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  Join the Club!

Not everyone can — or wants to — play varsity sports, but there are lots of aspiring athletes at Hopkins. That's why about 1,500 Homewood students play club sports instead. And with 27 clubs to chose from, there are plenty of opportunities to get in the game. Here's just a sampling.

By Kay Downer, A&S '04
Photos by Sam Kittner

All Guts, No Glory

Forget the tackle. Real men prefer the ruck. That's how rugby players regain possession of the ball after a guy goes down (demonstrated at right by Tony Dambro and teammates). And they do it without pads. It's a tough sport — guys running, diving, shoving in pursuit of the ball — but those who play get hooked. Founded in 1987, Hopkins' rugby team has a solid 30 members, enough for two full sides. Last fall they narrowly lost to Navy's C side in the last 10 minutes of the game. And in March they placed second in George Washington University's Brawl on the Mall. Of course, such successes go unnoticed by most of Hopkins. But that's okay with them. "We don't play because we want a huge fan club," says club president Mike Tsimis. No, they roll out of bed on a cold Saturday morning because they're addicted to the game, because they practiced line-outs all week, and because you need at least seven guys for a scrum.

Let It Snow

With a yearly snowfall of less than two feet and not a mountain in sight, Baltimore isn't exactly a ski destination. Which is why on winter weekends, Abby Gibbon (left) and about a dozen other members of the Snow Club grab their skis and boards, pop a disc in the van's CD player, and hit the road for snowy PA.

Club members cover a range of skill levels, which means beginners can pick each other up off the bunny slopes while the pros whiz down the black diamonds. And since skiing and snowboarding don't have intercollegiate competitions, snow club right now is strictly about hanging out and having fun. "Unexpectedly, a lot of people who you really would never see on campus socializing were just like, 'Do you want to hit this trail together?'" says co-president Nino Torres.

The club may be getting a little more serious — they are thinking about organizing teams next year to compete in regional downhill races for skiers and half-pipe and style competitions for snowboarders. And for those who still just want to have fun, one resort hosts a 24-hour contest to see which team has the most people still on their feet at the end.

Good Form

Junior Genevieve Gallagher (right) swam competitively for 12 years, and when she came to Hopkins, she gave the varsity swim team a try. But with all of the pressures to perform academically, she says, "it was just way too much." The Taekwondo Club offered some relief. "It's very mental," says Gallagher, now a black belt in the sport. "But it's a very different kind of mental than your schoolwork, so it gives you a really good balance."

Founded by Jay Lester, A&S '93, the Taekwondo Club — which is different from the Olympic Taekwondo Club at Hopkins — trains both for point sparring and International Taekwondo Federation competition. They practice daily and, twice a semester, train with a Grandmaster in New York. The traveling team competes in tournaments at Yale, Princeton, Columbia, and the University of Pennsylvania. This year, in the Collegiate Nationals sparring competition, they brought home one gold, one silver, and three bronzes.

Color Me "Out"

Think capture-the-flag, but for adults... with paint-shooting guns. Paintball has been sweeping the nation, and Hopkins students (including, left to right, George Xu, Mitchell Buck, and Edward Nissen) got in on the act last year, establishing a paintball club that competes in recreational and intercollegiate leagues. How's it work? Teams of five players — all equipped with markers (the guns), face shields, and clothes that can get really dirty — try to eliminate each other with well-aimed shots of paint. If you're hit, you're out. A speedball game, in which the players hide behind inflatable bunkers as they work their way toward the goal, takes five or six minutes at most and is played on a small field. Other games take longer and are played in the woods, on larger fields, or with different types of bunkers.

The paintball club competes regionally, and at the National Collegiate Paintball Association Championships in Orlando, Florida, in April it placed 25th out of 45 teams.

Ultimate Fun

Before you assume that Ultimate Frisbee is for wimps, consider this: Just this season, the women's team has collectively suffered countless jammed fingers and colorful bruises, a broken nose, two badly twisted ankles, and a broken collarbone. "I ran down a huck" — a long throw downfield — "laid out" — dove — "to catch it left-handed, and landed hard on my left shoulder," says co-captain Shalini Low-Nam (right), affectionately known as Psychosmurf, to explain her collarbone injury.

And that's just the women's team! Ultimate players take no prisoners when it comes to a sport that the rest of us think of as a sunny-afternoon-at-the-beach kind of thing. But as hard-core as they are on the field, the women's ultimate team members have a softer side. "People tend to be pretty good friends," says co-captain Holly Martin. They organize parties, have Thanksgiving dinner together, and trade gifts at Christmastime.

This camaraderie spreads to the field, where games are self-refereed and, after the game, each team cheers its opponent. This year the team played locally against Towson University and traveled to tournaments in Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Watch the Birdie

Talk about laid back. When the Badminton Club practices, they're not training for intercollegiate competitions; they're just unwinding after a long day. Four times a week, club president Alex Lin (left) and the rest of the group head to the O'Connor Recreation Center, which provides the courts, nets, rackets, and birdies. They warm up a little, get in a game or two, and call it a night.

The scoring in badminton is similar to volleyball's (only the serving team can win a point), as is the basic idea: to hit the birdie where your opponent can't get it. If he's near the net, you "clear" — that is, "hit the birdie high and to the back," explains Lin. If he's in back, you "drop," or "tap the birdie lightly so it drops just over the net."

Founded by Swee Yang Lim, A&S '03, the club is made up mostly of Asian graduate students (the game is bigger in Eastern countries than here in the States), but there's a handful of undergraduates, and the team would like to have more. "Anyone who's interested can play," says Lin. No pressure.

Cold Play

Ice Hockey Club may sound social: "The team gives me an opportunity to get away from school for a couple of hours during the week and to meet people with a common interest," says Stephen McNutt (right). But it's pretty competitive.

Founded by Andy Gray, A&S '88, the team has about 30 members who practice twice a week at Mt. Pleasant Ice Arena. They compete as part of the Mason-Dixon Collegiate Hockey Association and have a longstanding rivalry against Loyola, drawing about 150 fans to this year's game. "We joke that other than men's lacrosse, we're the most watched team on campus," says club president Michael Rozsa.

And there are even some women getting a taste for the sport — sophomore Jina Youn is trying to organize a team. But ice hockey is expensive, with ice time costing as much as $200 an hour. So the women will have to do a little fund-raising before lacing up their skates.

Return to June 2004 Table of Contents

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