After two hours of rigorous practice with their high school sport, most students would want to go home for a bit of rest. Yet, for Samo soccer player, senior Cristina Battaglia, the end of Samo practice is only the beginning of her day of sports. Three days a week, Battaglia travels an hour through traffic to get to her club practice in Long Beach.
“My club team pushes me much harder, and is more intense than high school soccer. Some practices will be so difficult that I’ll barely be able to walk the next day, but it’s worth it because I know I’m improving,” Battaglia said.
To some, it seems superfluous to spend so much extra time on a sport that is already offered at Samo, but playing club sports offers a great opportunity to improve and practice during the off season.
Club teams provide students with the chance to explore many different skill levels. Most club sports are divided into age groups consisting of multiple teams ranging from advanced to beginner level teams.
“The overall skill level of my club team is higher than that of my high school team, so it gives me a chance to improve even more than if I were only playing at school,” varsity boys’ volleyball team member, junior Dane Keckin, said.
Various difficulty levels ensure athletes with personalized and focused experiences outside of their school sport team. In addition to being more skill level specific, club teams often start at young ages, promoting close relationships with their fellow team members from early on.
“There will always be a core group of girls that stays on the team together, even if new people join, and some people leave. I’m still really close with some of the girls that I joined my club team with in 5th grade,” junior girls’ varsity soccer player Dalia Kaufman said.
Club teams tend to have a large numbers of Samo athletes. The water polo program even has its own club team outside of school solely for students in the Samo water polo program.
“Club basically makes the season year round, so it allows students to constantly improve their game,” water polo coach Matthew Flanders said.
Within the Samohi water polo program, students never face difficulties balancing high school and club teams because the two are so closely related. However, this is not always the case. Some club coaches don’t want their athletes from playing at their high schools at all.
“Sometimes these club coaches think that they are much more important than the high school experience, and that’s where the conflicts start to arise,” Athletic Director Daniel Escalera said.
For lacrosse and rowing, playing club is the primary way to get involved. Because lacrosse is not offered at Samo, the club team is the only option. Rowing is a different story due to immense financial issues.
“One boat alone is around forty thousand dollars. It works better to draw from athletes all over Los Angeles because it would be too difficult to raise enough interest in the sport at Samo,” senior rower Julian Daly said.
Participating in club sports outside of school is an easy way for students to get involved in sports that aren’t offered at Samo, as well as to provide athletes a way to work on their game even when their sport is out of season.
“Playing club and high school makes my sport a year round commitment. Although it’s sometimes hectic, I love it,” volleyball senior Ritchie said.