UBC competitive sports clubs begin inaugural season

After the sports reviews two years ago resulted in teams being stripped of their varsity level status, UBC Athletics and Recreation have collaborated with nine clubs to form an alternative competitive stream for AMS-recognized sports clubs. The stream will allow the clubs to compete under the UBC Thunderbird name in competitive non-varsity leagues. The new student-run teams will be able to compete for UBC in sports that are not available as varsity sports at the university.

“It was shown that there was a need for the competitive club stream,” said UBC Athletics and Recreation Competitive Clubs Coordinator Erin Connelly-Reed. “It came from a need for further representation from the university.”

Reed’s position as the liaison between the sports teams and UBC Athletics and Recreation has only been in place since July. However, the idea has been in the works since May 2012. The club stream was then suggested in 2013 and was officially implemented in September 2015. 

After the initial review in 2013 to secure varsity status for the current sports teams, the AMS conducted a survey which identified support services needed and preferred for their competitive club strand. The following February, there was an open invitation for clubs to apply for competitive club status. 

Wrestling was originally a varsity sport at UBC but, due to financial troubles, took a hiatus from the 1980s to the early 2000s, until it was reestablished as a club.
Wrestling was originally a varsity sport at UBC but, due to financial troubles, took a hiatus from the 1980s to the early 2000s, until it was reestablished as a club.

Many factors came into consideration when choosing teams for the new stream such as competitive success, progression in the team, support for competitions and training, community support, traditions, partnerships with UBC Athletics and Recreation and representation of the university mission.

In 2014, the successful clubs were named.

Unlike varsity level athletics, UBC Thunderbirds Sports Clubs are student-led and compete in non-CIS and non-NAIA competitions. Each team has to comprise of a club leader, a financial officer, a marketing and communications officer and a travel and safety officer. UBC Athletics and Recreation also requires that they be financially responsible to be in a competitive league.

Varsity level athletics will not be affected. UBC Athletics and Recreation are more interested in being able to provide more support for non-varsity level teams.

“At the end of the year, we’re looking for competitive clubs to be successful on the pitch, or in the pool, or on the ski hill and have represented UBC to the best of their abilities,” said Reed.

The clubs that have been selected are alpine skiing, fencing, field lacrosse, nordic skiing, sailing, synchronized swimming, tennis, ultimate frisbee and wrestling. Previous considerations were given to the women’s softball team who had since appealed to the sports review and were restored to varsity status at the beginning of the summer. 

“The hardest part is that all the clubs have different schedules throughout the season and I’m the one competitive club coordinator. So it’s probably just [about] getting all the clubs together in this inaugural year.”

The aforementioned clubs were selected in March 2014 by a committee of AMS and Athletics and Recreation Department representatives. They were already competing in a variety of community or inter-collegiate competitions. Others such as coaches, UBC administrators, Thunderbird Alumni and student leaders contributed as well in the implementation.

With this new status, the teams will now receive support from UBC Athletics and Recreation and services such as coach honoraria, improved access to training facilities and opportunities for student leadership training. These are all key goals that UBC aims for with this new stream. However, they cannot compete in CIS or NAIA conferences or championships.

There are still over 30 AMS sport clubs for students to enjoy. However, UBC Athletics and Recreation are looking to expand their competitive club repertoire and have more teams representing UBC in competitive intercollegiate leagues. There is a recruiting period during October and an application period in November for potential clubs to apply for competitive level status.

The men's lacrosse team placed fourth in the Canada West Field Lacrosse League in 2014.
The men's lacrosse team placed fourth in the Canada West Field Lacrosse League in 2014.

The potential sports clubs in question would have to be an AMS-backed club. They must also show that they are in a competitive structure which can be shown by being in a league or the opportunity to attend provincial or national level competition. 

“Every year we’ll have the open application period for those AMS clubs and hopefully we’ll double or triple our numbers,” said Reed. “We’re looking to have more options available because this program is for any UBC student.”

As the various sports seasons start, the stream is already proving to be effective. The UBC men’s lacrosse won their first game 7-0 two weeks ago.

With this stream, UBC Athletics and Recreation aims for three main goals – to raise UBC’s reputation as a leader in competitive sport, to grow the UBC Thunderbird legacy by continuing to attract top-student athletes and to encourage campus-wide participation in sports.

“As a competitive club, these athletes are now recognized as UBC athletes under this umbrella. We’re looking to bring all UBC students under that umbrella.” 

For general inquiries into team tryouts, visit the UBC Athletics and Recreation website at or contact sport.clubs@ubc.ca