CHANEL PALACIOS ’14
A Trinity College team made history this weekend. But it’s not the squash team we’re talking about here. It’s the Equestrian Team. Wait there’s an Equestrian Team? Who would have thunk? There is indeed, and they’ve come a long way recently, so much that they deserve a lot more attention than they are getting now.
Three years ago, the team had never won a horse show, finished a season, or hosted a horse show. In the past three years though, some big changes have been made. Since the 2010-2011 school year, the team has finished numerous horse shows, seasons, won high point team, and even hosted horse shows.
And this year, Jennifer Dorfman ’14 has qualified to go to nationals, the first student from Trinity College to ever do so. As co-captain of the equestrian team for the second year, Dorfman has some impressive talents. Yet many students do not know about the equestrian team or how much they’ve achieved. Each year, the Equestrian Team participates in about ten shows (for those who don’t know, it’s the equivalent of a match or a meet) against other schools. These shows allow them to qualify first for regionals, then for zones, and then for nationals. Students compete individually, and each point won gets them closer to the national championships.
At the end of the season, Dorfman had the most points of anyone in her division, automatically sending her to nationals. It’s the first time a student from Trinity qualified for nationals in any way, let alone directly. But the glory is not hers alone.
Mallory Taylor ’15, Annie Gardner ’15, Brooke Moore ’15, Co-Captain Emily Sesko ’14, Alix de Gramont ’15, and Erin Barney ’15 have all qualified for regionals, with the hopes of making it to zones and eventually nationals. While Dorfman will also compete in regionals, there is more pressure on her team members to win so that they may continue on their path and bring Trinity some recognition.
Dorfman, as well as her fellow team members, brings some much deserved attention to the equestrian team, and club sports in general. Many do not know what it takes to be a part of a club sport, or the difference between club sports and varsity sports. The main difference between the two is that varsity sports are fully funded, and school operated. Club sports are not. This is the main difference, but it points to the larger issue, in which the Trinity community ignores very important organizations.
Just like varsity sports, they are composed of Trinity students who compete against other schools such as Yale and Sacred Heart. Yet while Sacred Heart’s equestrian team is considered a varsity sport, at Trinity College, riding is simply a club sport.
There are of course complicated political decisions that go into making a sport a varsity sport. This should not hinder the recognition that club sports receive, but it does. No one knows the hard work that goes into it. For the equestrian team, it means a lot. Riders take lessons anywhere from once a week to every single day. They participate in intercollegiate horse shows. On top of all that, because they are only a club sport they must fund most of their own needs. The SGA gives money to clubs based on a request submitted. While the SGA covers the show entries, in other words the actual competitions, the team is left to pay for lessons, travel, clothes, and coaching fees. It’s a lot of money, but well worth it. Dues have helped the team find a new coach, Amy Kriwitsky, who has helped the team improve drastically in the past three years. The Equestrian team is often seen as an elite club sport, but this is because of the limited funding provided to them. It begs the question of what if someone who wanted to be a part of the team but could not afford it? Since SGA provides limited funding, the team would have to rally together and help each other out.
Besides the issue of funding, there are also other problems blocking the equestrian team from becoming a varsity sport. Schools must have an equal number of men’s and women’s sports. Although the equestrian team is co-ed, the team is comprised of only females this year. This means that another team would have to go varsity along with them. Yet there is no shortage of club teams that are unacknowledged.
When one clicks on the Trinity link for athletics, all the varsity sports are listed along with schedules and updates. Yet to find the club sports, you need to go through student life, then clubs and organizations, and then to club sports and recreational activities. It’s a complicated maze that most won’t go through to find club sports. The clubs update their own pages, but their pages look very lackluster in comparison to the athletics website.
Of course, it’s not simply the equestrian team who deserves some acknowledgment. There are many other club sports that not only are impressive, but represent the perks of being a club sport. The Ski team is also on campus, and gained some recognition during blizzard Nemo, when they were seen skiing and snowboarding around campus. Would this have been allowed if they were a varsity team? Most likely not. Coaches would almost certainly be upset if their players would putting themselves at risk like that. But this is a perk of being a club sport. You have the freedom to practice whenever and wherever you would like.
The Club Water Polo team also merits some recognition. Alex Zhang ’14 and Alex Loy ’15 recently established the team just last fall. As a result, they’ve yet to compete but have high hopes for the team. The team plans to play against other local schools and travel in the future. The excitement of starting a club team is evident, and the captains are undeterred by the difference between club and varsity sports. Loy remarks, “The biggest difference is power of the student participant. Varsity is run by the school and by a school hired coach, with specific regulations and an agenda. Club teams seem to be run by the students, and they can take it as far as they choose to. Naturally, non-varsity organizations enjoy much more freedom in structure and regulations.”
It speaks to a larger issue. Trinity gives more weight to school run organizations and activities than it does to student run organizations. While Trinity boasts a large number of organizations, many of them are unheard of, despite the effort and time that gets put in. Is this a fault of the administration? It’s hard to determine.
Playing for varsity sports is more attractive to some students, because they receive more privileges than club sports. Varsity sports have access to meals during off hours. Football even gets tutors just for them. There is a whole block of time at dinner that classes aren’t allowed to be held, because it would interfere with athletics. Is this the right message for academics? It’s another issue for another article, but those privileges are envious if you are a part of a club sport. Yet varsity teams can envy club teams for their freedom in choosing their own coaches, their own meeting times, and they way they run their team.
This suggests that perhaps the pros outweigh the cons. The freedom of a student run organization cannot be underestimated. As the club Water Polo Team gets settled and works toward competitions, the Equestrian Team has also benefitted from being student run. Three years ago, the team was struggling with an undedicated coach who was not helping Trinity succeed. Alumnae Nicole Pucci ’11, Abbie Smitka ’11, and Mel Meyer ’11 used the freedom given to them as captains of a student run club sport to replace their coach. As a result, the Trinity equestrian team has flourished. But this should not come at the expense of being disregarded by the school. It’s disheartening to see our school be so uninvolved beyond the scope of our own interests. This does not deter Dorfman from her goal though, which is nationals. She is not to be bothered or distracted, because when asked for a quote she responded “But I have to go to the barn!” This dedication is what needs to be recognized and admired.
The Trinity Equestrian team deserves some praise, and congratulations. May the club Water Polo team also gain some praise for starting something new, and remaining hopeful. Good luck to the Equestrian team at regionals, zones, and nationals.