Secret Sports


By Wendy Soderburg '82

Published Jan 1, 2007 8:00 AM

With the strain of exertion on their faces, paddler Winnie Siu (foreground) and her teammates work in tandem with steerperson Jeffrey Chen (rear).

What's so secret about UCLA's sports? Well, if you're talking about UCLA's heralded varsity athletics — 99 NCAA team championships and counting — then, nothing. But there's another program on campus that doesn't get nearly as much play, even though it features more than 1,000 talented, fiercely competitive athletes representing UCLA on regionally and nationally ranked teams: UCLA's Club Sports.

Somewhere between the more casual intramural sports and the high-profile world of intercollegiate athletics, club sports offer UCLA students a chance to compete on a high-level playing field. (Faculty, staff and alumni with UCLA Recreation memberships can also join, but students predominate on the rosters.) "They truly are student-athletes," says Mike Kelly, volunteer coach of the men's ice hockey team (and whose day job is stand-in for star Stephen Collins on the TV series 7th Heaven). "They pay to go to school, and they pay to play, as well."

"Club sports have become the new junior varsity of collegiate sports," adds Competitive Sports Coordinator Adam Pruett, who currently oversees 35 active clubs and another five clubs on conditional status. The oldest is men's ice hockey, formed in 1920. The youngest are baseball and kendo, each just 1 year old. Badminton has the largest membership, with more than 100 members, and the equestrian club is the smallest, with 13. Waiting patiently to be classified as official club sports are Brazilian jiu-jitsu, team tennis and mixed martial arts. Lately, Pruett says, the most unusual sports that have applied to be club sports are croquet and lawn bowling.

Make no mistake, though: Many of these athletes are hard core. It's pretty common to see them practicing three or four times a week and squeezing in track workouts on the side, which is why so many of them are at the top of their game. Here's an introduction to three of UCLA's more popular and successful club sports: Women's Ultimate Frisbee, Dragon Boat Racing and Men's Ice Hockey.



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