Whether you’re trying to pursue an existing passion, stay in shape, or simply play to enjoy, US universities give you ample opportunity to participate in organized sports and to get involved in activities outside of the classroom. By attending a US university, you can gain access to some of the best recreational facilities and resources in the world. For example, the Payne Whitney Gymnasium at Yale University is one of the largest athletic facilities ever built; its twelve acres of interior space include a swimming pool, fencing facilities, and a polo practice room.
There are typically three categories of university sports: varsity, club, and intramural. Varsity sports are reserved for the extremely dedicated athlete who has played the sport for an extended period of time before arriving at university. These athletes may be offered scholarships by their respective school, depending on the sport and the university. The vast majority of varsity sports are governed by organizations such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) or the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA). Within varsity sports, each school is assigned to Division I, Division II, or Division III, and teams compete within their respective division. Given the sheer size of colleges in the US and the facilities at their disposal, varsity athletes receive some of the best training in the country. Only students who are fully devoted to their sport, and compete at a near professional level may pursue this path. Choosing to play varsity sports is very demanding but the rewards are tremendous.
If you don’t want to spend the majority of your time either playing or training for your varsity team, or if your performance level is below the varsity standard, club sports are a great alternative. But make no mistake, the competition can be fierce. Club teams are provided limited funding by the university, which means the teams themselves engage in fundraising and promotional activities. This builds great camaraderie amongst those involved. Club teams take on other colleges who compete at the same level, while representing their own university, so there is a lot at stake. This is a great way of ensuring you continue to play your desired sport at a competitive level, but also maintain that so desired work-life-sport balance! If the sport of your choice isn’t available, you can always approach your university’s club sports director to get it introduced. The options for participating in different sports and activities are endless!
Finally, universities and colleges offer a category of sports called intramural sports. This is the most casual way to pursue your sporting hobby (or pick up a new one!). These sports involve competing against fellow students within the same school and tend to be the most social. Intramural teams don’t discriminate based on ability, and everyone is welcome to join as long as they sign up on time and are willing to make the commitment to sticking with that group for the semester. Intramural sports are an excellent way to meet people with similar interests and include some physical activity in your busy schedule. Playing alongside fellow students can give you a wonderful sense of belonging, which is important when settling into a new school environment.
As always, ask your Hale counselor if you have any questions about how to pursue these activities, and what would be the best options for you.
Sid Choudhary graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Sports Management from New York University.