Emily Tower once took a zero on a test so she could play at an out-of-state tournament as part of Georgia's club lacrosse team.
“It was a no-brainer,” said Tower, who is a captain of the lacrosse team. “I would go there, work hard and use that as my drop test.”
But other Georgia athletes do not have to make tough decisions like this. Actually, the professor for that class rescheduled the test for a varsity athlete but refused to do so for Tower. Professors are not required to honor game conflicts for club sport athletes.
“Some teachers are more difficult than others,” said Tali Brennan, another captain of the team. “Some are not as understanding, because we’re not as official as a varsity sport. But still, we travel across the country for these tournaments.”
As a club sport, playing in tournaments outside of the south is how the team gets recognized nationally.
“In order for us to qualify for nationals if we don’t win our conference tournament, then we have to get an at-large bid,” said Arden Birdwell, the third captain. “In order to get an at-large bid we have to travel across the country and play the really great teams.”
Every year, the team travels to Santa Barbara, California, and Boulder, Colorado, to play in large tournaments.
But playing in tournaments costs money, and the little funding recreational sports has is split among all club sports programs.
“We have a $40,000 budget, and we only get about $3,500 from the school,” Birdwell said. “So we have dues, we do fundraising ourselves a lot.”
Even between club programs, there are discrepancies between funding.
“At Santa Barbara last year I was in line to get something, and two UCLA parents were talking to me, and they were like, ‘So we heard from some people that you guys get like no funding from your school,’” Brennan said. “I was like, ‘Is that going around? How much do you guys get?’ And they have like an incredible amount. It's so different.”
Club lacrosse also faces facility and coach struggles. While the Club Sports Complex is under renovation, the team practices and plays home games on the grass intramural fields.
“If it's raining, we have to try to scramble and find a turf field somewhere,” Brennan said.
The ball bounces differently and will roll further on turf fields than grass, which means when they do play on turf, the team has to adjust.
Because both of the coaches commute from Atlanta, they are not always able to be at practices. When they cannot come, captains run the drills and scrimmages.
“It has its plusses and minuses,” Tower said. “It’s more hands on. In high school when you have a coach, you feel like there's that wall between players and coaches. Here, our whole team is coaching ourselves, so it's coming first hand.”
Everyone gets a voice in practice, allowing more cohesion within the team.
“It's nice when we're doing 7v7 in a practice, because everybody can say what they think,” Brennan said. “There’s way more open discussion.”
One downside of running practice while being a player is when you set the conditioning, then you also have to complete it yourself.
“It's hard to keep yourself disciplined when you're calling the sprints and you're running them,” Tower said. “You want to stop early but you know you have to run them.”
But it has its upsides. The team is a close-knit group of girls, who play the game because they love it.
“These are all of our best friends,” said Brennan, as she pointed at the team stretching.
Last year Georgia's club lacrosse team won the Southeastern Women’s Lacrosse League (SWWL) and placed fifth in the national tournament. In a few short weeks they will hopefully be making another bid for the national championship, depending on their performance at the SWWL tournament this year.
Taking part in the fundraising, in running practices and in missing tests for tournaments, makes the players feel like an integral part in the future of the program.
“Even if it's five years down the road, and the team gets a champ it's so cool because we were a part of it,” said Brennan. “We helped get them there almost.”