Give up on a childhood dream, or work tirelessly to achieve it? Going into college, high school athletes are faced with just this decision: take their talents to the next level – commit to play for their varsity team – or, take a more lax approach and play a club sport. But, depending on the school, the sport, and the student body, this decision isn’t always an option for incoming student athletes; at Millersville University, the only sport that offers both options is men’s soccer.
Millersville’s men’s varsity soccer team has excelled in recent years, peaking with a final four appearance in 2011. With the success the varsity team had, Advisor, Nazli Hardy (a computer science professor), and Bernard Antwi (a computer science student) founded a Club soccer team in the fall of 2011.
The idea came about after continuous banter between Antwi and professor Hardy – Antwi is an avid Chelsea supporter, while Hardy is a Manchester United fan. The rivalry between the two teams is one of the greatest in sports.
Through fundraising, recruiting, and hours of meetings, Antwi and Hardy’s banter materialized into the Millersville men’s club soccer team.
Millersville’s club soccer team offers a great alternative to players that were once on the varsity team who got cut, quit, or chose to focus on academics. One of the main draws to club soccer for these past varsity players, is that it provides an opportunity to play their favorite sport at a similarly competitive level with less commitment. In fact, 10 of the 22 students listed on this year’s roster have prior experience playing varsity college soccer.
Chris Schneider, former varsity player, has found the transition between teams to be smooth.
“The club team is something I’ve really come to enjoy. I love having more free time to devote to studying or hanging out with friends.”
The varsity team requires daily practice, weekly mandatory study hall hours, long trips for away games, and intense weight training; the club team on the other hand only requires two practices a week and weekend games.
This year, the club has grown more than Dr. Hardy ever imagined, something the professor attributes to the club’s strong leadership – the team is completely student run, even their coaching staff; over 40 students tried out for the team, although only 22 students made the final roster.
However, due to the nature of the club, all 40 plus students are allowed to practice, just not participate in the games. This open-minded approach strengthens players who didn’t make “the cut” to hone their skills with the 22 players on the roster.
The president of the club, James Simkins, encourages all players to show up to practice.
“Having so many potential players we can put on our roster is great. If a player who didn’t make the 22 man roster has been working hard in practice and if one of the players on the 22 man roster can’t make a game, that player who otherwise wouldn’t play I will call up to play.”
Currently, the club team boasts an undefeated record at 4-0-1 and is ranked sixth in the region.
Dr. Hardy couldn’t be more proud.
“The camaraderie and support for each other on the team I’m extremely proud of. ”
Although the team has succeeded on the field, University recognition is another story.While the team has been established for almost four years, Millersville University and Dr. Nesbitt, the director of University club sports, have yet to recognize men’s soccer as an official club sport. When contacted for a comment regarding the issue, Dr. Nesbitt responded that he “didn’t know anything about the team”.
That means no funding, no recognition, and no backing by the University. Instead, Dr. Nesbitt has classified the team as a “student organization”.
For players, it’s a very frustrating topic.
Past varsity player and current club member, Ryan Wellman, expressed his frustration,
“I just don’t understand it. It’s ridiculous that after almost four years we can’t receive funding or recognition by the University.”
Now that the topic has been brought to light, an investigation converting the student organization to an official university sponsored club has begun. Dr. Hardy, James Simkins, and the other players are now attempting to get in touch with the Student Senate and Dr. Nesbitt to provide more information on the matter.
For Dr. Hardy, it’s something that she was unaware of until recently. However, now that she has been informed, she shares the team’s frustration.
“In my opinion, given the recognition this team has brought to the university, I think we should be supported more. The team was created almost four years ago – many clubs have failed or disbanded while ours has only grown. I think that the team deserves more recognition by the university.”