With fall just around the corner, it’s finally time for sweatshirts, pumpkin spice and – for the first time in more than a decade – Spartan football.
UNCG Club Football, one of the newest club sports on campus, will host its season-opener against UNC Chapel Hill this Saturday, Sept. 17, at 1 p.m. at the UNCG Recreation Field.
Students started a football club in the 1980s and again in 2001, but the teams only competed for a few seasons. DiJon Mason – the club’s current president and a senior kinesiology major – has been anxiously awaiting the return of football on campus for two years.
“Football has always been a huge part of my life,” said Mason, who played Division III football at Greensboro College before transferring to UNCG in 2014. “I still wanted to play.”
Club sports are recognized student organizations that allow students to continue to play sports at a competitive level while developing and refining leadership skills. The Club Sports Program, which has been an integral part of campus life for more than 30 years, currently has 19 active club sports – from volleyball to Quidditch and nearly everything in between. The Men’s Rugby Club is the longest-established active club sport on campus.
“Club sports allow students to remain active in a sport that they are passionate about, which contributes to the mental and physical health of our students,” said Erik Unger, assistant director of competitive sports in the Department of Recreation & Wellness. “These organizations promote a sense of community for students.”
The first step in starting a club sport? Holding an interest meeting. Mason held the first interest meeting in the fall of 2014, and then moved forward in developing a constitution. The club was officially established in the spring of 2015 and has been working on building a roster and coaching staff ever since.
UNCG Club Football is affiliated with the National Club Football Association (NCFA), a club tackle football league with 25 teams across the United States. UNCG will compete in the South Atlantic Conference, which includes in-state rival UNC-CH as well as Columbus State University, Kennesaw State University and Middle Georgia State University.
While the team hopes to compete for a national championship, it’s also focused on the personal growth of its players.
“It’s not just about winning every game – it’s about being great role models in the community,” Mason said. “We want to be strong academic students. Football is about making great young men.”
It’s also about brotherhood, something that club treasurer and fellow kinesiology major Blaine Ayres has experienced since joining the organization.
“As an out-of-state student, it can be difficult to find friends,” he said. “Through this club, I have found brothers who have my back no matter what the situation. I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of something bigger here on campus.”
What can Spartans look forward to when the team takes the field this weekend? A whole lot of grit.
“Fans can expect a team that’s going to leave everything on the field,” Mason said. “We work very, very hard, and I think it’s going to show. We want the university to be proud.”
Want to learn more about club sports at UNCG? Visit recwell.uncg.edu/competitive-sports for more information.
Story by Alyssa Bedrosian, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications