Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Bring your sword, Frisbee, desire to play

Club sports, intramurals offer fitness and fun

On a quiet Thursday evening, the sound of metal clinking against metal pierces the cavernous Clark Center gym, as two students lunge at each other with swords. Back and forth they go in an athletic dance of grace and aggression that ends with one touching the other with the (covered) tip of a blade.

No worries; it’s all in the name of fun and sport. They are members of the Fencing Club, which is one of a growing number of club sports and intramural activities now being offered at Wheaton to encourage fitness and friendship, as well as mental agility.

“Fencing provides a challenge unlike any other sport,” says Ryan Barrette ’15, a chemistry major and co-president of the Fencing Club. “It challenges the body and mind equally.”

Barrette has been fencing for four years, starting in high school. When he arrived at Wheaton he worked with fellow 2015 classmates Caitlin Claflin, Lindsay Curtin and Andrew Shelton to create the current Fencing Club, which has 15 members. The club was in its first competition of the year in two tournaments at the Rhode Island Fencing Academy and Club in October.

“It’s a great way to relieve stress,” points out Claflin, an English major and club co-president. “I’ve also made a lot of friends through fencing. Outside of fencing, the other officers and I are in different friend groups, different majors, and we probably would not have seen each other all that often. The club gives people an opportunity to make friends with people they might not otherwise have had an opportunity to connect with.”

That’s just what Steve Angelo, director of club sports and intramurals, likes to hear. His goal is to get everyone on campus involved throughout the year by offering a wide array of choices—from basketball and soccer to archery and Ultimate Frisbee.

“It’s important because it helps to promote a healthy and active lifestyle,” says Angelo. “Obviously, the students here at Wheaton are very academically focused, but intramurals and club sports give them a nice release from that go-go-go, and a chance to laugh and get some exercise—especially for those who don’t want to go to the gym or play on a varsity team.”

Last year, Wheaton offered 15 intramural activities and it currently has 14 club sports. The number of activities and clubs constantly changes based on student interest, says Angelo, who assists students in starting or growing clubs.

Intramurals are mainly recreational and informal gatherings organized through online registration. Club sports, which have a formal student-leadership structure, are team-oriented activities that have the feel of a varsity team without the commitment, but require practice sessions three to four times a week. Some clubs compete against other schools and hold tournaments, and some don’t.

For example, the Ultimate Frisbee Club, which has 35 members, last spring traveled  to Georgia to compete against other college clubs in a national tournament. “For me,” said Carter Milliken ’14, English major and club president, “Ultimate Frisbee has been a way to meet new people, get in shape, and foster my competitive spirit as I try to coach the team to as many wins as possible.”

The Women’s Rugby Club also is very competitive. In November 2012, the team earned the chance to compete in a national rugby championship.

Julie Stubbs ’13, a very busy psychology and anthropology double major, is the head of the rugby club and the Ice Hockey Club. It’s challenging to manage everything, she says, but well worth it. “I’m taking two senior seminars, a psych lab, and a science lab, all while trying to write my thesis (while being president of both teams, which requires a lot of time and organization).

“We practice five days a week (three days for two hours, two days for about an hour) and have one game a weekend that takes up a couple hours. Rugby is definitely a time commitment, but I look forward to it. It’s time to go out, have fun, work hard, learn discipline, and, of course, hit people.”