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SPRING 2001-02
Volume 45, Number 3


Engineering Tutors: Building Confidence in a Complex New Subject

On Health Care, Research, the Budget, and Old Cap

Open Major Struggles with Decision

Beyond the Varsity: Clubs Yield Opportunities to Enjoy Sports, Games, Martial Arts

Work-Study: State Program Cut, but Federal Funds Continue

Student Drive Succeeds: Pitch That Bottle in the Recycling Bin

Letters, Petitions Result in New Major: Women's Studies

Both Side Are Right

Snow Scene

Parent Times Briefs

Important Numbers

University Calendar

So much of your student’s life is sedentary—sitting in classes, studying, watching television, talking with friends. Yet physical fitness is a goal for many students, too. The cure for all those hours of inactivity for many students is participation in a club sport.

Club sports are hybrids—they’re recognized student activities, such as Young Republicans or Asian American Women, and they have members, dues, meetings, and sponsors. But they’re also sports and recreational teams with schedules, tournaments, uniforms, and even cheering sections.

Mandy Maass, a journalism major who has been a member of the Rugby Football Club for three years, says she likes the aggressiveness and roughness of the sport.

“When you hear ‘rugby,’ your first thought isn’t of women,” she says. “I think most of my teammates play for that reason as well, to defy the stigma of gender-specific sports. Most of us were high school athletes who just can’t get enough competition. And the camaraderie of an athletic team is something that, once you’ve had it, you never want to lose it.”

Rugby traditionally follows every game with a “social,” involving rugby songs and games with your team, the opposing team, and all the fans, she says.

“We’re a very close-knit group; many of my teammates are roommates as well,” she adds.

While most are undergraduates, the team includes some graduate students and a Ph.D. candidate in sports, health, and leisure studies. Each year, one or two community members join in, too.

Not Just for Students

Club sports range from individual sports such as Hawkeye Chess Club, Sailing Club, and Tae Kwon Do to soccer, rugby, rowing, and ice hockey teams. In all, there are 28 different sports or recreational activities. Faculty, staff, and community members are welcome to join many of the clubs. Some clubs, like men’s rowing and the Iowa Icehawks hockey team, are “almost varsity” status, while others emphasize fun and have noncompetitive activities.

The oldest sports club is sailing, which started teaching and promoting sailing at Lake Macbride in 1981. It has two levels of membership—a competitive team of undergraduates and noncompetitive members who are learning to sail so that when they are certified, they can take the club’s boats out on the lake.

“The team travels to regattas around the Midwest,” says Allison Hefley, a former team member.

As a recent graduate, she is still a community member but can’t compete any more because the competitive team is for undergraduate students only.

“Initially, new members learn the parts of the boat, how to launch a boat, and how to sail. A lot of our members never compete, though we do have one regatta that is open to all club members,” she says.

Sailing Club includes families and single persons, students, staff, faculty, and community people in its membership. That’s what interested Hefley in joining.

“By having community members, we boost our membership so we’re able to give more to the undergraduate students on the team.

“I meet all sorts of people my age through sailing,” she says. “We spent weekends in Minneapolis, Ohio, Madison. . . In fact, Madison has a regatta every year around Halloween so we were able to hang out on State Street and watch all the Halloween stuff!”

Running the Clubs

While the club sports are fun for their participants, they’re also quite a bit of work to maintain. For that reason, they tend to come and go, strong in one year but not in another, says Ray Beemer, associate director of Recreational Services, who handles the clubs’ monetary transactions and University contributions.

Students handle the scheduling, budgeting, and recruiting for their teams. Some teams are members of national sports federations and pay dues to them; others are locally based. Some teams depend on local sponsors for assistance.

Some clubs that field competitive teams have extensive travel schedules. While they tend to travel in cars, taking turns on driving, expenses tend to mount up, Beemer says. Other clubs might ask for as little as $150 a year for all expenses.

In a tight budget year, he says, University funding cannot begin to stretch to cover all clubs' requests. Sponsors, contributions, and dues must make up the difference.

Maass says, “We get funding from Recreational Services and sometimes from UI Student Government. We have two separate seasons every year, one that coincides with football and one in the spring. We also have a sevens season in the summer. A full rugby side plays with 15 people, seven backs and eight forwards. With sevens, you play with the backs only, so there is a lot more running. We get sponsors for our sevens season, but for regular fall and spring seasons, we don’t have any.”

Men’s Rowing

Another club that must spend a considerable amount of time in fund-raising is the Rowing Club. You’ll see them in early morning and late afternoon as you drive into Iowa City on Dubuque Street, along the Iowa River—teams of men in slender shells, straining at the oars, eyes straight ahead as the coxswain shouts orders. While women’s rowing is a varsity sport, men’s rowing is a sports club.

