Hidden in the back office at the Residence Center gym, 731 S. Plymouth Court, and intermixed with students being lectured in South Loop classrooms are the people who represent the feisty, rebellious spirit of Columbia athletics.
The Renegades, a student-run athletics organization, are trying to redefine Columbia’s reputation in athletic arenas with club sports teams such as baseball, volleyball and Ultimate Frisbee, among others.
Making appearances at Convocation and Weeks of Welcome, as well as putting up fliers advertising the teams, the Renegades have been busy in the weeks leading up to school. The glossy, brightly colored flyers of the volleyball team also announce their upcoming tryouts at the Grant Park beach volleyball courts between Balbo Avenue and Columbus Drive on Sept. 6 and Sept. 8—9.
The baseball team tryouts are on Sept. 10 and 17, also at Grant Park. Ultimate Frisbee is a walk-on sport. As of press time, the continuation of the basketball team had yet to be determined.
Mark Brticevich, fitness and recreation coordinator and Renegades adviser, urged captains to hold tryouts within the first two weeks of school so they could get their teams in shape. According to him, this will help combat one of the club’s biggest problems: lack of commitment.
“In past years, we haven’t had enough people who were really dedicated to the team,” said Jon Bowman, co-president of the baseball team and senior English major. “That’s something that we want to rectify this year.”
The absence of steadfast commitment also causes leadership problems for the Renegades. This prompted the downfall of the soccer club, Brticevich said.
“We’ve literally had hundreds of people who say they want to play soccer, but we can’t even get two people to step up and organize a team,” he said. “The sad fact of the matter is, a lot of people want to play, but nobody wants to organize.”
While they aren’t as well-funded as some of their rivals at colleges such as Northern Illinois, DePaul and Northwestern universities, many of Columbia’s student athletes come from a background of sports and know what it takes to play competitively. Darren Gabriel, co-president of the baseball team and sophomore advertising art and design major, played competitive baseball in high school and wanted to continue playing during his time at Columbia. He found a flyer for baseball tryouts, showed up and became the co-president after only one year, he said.
Abby Cress, vice president of the Renegades and sophomore fashion studies major, had a similar rise through the Renegade ranks. Wanting to continue her high school volleyball career, she showed up to volleyball tryouts her freshman year, became captain during that same year and went on to accept her current position.
Being a team captain involves more than showing up to practice and going to games, Cress said. She outlined a lengthy list of responsibilities including coaching, arranging schedules and transportation, finding leagues to play in and arranging practice spaces. Captains and presidents also have to manage budgets, which can be anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to several thousand, depending on which leagues the team joins.
Another challenge the organization has struggled to overcome is obscurity. Although it had a presence in major events, such as Convocation and Manifest, Wesley Jerden, founder of the Ultimate Frisbee team and marketing communication major, said the organization still struggles with notoriety.
“I would say getting the word out to everyone has been our biggest struggle,” Jerden said. “Not many people have heard of the Renegades.”
In order to counteract their relative anonymity, the Renegades have started reaching out to students via social networking and athletic student outings. On Sept. 9, they have arranged the annual Fall Field Day, featuring a student vs. teacher volleyball game. According to Brticevich, the Athletics Department and the Renegades are also organizing a kayaking trip for students that will take place sometime during the fall semester.
Despite the unique struggles that come with being an athletic organization in a predominately artistic community, the Renegades are optimistic about the future.
“I think things are changing,” said Kevin Hartmann, president of the Renegades. “Before, our art school reputation cast a shadow over us and our existence. We’re seeing an increase in excitement and an increase in engagement from the students across the board, sports included.”
For more information on the Renegades, visit Colum.edu/Athletics or contact the Renegades at Athletics@Colum.edu. com