Club sports for the win
When I came to Dartmouth, I walked on to the Varsity Swimming and Diving team. I wanted to continue competing in the sport I had loved all throughout high school, and I wanted to do it at the highest level possible. I won't lie and say that I was oblivious to the "perks" of varsity sports: an instant group of people to talk to on campus, attention (and funding) from the College, all of the Dartmouth gear, training trips, access to the varsity-only gym and athletic trainers. It seemed like the perfect choice for me, but my freshman fall took a turn for the worse with a concussion and several bouts of the flu, and I wasn't enjoying swimming like I used to. I finished out the season and made the decision to switch to triathlon, which isn't varsity at Dartmouth, but club. The perks of varsity were great, but not enough to outweigh the fact that I wasn't happy for a variety of reasons. I can honestly say that the decision to leave varsity sports was one of the best decisions I have made for both my mental and physical health in a long time. I know a lot of incoming student-athletes get caught up in the "prestige factor" of varsity sports. Personally, the perks of varsity were great, but they weren't worth the amount of pressure and anxiety I was feeling at practice and competition. Some athletes manage it really well, and I applaud them, but it wasn't for me. That's why I'm here to tell you that if varsity sports just aren't for you, it's ok. Club sports can be everything you want from a varsity sport - and more. I joined Dartmouth Triathlon Team to start working towards my dream of completing a full IronMan (catch me racing IronMan Texas in April!). It has been an absolute joy to be able to plan out my training - with the help of a coach, of course - and a schedule that fits my life. I'm working out more now than I was on varsity, but it's manageable because it's tailored to my specific class schedule and flexible when it needs to be. Tri Team has three incredible coaches (one of whom is also an assistant coach on the Swim & Dive) who are accepting of all skill levels and happy to help anyone achieve their specific goals, whether it be to complete an IronMan or just stay in shape. We have the social events, training trips, intense competition, and ~sick gear~ that varsity sports have, but we also have the ability to accommodate any skill level and the personal ability to do as much or as little as we like. On top of all that, Tri Team is a genuinely compassionate and welcoming environment full of friendly, motivated people who truly want to see each other do well.
Tri Team was heaven-sent for me, but it isn't the only club sport on campus. Whether you want to try something for the first time or improve on your past performance in the sport, there is a club sport at Dartmouth for you. You can be just as much of an athlete on a club team as you can on varsity, and maybe even a little happier, too.