Students participate in sports outside of school

Kristen Smith, Visual Content Editor

Sophomore Nate Richardson plays for the Columbus Ice Hockey Club. (Used with permission from Nate Richardson)

Whether you’re playing in the gym with a Pacers jersey on, or stepping onto a court at the Delaware YMCA, Hayes students’ commitment to sports is unwavering.
While Hayes offers 26 varsity sports, some student-athletes go to off-campus facilities to practice, play and compete in sports they love. Most student-athletes will participate in a club or travel season during their “off-season” time, though some participate in a recreational organization for a low-pressure experience.
For junior soccer player Joe Mennona, he and his friends from Hayes created a YMCA basketball team to have fun and try out a new sport without the commitment of playing for the varsity basketball team at Hayes.
“Recreational is more just for fun, as opposed to being competitive and serious,” Mennona said. “Even though there’s a competitive edge to the recreational league, it’s still mainly to have a good time with friends and enjoy a sport that we all love.”
Although there are no tryouts and players get fairly equal playing time, there are still some components that are similar to competitive basketball.
“We play eight regular season games, which determines our seeding for a tournament, then we have a tournament and there’s one winner,” Mennona said. “There are teams from Hayes, Buckeye Valley, Olentangy Berlin and Olentangy High School.”
The YMCA basketball league also allows time for players to focus on their main high school sport and training, without expecting much from the organization’s athletes.
“It was made just to enjoy basketball rather than getting results,” Mennona said. “Practices aren’t everyday; we only have one [practice] a week and they are a lot less strenuous.”
While some student-athletes’ intention for playing sports off-campus is to have a pastime or hobby, others have to go off-campus because the sport they’re involved in is not offered as a varsity sport at Hayes.
Sophomore Nate Richardson plays lacrosse for the Hayes team in the spring, but goes off-campus in the winter to play hockey. Hayes does not offer hockey as a sport, so Richardson has no other choice but to play club hockey.
One thing he misses in the winter season is the lack of Delaware pride and not being able to be on a team with his Hayes friends.
“I like both [club and school sports] but probably school sports [are better] because you just have that school spirit; you are with friends that you know,” Richardson said. “But club sports are more like out of school and it’s just a good way to meet other people.”
With club sports comes unexpected costs, unlike most school sports. Club teams usually travel on the weekends and have a larger fee to pay.
“We’ll travel to Dayton or the Bowling Green Ice Center for a couple games that weekend…there’s a pretty big price difference depending on the team,” Richardson said.
While Richardson cannot play hockey with a Pacer jersey on, he still has his fair share of school sports through playing golf and lacrosse for Hayes.
Other student-athletes like junior Rylea Gist play travel softball during the summer to build off of and improve from the Hayes spring softball season. Gist plays for a local travel team called Liberty Fast Pitch.
“I love softball and I want to play softball in college, so it’s just a way to keep getting reps and keep improving in the offseason,” Gist said.
Playing a club sport has become an essential to student-athletes hoping to play at a collegiate level or be able to compete for playing time in a varsity game. According to Next College Student Athlete, 90% of college athletes played a club sport during high school.
When it comes to comparing the difference between club sports and school sports, a difference consistently pointed out is the coaching and skills learned.
“I feel like with club sports in particular, there’s almost less fundamentals and the coaches are just team managers,” Gist said. “Whereas school sports focus more on fundamentals and skill work.”
For softball specifically, the travel season takes place in the summer, which helps athletes to not have to balance the travel season while focusing on school. Meanwhile, spring softball through the school can be challenging for student-athletes.
“I think one of the cons for school sports, especially with softball, is that the season is so short that it gets crammed into a few weeks so we have games like every night. So sometimes it gets in the way of homework,” Gist said.
Whether student-athletes are playing school sports, club sports or both, students said it is important to remember the love for the game and the purpose of playing.
“Travel sports has given me an opportunity to play hockey,” Richardson said. “Travel lacrosse also gives me an opportunity to grow my game and love for the sport and can give me a chance of playing at the next level.”