Without scholarships, club sports must get creative in recruiting talent

By Korey Peterson

Varsity sports on campus have it pretty easy when it comes to recruiting.

When a potential student-athlete is offered a chance to play a sport that he or she loves in the NCAA and receive a college education, this is an easy decision for most graduating high school seniors.

Club sports, such as rugby, lacrosse and hockey, however, do not have the luxury of being able to offer athletes scholarships or much else. Those students who run the clubs do not have time to scan the country looking for players.

“Recruiting is mostly word of mouth,” said Jim Sronkoski, president of the NIU men’s rugby club.

Teams at the NIU club level usually recruit from within. That is, the teams look for players that are already students on campus. Both men’s and women’s rugby teams along with the lacrosse team utilize events such as the Huskie Bash to find players and give incoming freshmen or transfers something to do.

Other clubs, such as equestrian, take advantage of the use of sidewalk chalk outside of various NIU buildings to spread their message about joining.

Most clubs rely on students with an interest in their sport to contact them first. Of course, all clubs are open to anyone, not just those who have played the sport.

“The website is really helping us out,” said Dave Jasper, president of NIU lacrosse. “Instead of us finding them, a few kids found us.”

One NIU club that goes a little further in recruiting is the ice hockey club, taking advantage of the thriving high school hockey community in the Chicagoland area. The team added six freshmen this season, including leading scorers and twin brothers Jon and Brian Pounds. The Huskies also nabbed Joe Boris, who played on a team at the midget major level, the Northwest Chargers, which finished third in a nationals tournament.

“There is a lot of competition for talent in this area,” said hockey club president Mike Sible. “We can encourage people to apply to Northern, but that’s about it.”

Unlike other club teams, the ice hockey team employs a head coach that assists with recruiting and was instrumental in bringing players like Boris to NIU.

“I’ve been getting to know a lot of the players and especially the coaches,” said head coach Greg Chromy, who has been coaching hockey at various levels in Illinois since 1992. “We can just go straight to a coach and find out what a player’s interests are and if they want to go to school or play junior hockey.”