For Chris Niro, a senior from Oak Park, Ill., who intends to study leadership or organization development in graduate school next year, rowing has been a chance to be a leader. He’s frequently the first man in the boat, taking the “stroke seat” at the front that sets the pace for all other rowers.

Rowing Club receives only a fraction of its funds from the University. For travel, uniforms, and new equipment, they must find sponsors and pay dues every semester.

Niro says it’s difficult maintaining a competitive team on club allocations.

“We might be able to buy a new boat once a decade, even though we need them more often,” he says. “One oar costs $300! Rowing is really an expensive sport.”

To help out, members pay $200 a semester in dues. For this, they receive all transportation to regattas, entry fees, uniforms, equipment maintenance, and workouts six days a week. Niro is hoping the club can arrange to have this cost put on students’ U-bills so that they can pay it over time, rather than all at once.

Niro believes the thrill and excitement of rowing are well worth the price. He describes what happens during a race:

“We’re in shells backed up to stake boats, which are anchored at the start line. A person in the stake boats holds each of the six boats lined up. It’s absolutely silent. We’re sitting in the boats thinking, ‘Oh, boy, here it comes. I have to make sure I keep on pace, keep my stroke in rhythm.’

“When we start to row from that dead stop, the absolute silence explodes into noise and energy.

“Soon we’re going 33 strokes per minute,” Niro continues. “By 1,000 meters we’re feeling good, but by 1,400 meters it’s ‘Oh, man, I am hurt.’ At 1,500-1,700 meters, you’d do anything to stop the pain. But then you’re far enough along to hear the noise from the grandstands. In many races, you’ll have 2,000 fans cheering you on. All the rest of your team is cheering on the sidelines and calling your cadence with you.

“By the time you see the red buoys, your legs are like Jell-O and you have blisters on both hands, probably bleeding. Your back is tight. But you can’t give up then so you power—dig down deep, give it everything in the last few strokes.

“Then it’s over and you find out where you came in. You really don’t know until then. It’s just a great experience for people to get involved with!”

Sports Clubs

While most sports clubs are involved with such sports as lacrosse, hockey, kayaking, and sailing, others introduce students to new worlds of philosophy

while training the body at the same time. An example is University of Iowa Aikikai, a recognized student organization that teaches its members aikido, a martial art practiced by men, women, and children in more than 50 countries.

Diana Harris, a senior project analyst with the Engineering Computer Network in the College of Engineering, teaches aikido in some of the classes the club offers each week.

“To me, the longer I practice the more I find in this discipline,” she says. “Sometimes I think I really understand something, but six months later, I find I didn’t understand it at all. I don’t play chess, but I think it’s something like that. It offers you multiple opportunities at any time to do different things—like branches of a tree.”

The organization’s web site at explains the founding, development, and current status of aikido in depth. A primer by Eric Sotnack, linked to the site, says in part, “Aikido is not primarily a system of combat, but rather a means of self-cultivation and improvement. Aikido has no tournaments, competitions, contests, or ‘sparring.’ Instead, all aikido techniques are learned cooperatively at a pace commensurate with the abilities of each trainee. According to the founder, the goal of aikido is not the defeat of others, but the defeat of the negative characteristics which inhabit one’s own mind and inhibit its functioning.

“At the same time, the potential of aikido as a means of self-defense should not be ignored,” Sotnack writes. “One reason for the prohibition of competition in aikido is that many aikido techniques would have to be excluded because of their potential to cause serious injury. By training cooperatively, even potentially lethal techniques can be practiced without substantial risk.”

Harris says 20-30 people are active in the club, but many others have come for periods of time to take part in the classes. People can join a national federation and practice in the classes to move through several ranks of aikido mastery.

“We emphasize, though, that joining the federation is optional. We have a couple of people who have practiced with us for years and have never taken a test. They’re not interested in that. Most people in the club are there because they’re really interested in aikido.”

The University organization invites people interested in trying aikido before joining the club to attend any beginner classes for two weeks. The class schedule is posted at Members pay dues of $50 per semester for students and $70 per semester for non-students.


For students who want athletic competition but can’t handle the time demands of a club, intramurals offer a much shorter season and activities that aren’t on the club list, such as paintball, wiffleball, and innertube polo. Many fraternities, sororities, and residence hall floors field teams for intramurals.

But for a true club sports fan, intramurals just won’t do.

“Last year I played intramurals instead of club sports, and we were done in March,” Jimmy Ivacic says. “For the rest of the semester, I didn’t play. For me, that’s just too much time away from soccer!”

–By Anne Tanner


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