ranji asserted that the club is struggling financially.

“There are so many costs that we have to cover,” Ranji said. “We don’t pay our coach enough. He was an All-American so he knows what he’s doing, but we can’t pay him more because of financial constraints.”

Spencer Goldman (junior), one of the men’s ultimate frisbee captains, added that the team’s compensation of its coaches pales in comparison to that of other college club teams. Some competitors, such as Lewis & Clark College and Carleton College, receive close to six times as much funding for their ultimate team, putting Occidental’s at a competitive disadvantage.

For club sports at Occidental, competing in games is only half of the battle. Teams, given their budget allocations, have to plan their own travel arrangements to attend tournaments. In the case of men’s rugby, the team had to opt out of a playoff tournament because of its price.

Another concern that Ranji voiced — a concern that was shared with players on other club sports — was the lack of proper medical support during games. Without sufficient funding, teams are unable to properly pay for trainers and other medical personnel who ensure player safety. With a club sport — or any sport, for that matter — player safety has to be the top priority, though teams still want to stay competitive. As a result, incomplete funding creates the need to balance competitive aspirations and player safety.

The discourse on coaches’ salaries, transportation and medical attention is by no means a criticism of the allocation from ASOC — team presidents praised ASOC’s generous funding. The reality, however, is that some costs need to be subsidized through other means.