WSU Tri-Cities works to add club sports

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KENNEWICK — Washington State University Tri-Cities students will have athletics teams to root for next fall at the Richland campus.

Administrators are searching for people to coach soccer, rugby and volleyball club teams for men and women.

Forty students have already signed up to play the sports in early but low-key promotions for the teams.

"I played football in high school so I figured I'd try (rugby) out," said junior John Snider of Kennewick.

Student leaders and university officials say club sports will go far in promoting school pride and student networking, making the campus experience that much better for students and the public at large.

"That's our No. 1 goal," said Lori Selby, vice chancellor for finance and administration.

Club sports aren't the same as NCAA-level teams representing the WSU system, where student athletes can qualify for scholarships and coaching staff work year-round. But club teams do have paid coaches, represent their university, play against club teams at other schools and compete in the postseason.

The Pullman campus offers club sports, but its higher-profile teams playing in the Pac-12 conference as part of the National Collegiate Athletics Association, or NCAA, are the most visible and identifiable. Students at Pullman and WSU Vancouver also play against each other on intramural teams.

The university is offering $7,000 stipends for each part-time coaching position in Richland. Coaches who have experience, possibly at the community college level, would be ideal, said Selby, herself a former high school and community college coach.

Team uniforms, transportation to competitions and initial facility and equipment costs will be covered by the university, Selby said. However, the expectation is that coaches will help players organize fundraising to support their activities.

WSU Tri-Cities club teams will play as independents for the first year or two, but Selby said the plan is join a league with other WSU club teams and the University of Washington, Gonzaga University and the University of Idaho. Students could form teams in other sports ranging from cross country to rowing.

Administrators began meeting with student government about club sports a few months ago, said Rigo Leon, a senior and student body vice president. That led to student leaders gauging student opinion, which he described as "eager."

Club sports are the latest effort by the university to offer more of the activities expected at a traditional four-year institution. Administrators signed an agreement with a Richland apartment complex earlier this year to establish a dormlike experience for interested students and student government is working to build a student union on campus.

There are many WSU Tri-Cities students who played sports in high school but for whatever reason weren't able to continue playing at the collegiate level, Selby said. Offering club sports gives those students an athletic outlet while keeping the focus on their education.