General Education

You Don’t Need to Be on the Team to Be A Player in College Sports

You Don’t Need to Be on the Team to Be A Player in College Sports
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Sam Rubenstein September 25, 2014

The world of college sports is more accessible than you think. Find out how you can help the team without having to show up for tryouts.

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Athletes who play college sports under the NCAA banner are members of an exclusive club. It takes specific talent, years of training, and a time and focus commitment that not everyone has.

That doesn’t mean you can’t play sports while you are in college. In high school, there were likely tryouts for sports teams, where the best go to varsity and the rest go to junior varsity. But if you didn’t make the team, you could at least play in the park, or find a court. Although it’s not as simple in college, you can still stay involved in sports.

Intramural Sports

Colleges tend to offer a variety of intramural sports. The level of competition is as serious as your league decides to make it, and may even have layers of competitiveness. You will compete against other teams from your school in traditional sports like basketball or flag football, but also less traditional sports like dodgeball or water polo. College graduates often miss the days of intramural competition, and join leagues with their co-workers to keep living the intramural sports lifestyle they grew to love in college. You get to have all of the fun of playing sports — the bonding, the post-game events — without the demands of practice time and pressurized performance to justify a scholarship.

Club Sports

Similar but more intense than intramurals, you will have to commit more time and play against students from other colleges. This means planning logistics like travel, practice time, hiring officials, and designing and purchasing uniforms. On a club team, you may even enter ranked competitions and compete for a national championship, not under the NCAA, but under organizations that sponsor your chosen sport. If you want to experience what it is like to be an NCAA athlete and administrator without actually being one, then playing club sports is for you.

Working in the Athletic Office

In the world of pro sports, retired players often move on to become GMs and team presidents. You can have a similar experience as a former high school athlete by working in the sports department for a sport of your choice. I worked as a team manager for my college’s DI basketball team, which entailed assisting the coaches at practice, traveling to games some weekends, doing laundry at times, and conducting general administrative work. It would have been more fun to play, but that is what professional sports administrators say about working for their teams too. You will form a close bond with your school’s team, the people that play for it, and the entire culture of sport at your college.


Sportswriting is an industry in flux, as social media and bloggers infiltrate the traditional route of covering games. You can still become an important voice for your college’s athletic department and athletes, and also build your portfolio as you do so. More high profile collegiate sports programs are covered by seasoned media professionals, but they still depend on the local coverage from students on campus. If you visit the sports media department, they may be able to have you work in an internship capacity to help spread the word of the team, which is a major selling point for colleges. You will enjoy the depth with which you engage with the team and grow as a writer and in your athletic knowledge.


Playing Sports in College: Your Options. (n.d.). Retrieved September 25, 2014, from

The Best Colleges for Intramural Sports. (n.d.). Retrieved September 25, 2014, from