Club sports vs. school sports at WO


Linus Gugino

It was a blazing hot Saturday afternoon in mid July, and the end of a long soccer game; both teams had fought hard and were tied at 1-1. Senior Sam Beetham stole the soccer ball at midfield and headed toward the right sideline. He passed the ball to a teammate in the middle and made a hard run at the corner. His midfielder placed a perfectly arcing ball just outside the 18 yard box. Beetham took touches and fired the ball at the keeper. It hit off the far post and fell softly into the net. Unlike most high school games where there would be an eruption of applause and cheers from the crowd, Beetham’s coach and teammates were the loudest on the field. They were the biggest audience anyone had at this club soccer game.


  Club sports nationwide are becoming more and more popular and competitive, and it is becoming increasingly common that athletes compete in club sports during the offseason to keep their skills fresh.  It is rare that players choose to participate in club sports over school sports, but club sports do have different advantages and offer different opportunities.  There are hundreds of students athletes here at West Ottawa, many of whom participate in club sports as well as school sports.  Opinions differ from sport to sport, club to club, and town to town, but there are certainly advantages and disadvantages to both.


   “I loved my coaches, I made a ton of different friends, and it was a great way to get better at soccer,” Sr. Danny deForest said.  He believes his club soccer team plays better together than the high school soccer team simply because they have had more years of practice together.   

  Graham Gould, a WO lacrosse player who also participated in spring club lacrosse thinks that the club team he played on also played a higher level of lacrosse than he plays at school.  But without question, the two are differ greatly, and offer diverse  opportunities and playing styles.  This is true for all sports, not just lacrosse. “At WO, I am more of an attacking threat, so I focus on opportunities to score.  At club, I focus more on helping others score, I play more of a center position,” deForest said. Just this season, the WO soccer team had the chance to play against East Kentwood, last year’s State Champions, and they beat them two to one.  “When we beat EK it was a super exciting time. I had to find one of my best friends since elementary school right away because it was a big thing the two of us did together and I wanted to celebrate with him,” deForest said.  Sr. Drew Pederson and deForest did a huge shoulder bump, and the opposing team’s coach We were kind of astonished but the anger the opposing team’s coach was unsuccessfully trying to contain told us that we actually just beat the state champs,” deForest said.  


  On the other hand, Beetham, who participates in club soccer and club basketball, believes that the competition found at schools is generally better.  That’s not the only plus either.  “School lacrosse does have an end goal, which is nice,” Gould said.  In school sports, it is always a fight to win conference, then regionals, then state, and so on.


  Playing environments also vary greatly between club and high school sports.  “There are pros and cons to both, but school sports do generally have nicer facilities,” Beetham said.  Also, usually the community gets more involved with school sports.  There are larger crowds at games, and the most of the people involved with the schools care about their kids taking home a win.  “There’s something about playing under the lights with a ton of people watching,” deForest said.  Nothing can replace the energy and encouragement and intense atmosphere from the fans pushing the athletes forward.  At club sports, this doesn’t happen.  The only people who are really influenced by the sport are the families and players.  Fans don’t rally around a team and come out to support them as much, and there is less publicity in club sports.  This is most likely due to more frequent traveling done in club sports, which makes it harder for others to come and support.


  deForests’ club soccer team once won a game 17-0, which is a pretty amazing achievement.  Blowouts that large don’t happen every day.  If a club team is still a part of a community, an accomplishment of that scale should receive some recognition, but it didn’t.  The only people who heard about it were the people immediately affected by it.  However, when the Panthers beat Caledonia in a football game, or when WO girls Cross Country won the Bredeweg Invitational, it made it into the Holland Sentinel.  Unless a club team is the only team in an area, school teams consistently have a better community and playing environment supporting and encouraging them.


During practice, athletes are working hard to improve their game.  Practices are challenging and intense, and if players participate in a school sport, they are daily after school.  With homework and jobs, an extra two to three hours out of your day makes life very busy.  Club sports on the other hand generally practice a few times a week, with games and tournaments over the weekends.  Last year, Beetham participated in Anchor basketball, and he only had practice on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday each week.  Games were usually on those same days, which meant that he only had to commit three days out of the week toward sports.  Though it sometimes means that teams don’t improve as much as they would if they practiced every day, it gets the job done and takes a lot of stress off the athletes.


Practice and game schedules, competition levels, and environments vary greatly between club and school sports.  Both have advantages and disadvantages, but only by doing both are you able to get the full picture.  “If you only have one choice, do school sports, but if you have the chance, do both for sure,” said deForest.  If you are an athlete and want to experience the same sport in different ways and improve your game year round, you should expose yourself to both club sports and school sports.