Ask the Expert: Club Sports

The expert advice to answer your questions. This month, Aaron Mowen, the director of campus recreation at Saginaw Valley State University, shares advice on club sports. 

How many club sports did you have this year?

AM: We had 23 club sports.

Who runs each club sport?

AM: Club sports are student led and organized; some teams choose to hire a coach and the responsibility of that individual is to coach the team. I serve as the advisor for each club and am assisted by two undergraduate student club sport coordinators.

In conjunction with our office of student life, we host leadership training in the beginning of each fall semester. Representatives from each club participate in a half-day conference style program, and presentations are led by various offices on campus, including business services — purchasing, risk and legal; conference center — event and facility scheduling; university communication — branding and marketing. In addition, club sports receive training on concussion management, hazing, travel safety and more at this event.

Throughout the semester, clubs meet regularly with my staff and participate in the club sport council. At the end of the academic year, each club is scheduled for a transitional leadership meeting.

What are the top things it takes to make a club sport successful? 

AM: The success of a club sport is rooted by student leaders. They must be individual(s) who are dedicated to more than just playing the sport. The club leaders need to be organized and able to balance academic, social and club responsibilities. It can be challenging to lead your peers, and interpersonal communication skills must be polished to have all members of the team steered toward the established goals.

What lessons have you learned in running club sports?

AM: Unified sports is becoming a prominent fixture on college campuses, and students with disabilities desire to be more athletically involved. Administration is required to understand the responsibilities and restrictions as mandated by the Department of Education. There is a “Dear Colleague” letter issued in January 2013 from the Office for Civil Rights that communicates schools’ responsibilities.

At surface value, club sports can be viewed by administration as simply an extracurricular activity. A club sport could be the single thread that keeps a student at the institution; students are committed to the team and each other. 

What has been the biggest challenge in your program? How has your program overcome this specific challenge? 

AM: The biggest challenge in our club sport program is the ability to tell their story. We have 23 teams competing across the nation, volunteering, recruiting high school students and engaging with our community. I find using intrusive advising allows me to build relationships with club leadership and set an expectation of communication.

What advice would you give to club sport coordinators?

AM: Learn about the national governing body (NGB) for each sport. What are their by-laws, requirements and who is the main point of contact? Your knowledge of navigating the university framework combined with how a club interacts with their respective NGB can help.

Heather Hartmann is the editor for Campus Rec Magazine. She can be reached at

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