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Friday, November 16, 2018

Commentary

Club sports engaging, flexible way to keep active


After four years of competitive high school athletics, my volleyball shoes and knee pads gathered dust in the darkness of my closet, memories of a high school volleyball has-been. I had no plans to dust them off anytime soon.

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An old passion was brought out of the dust thanks to a little campus involvement. | Karis Johnson/The Cougar

But when I saw the UH Women’s Club Volleyball page while browsing through a list of clubs on campus, the love of a familiar sport had me looking for tryout dates and reaching back into that closet.

University club athletics fall between the fun, easy-going spirit of intramural sports and the duty-driven nature of collegiate sports. They give serious players the opportunity to elevate their skills while maintaining a flexible schedule, though there are some weekends during club season where studying isn’t a possibility.

The required $85 fee seemed insignificant; I had the chance to play a sport I hadn’t touched since high school. However, tournaments require payment for hotels and gas, and while it’s not overpriced, paying $35 to $45 on several weekends does take a toll.

Everyone received a red and black uniform, with HOUSTON boldly printed on the front — I was part of a team once more, and I couldn’t wait for the chance to represent my school on the court.

Though we only practiced twice a week, the drills and vigorous conditioning had me breaking a sweat each time, challenging me to hit that peak again. Those who missed practice had to complete a separate workout or jogging session.

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The encouragement to improve helped both on and off the court. | Karis Johnson/The Cougar

The club could benefit from having a coach who isn’t a player, something unique to UH’s club volleyball team. It’s easier to be constructively criticized when a coach isn’t part of the player pool.

As the awkwardness of playing with strangers wore off, I realized how many new friendships I was creating in club athletics. To add to the experience, my good friend and suite-mate, nutrition sophomore Cristina Tovar, decided to join the club volleyball team as well, and we enjoyed pushing ourselves athletically while getting the chance to do something besides hitting the books.

Throughout the season, the team played in five out-of-town tournaments. While at these weekend tournaments, we would play teams from schools across the region, including Baylor, Texas A&M and Texas State.

To cap the season off, our team traveled to the USA Club Volleyball National Finals held in Kansas City, Mo. where we placed fifth out of 48 national teams in our division.

While it has proved challenging at times, the experience I gained as a member of the UH Women’s Club volleyball team has not only furthered my love for the sport but also pushed me to work harder in fitness, academics and friendships.

As the year comes to a close, I’ll put my volleyball shoes and knee pads back in the closet. This time, though, I plan on pulling them out again for next semester’s club volleyball season.

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