Funding Favors Privilege

Tyler Sloan, Editor in Chief

Financial support is an issue that club sport athletes must face almost daily, and the lack of funding they receive limits the accessibility of these organizations. Although the Student Finance Committee finances the teams somewhat generously each year, with 18 percent of the Student Activity Fund dedicated to the 21 club sports teams via the Club Sports Council, the funding mechanism isn’t exactly functional.

For example, each year the women’s Ultimate Frisbee team, the Preying Manti, is given its percentage of that 18 percent of the Student Activity Fund. Yet, when it comes down to it, captains are forced to front money for a substantial portion of the team’s expenses. While the College covers expenses for transportation and lodging for tournaments, the team does not receive any assistance in paying for food or other extraneous costs, including tournament admission fees.

The College does not reimburse captains for costs such as meals, but eventually it will compensate for all the other expenses. However, in the meantime, the Preying Manti captains have been forced to front approximately $200 per tournament. This money won’t make its way back to their wallets until the end of the academic year when the College assesses the team’s expenses and pays them back. The Preying Manti attend approximately nine tournaments a year, which means that by the end of the spring the captains have paid a combined $1,800 up front. This is a problem.

To clarify, I am not advocating that club sports should be funded the same way that varsity sports are funded, but I do think that the way in which club sports are funded limits their accessibility to students who cannot afford to pay such hefty fees out of pocket. When team captains are being forced to pay such expensive fees for their sports, it deters team members from stepping into leadership positions or even joining a team in the first place. This unfortunate situation makes sports about something that shouldn’t be their focus: money.

In general, competitive sports tend to favor a privileged crowd. Competitive teams, trainers, tournaments and transportation are all part of the costly reality of growing up playing a competitive sport. This already gives those from families with the means to pay for all of these activities a leg up on the competition. This is not to say that all successful athletes come from privileged backgrounds, because that is certainly not the case, but having the means to pay for these amenities definitely helps.

That’s why club sports at Oberlin should not favor those who can afford to front the fees and exclude those who cannot. Club sports should offer another outlet for students to compete on a sports team that neither entails the same level of commitment as a varsity sport nor requires students to bear the burden of cost.

Again, club sports cannot, realistically, be funded as much as varsity sports are, nor should they necessarily be funded in the same way, but they can certainly be funded in a better way. If the College allocated a budget to club sports that did not require team captains to wait until the end of the academic year to be reimbursed, it would allow for a larger percentage of the student body to participate freely in these important extracurricular activities.