Club sports participation positive for single sport athletes

MSHS student athletes benefit from year round training in certain sports.

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Cote family

Aidan Coté (12) races breaststroke for the MSHS Girls Swim & Dive team during the winter high school sports season. Coté trains year round on her club team, the Colorado Torpedoes.

Gideon Aigner, Guest Reporter

Many student athletes at Manitou Springs High School participate in club sports, and this has had both a positive and negative impact on the MSHS athletic program for over a decade. MSHS has lost student athletes to other schools because they wanted to play with their club sports teammates during the high school season. While this problem has impacted MSHS athletics, the common consensus around student athletes and coaches at MSHS at this point is that, based on the situation, club sports are largely beneficial to athletics, and more specifically, to one sport athletes.

Crissy Leonhardt, Girls Volleyball Coach at MSHS, said that she also coaches club volleyball, and as such, she is for club sports.  “I like [club sports] because it gives a better opportunity for kids to be seen by colleges and to continue in these sports. It also helps you to learn more about life in general,” Leonhardt said.  

Students seem to share a similar view. Manitou Swim and Dive veteran Aidan Coté (12) said that she has “had an extremely positive experience with club sports” throughout her life. “I really think being a club athlete has helped my chances of getting closer to a Championship. It is really just the reality. When I look at Evergreen, the swim team that won 3A Girls Swim and Dive State my entire time in high school, all of their girls that are finishing top 10 are club swimmers,” said Coté.  “High school sports seasons are so short in all reality. When it comes to club sports, you are training most of the year. It’s like a part time job, but the amount of time training really benefits me. You have to put the work in to get anything out of it so really those who are not doing club are less likely to make it to a championship. I can tell you on finals day of State in high school that the top 20 in every event, the vast majority of them are club swimmers; and the girls that win state titles are always club athletes.” 

Aidan Coté (12) with a first place finish for the MSHS Girls Swim & Dive Team last season. Cote trained at the Manitou Springs Pool for both her club team, the Colorado Torpedoes, and the MSHS Girls Swim & Dive team. (Coté family)

On the other hand, Boys Basketball Coach Brian Vecchio is very neutral about club sports. “I believe for the athlete that is in the top 20% of their sport that it can have some definite benefits, both in their high school season and their own personal development. I also believe that if an athlete really loves one sport and just wants to play that sport, the club provides an opportunity to do that on some level,” Vecchio said. Taking it further, he added that “the only thing I dislike about club sports is when athletes are told that they HAVE to play to have a chance at a scholarship. There are only a handful of  ‘head count’ sports that provide full athletic scholarships to student-athletes. Most sports need to piece together academic, athletic and financial aid to help athletes get the most scholarship money possible.” Vecchio said that club sports may have helped with his chances to win a State Championship. “I mean, club basketball is not for everyone,” Vecchio said, “but we have had several players get an opportunity to play basketball at a higher level (and sometimes on the same team) which has helped their abilities during the high school season. I have also played and coached club basketball. I think it can provide a way for athletes in a small town/school like Manitou to be able to see a higher level of competition and evaluate skills they may have thought were at a college level that are not.” 

Club just gives you more time to train for big goals like winning State and opens the door to more opportunities. It allows for more failure to then learn from your mistakes and work through them to get better.”

— Aidan Coté (12)

Manitou Boys and Girls Soccer Coach Ben Mack said that his experience with club sports has been more positive than negative. “It’s a complex situation, and one that really is specific to the sport and particularly the player playing that sport,” Mack said. Soccer is one of those sports that club teams benefit. “To really be able to play sports like soccer which require a huge amount of technical ability, you have to play year round; so having the opportunity to have those options for athletes that want to be able to compete at a high level is a good thing,” Mack said. And when asked about whether club Sports have more helped or hindered his chances at winning a State Championship, Mack said, “Club sports have definitely helped as there would be no way we could even come close to competing against schools who had a majority, year-round club players on them. If no student in any school could participate in club sports, it’s tough to say; but we would probably be similarly competitive to where we are now.”

While MSHS has lost athletes in the past because of club sports, it seems that overall, club sports have been a positive experience for both student athletes and the MSHS Athletics Program.  Aidan Coté’s experience is proof. “Club just gives you more time to train for big goals like winning State and opens the door to more opportunities. It allows for more failure to then learn from your mistakes and work through them to get better.”