by Sarah Slavin
Foils. Oars. Frisbees. Sails.
When it comes to sports at WHS, the equipment we usually see are those associated with varsity sports teams - footballs, soccer balls, hockey pucks. But what’s often overlooked are WHS’ club sports teams, which carry their own unique equipment. Currently, WHS has five club sports teams that are not at the varsity level. These are ultimate frisbee, crew, fencing, boys’ volleyball and sailing.
These teams don’t have a varsity status for one of two reasons: Either they are not mandated by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association or they don’t have enough money to self-fund their sport. According to njsiaa.org, the organization recognizes 31 sports in New Jersey as high school varsity sports. Of the five club teams at WHS, fencing and boys’ volleyball are recognized by the NJSIAA.
According to a BOE policy, if a sport is recognized by the NJSIAA and students wish to become a varsity team, they must propose it to the board. In their proposal, they must have a plan for their sport for the next four years after their starting year and if they gain approval, they must be self-funded for the first three years as part of a probationary period.
While fencing is allowed to become a varsity sport at WHS, it does not seem to be realistic at this point in time. Senior Grace Ascione said: “We have been told that we need to self-fund for an amount that we cannot collect in the next few years...but I recognize that it’s a risk for the school and that requiring us to self-fund helps to alleviate that. It does, unfortunately, limit our ability to become varsity.”
Senior Alex Cestero, who started the boys’ volleyball team this year, agrees that the funding is difficult, especially for a new team starting out. Cestero said, “The reason my team is not a varsity sports team is because it is in its first year and is not fully funded yet.”
But both of these teams do not let their club status affect their passion for their sports and they feel there are many advantages to not being a varsity team. It allows these athletes to have more than one sport in their schedule and is less restrictive than a varsity team. Senior fencer Natalia Zeller MacLean said: “It allows us to be more flexible. We practice pretty much the entire school year, members can choose to participate either once or twice a week, and they can do different parts of the school year. I know that we have several fencers, including myself, who play club sports outside of school and are still able to fence during their other athletic seasons.”
Cestero does not see being a club team as a setback: “At the moment, and from what I understand, there doesn’t seem to be any drawbacks of not being a varsity sport. We still compete against the same teams and still have the same amount of practice/gym time as a varsity sport would.”
But this is not where the advantages of being a club sport end. Varsity teams are required to have at least one day off during a typical week in their sport’s season and usually have practice or games the other days. Senior Eli Burk, a member of the WHS ultimate frisbee team, said his team practices three times a week for two hours, then attends day-long tournaments every other weekend. “It doesn't seem fair to practice every day and then run around for an entire weekend,” Burke said.
Another aspect to not being a varsity team is that athletes from other schools can join the team if their school does not offer that specific sport. This is the case for Pamela Burke, a Morristown-Beard School student and WHS crew team member. She noted, “Kids from other towns or private schools that don't have crew teams can join, so we get to know a slightly larger pool of people.” WHS Athletic Director Ms. Sandra Mamary specified this by saying that if a school does not have a certain sport they can play it at another school only if it is a club team, but not if it is a varsity team.