Oakland University women’s club rugby players are pictured in action. Some colleges and universities offer students the chance to participate in club sports that aren’t considered mainstream.

Oakland University women’s club rugby players are pictured in action. Some colleges and universities offer students the chance to participate in club sports that aren’t considered mainstream.

Photo provided by Klarissa Matanos

Club sports provide nontraditional opportunities

By: Mark Vest | C&G Newspapers | Published August 8, 2019

METRO DETROIT — For student-athletes who are interested in a sport not considered mainstream, it can be challenging to find opportunities to participate at the NCAA level.

In fact, some sports aren’t offered as high school programs. However, at least for some, there are alternatives.

Many universities and colleges have club sports, and some of the ones offered are far from mainstream.

Klarissa Matanos played for Berkley High’s girls rugby club team, and when she was trying to decide which school she wanted to attend after graduation, one that offered a rugby program was part of her criteria.

Matanos learned that Oakland University is one of the schools that has a women’s rugby club team.

“It was kind of one of my priorities when I was looking into what colleges I was interested in,” Matanos said. “So, knowing that rugby was at OU made it that much better for me.”

Another club sport offered at Oakland is equestrian, which gives students the opportunity to participate in horse riding competitions.

Aimee Latsch is the head coach of Oakland’s equestrian program. While attending college, she was also part of an equestrian program in Virginia.

Her role with Oakland allows her to spend time around horses, while also representing a university.

“It’s very rewarding,” Latsch said. “I’ve had a lot (of) people that have never competed before, that have been riding in a barn and now have an opportunity to be a part of a team and compete. … OU puts that into some people’s wheelhouse, and I love it. I enjoy representing OU.”

While serving in the military, Georgia native Clarence Round would sometimes partake in Ultimate Frisbee.

When searching for a school, an important factor was one that offered it as a program. He learned that Oakland has an Ultimate Frisbee club team and enrolled.

“For me, it’s pretty cool,” Round said. “It allows me to still play a sport at a competitive level. … It gives you another sport to play that people wouldn’t know nothing about, and play at a high level.”

On occasion, Round has found himself explaining Ultimate Frisbee to others.

“The sport kind (of) resembles, I like to say, soccer and football, but without (the) physicality that football provides,” Round said. “It’s seven on seven. Each team has (an) end zone. One team is on defense (and) one team is on offense. It’s kind (of) like soccer where the disc can go in any direction, but you can’t run with the disc. So everything you do, you have to throw the disc, catch it, until you get to your end zone.”

With equestrian, riders earn points based on an evaluation of their performances by judges.

The top equestrian teams can earn a spot at nationals. However, individual riders can also go, even if the team doesn’t perform well enough as a whole to make it.

“(On) a basketball team, you could be the best player and score 36 points, but if no one else on the team is doing anything, you’re not making it to finals,” Latsch said. “So, I think that’s what makes it special, is that you can go far on your own, and then also that every week you get to drive out to the barn, be around the horses and be a part of a team sport. I think that’s really special too.”

Although rugby is a tackle sport, as far as protective equipment, Matanos said, “We just have mouth guards, and that’s pretty much it.

“I think that’s what kind of scares people away, is the tackling,” Matanos said. “But we like to assure the (people) who are giving it a try that we go over the right techniques to make sure people are tackling properly and safely.”

Women’s rugby, equestrian and Ultimate Frisbee are just a few of the club sports offered at some colleges and universities.

And whether it is a mainstream sport or one that is a little more unique, the chance to participate can make campus life more enjoyable for some students.

“Being part of a college club, I think, is very cool,” Latsch said.