When Robert Azcarate-Bascherini took over as Club Sports Director for USF in January 2013, there were nine sports clubs on campus. Now there are 26, with over 350 total participants. The Competitive Sports Club program has focused on allowing students to create and facilitate clubs with minimal restrictions, making it possible for students with any type of athletic interests to start a club of their own.
“The growth has been astronomical [with this approach],” Azcarate-Bascherini said. There are currently nine clubs that have either begun this semester or are in the works for the future.
The most successful new club has been the Contemporary Dance Club, which already boasts 47 members. Known as Vitality Dance SF, the student-led group meets each Thursday from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the Aerobics Room at Koret Center. Sophomore Megan Marabella, the founder and president of Vitality Dance SF, came to USF as a freshman “with a very strong passion and love for dance,” and after deciding that the school’s dance program wasn’t for her, she took matters into her own hands.
“The style practiced (by the USF Dance Program) is something I am not familiar with,” Marabella said. “So, by the time second semester rolled around I had been missing dance so much that I came up with the idea to start my own contemporary dance club.”
Marabella has been dancing for 17 years, and her styles of dance range from ballet and jazz to hip-hop and lyrical. Her versatility seems to be paying dividends, as students have flocked to the club and expressed a desire to learn more about contemporary dance.
“The dancers in the club seem to be loving it, and I have had a handful of them personally thank me because they too missed dancing like (I did),” Marabella said.
Vitality Dance SF serves as a model for students looking to start a sports club and build a strong following. Marabella has encouraging words for students who want to create their own club, but cautions them not to go into it alone.
“My advice is to make sure you have a group of a few people who will help you,” Marabella said. “There’s so much to do and especially being a student it would be too stressful to do it on your own…it’s a ton of work, but it is worth it.”
Among other new clubs is the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Club. The club has attracted students looking to improve their martial arts and self-defense techniques, and it currently has about 15 members. Right now, members are busy preparing to compete in the Bay Area Jiu-Jitsu Championships, which will take place on Nov. 24 in Alameda, Calif.
The Lacrosse Club is another sports club that began in the Fall 2013 semester. A study done by the Sporting Good Manufactures Association revealed that, as of 2011,
Lacrosse’s popularity had grown by a whopping 218.1 percent in the past 10 years, so it was only matter of time before it became a club sport at USF. There are already 20 people showing up for practices, and the next step is to implement set practice times play competitive games with other schools. Azcarate-Bascherini is focused on providing financial support for Lacrosse, and he hopes that the group will be able to play in a league next year.
Other new additions include the Cycling Club and the Capoeira Club, both of which have been met with positive student reactions. Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art
that includes dancing, acrobatics and music, and just like the Contemporary Dance and Lacrosse Clubs, it was started by students who approached Azcarate-Bascherini with their idea. Not all begin this way, but Azcarate-Bascherini wants to make it easy for students to form ideas for clubs on their own. To achieve this, he only requires there to be four interested people in order to get a club going, and each of these founding
members must assume one of four roles: president, vice president, treasurer, and equipment manager. After these positions are established, the students must spread the word and find more people to continue the club.
Along with the many clubs that were initiated this semester, the Competitive Sports Club program is making an effort to add new sports in the near future. Among the clubs currently under development are the Triathlon Club and the Sailing Club, and depending on the level of student interest, they may be in full swing by early spring semester. Also, the Basketball Club is working to enter a competitive league with teams from other schools, but for now the team competes in the Men’s Basketball Undergraduate Intramural League under the name USF Dons Club.
Interestingly, Azcarate-Bascherini believes that there is a correlation between club involvement and a school’s retention rate. He reasons that participating in club sports gives students an incentive to return because of the strong relationships they create.
“[Students] belong to a group, instead of just going to a school,” Azcarate-Bascherini said.The fact that the amount of clubs has nearly tripled in the past year is an indication that more and more students are having positive experiences with club sports at USF.