Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 8
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

In Compliance with Title IX, Women’s Lacrosse Shifts from Club to Varsity

As Whitman’s academic realm welcomes back new and returning students for the ’14-’15 school year, Whitman athletics welcomes a new varsity team: women’s lacrosse.  Formerly a club sport, this is the first varsity team added at Whitman College since the early ’80s, and quite fittingly will be new head coach Kate Robinson’s first head coaching opportunity. The inaugural season will begin in the spring.

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Photo by Halley McCormick.

The reason behind adding another women’s varsity sport without an accompanying male team has to do with Title IX regulations. Though many assume that compliance with Title IX rules simply means offering the same number of varsity sports for males and females, the true rule has to do with proportions of genders, not simply the number of teams. Over the last decade the majority of undergraduate populations at colleges and universities have become increasingly female dominant, a trend that has reached this pocket of Washington just as it has for many other schools. At Whitman specifically, the student body tends to hover around 60% female, 40% male. According to Title IX regulations, a school must provide athletic participation opportunities that are substantially proportionate to the student enrollment. Now, the effects of this have materialized and the women’s lacrosse team has become a varsity sport.

Introducing a new varsity team is no small task, and the logistics are numerous. It requires an extensive search for a coach, reallocation of funds within the athletic department, and planning regarding scheduling, travel and a field for the team.

“The college has, in the last five years, been conservatively and rather effectively, managing the fiscal recovery from the worst economic time since the great depression. I think we have moved lacrosse from club to varsity in a very appropriate timeline given this context,” said Snider.

The monetary aspect alone strongly contributed to the length of time it took to bring a new varsity team into the athletic department,  but there are also several internal challenges the team will face in the years to come. Throughout the current group of players, there have been worries regarding the added commitment that a varsity team implicitly requires.

“There were certainly players who expressed concern about the commitment level of a varsity sport. But there is an understanding that there will be a gradual movement toward varsity intensity,” said Snider.

Bea Sheffer, a junior on the team, also spoke to the concerns from the players.

“There was huge concern. A lot of our recruitment before brought players that had never played before with any levels of commitment, and it was very welcoming. I think going varsity will make that kind of hard,” said Sheffer.

To alleviate some of that concern, Snider made it very clear that the emphasis would remain on the welcoming atmosphere that the club level cultivated prior to the switch to varsity.

Robinson, who was looked at specifically due to her background as an educator, also realizes the transitional nature of this year.

Robinson and Snider both recognized that numerous players stayed passionate about the team due to its lenient time constraints and relatively low level of commitment, with respect to other varsity squads. With that in mind, this season will attempt to keep that same relatively low level of commitment for players in an effort to keep returners interested.

“The time commitment will be similar to the club teams’; however, there will be new aspects that make it varsity status. It’s great we have this hybrid year because it will give a sort of preview of what the future years will be, just with a smaller time commitment,” said Robinson.

Despite some of the challenges, Robinson is optimistic about the opportunity to be part of a brand new varsity team for Whitman.

Photo by Halley McCormick.
Photo by Halley McCormick.

“I am excited to celebrate all of the programs’ ‘firsts.’ First practice, game, win, meetings, away trips. Not many student-athletes, schools and communities have a chance to be part of a new athletic program, and I think it’s going to be an amazing experience to be a part of,” said Robinson.

With the move to varsity, there has already been an increased interest in the team.

“At the activities fair there was a great amount of interest already in the team, from students that had just then become aware of the fact that it was now a varsity sport,” said Snider.

Robinson expects to recruit 12-14 new athletes next year, but until then, she has an experienced group of women who are passionate about their sport.

“My short term goals for the first couple seasons are centered around growth; development of lacrosse skills and IQ at the varsity level, growth in numbers stemmed from recruiting and meshing into a cohesive unit with the current members of the team,” said Robinson.

She also spoke to her long-term goals for her team.

“I am hoping our team will be a top program in the Northwest Conference in the upcoming years. It will be exciting to see in the future what other conference schools will add women’s lacrosse, because it is growing so rapidly on a national level,” said Robinson.

In any case, it is an exciting time for Whitman athletics, as varsity teams are very rarely added to academic programs.

“I’m excited to have women’s lacrosse at Whitman and happy that women’s lacrosse is now going to be better supported on our campus,” said Snider.

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