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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp attends the Class of 1972 50-year reunion in Kyle Field on April 20, 2022.
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Kennedy White, 19, sits for a portrait in the sweats she wore the night of her alleged assault inside the Y.M.C.A building that holds Texas A&M’s Title IX offices in College Station, Texas on Feb. 16, 2024 (Ishika Samant/The Battalion).
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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Opinion: The true heart and soul of A&M athletics

Photo by Robert O’Brien
Hockey (copy)

I went to my first Texas A&M hockey game a few weeks ago, and it was a breath of fresh air.
Sure, there weren’t 100,000 screaming fans or jumbotrons large enough to see a county over, but that’s what made this experience so special. Club sports are swept under the rug, however, that might be the best thing going for them.
Quick question, where do the Aggies play hockey? There’s no shame in saying you don’t know. I didn’t until last semester and the semester before that, I didn’t even know we had a team.
The point is club sports, such as hockey, won’t ever get the attention or funds football does and that’s not a bad thing.
Upon entering the arena, I was greeted by the Aggie Icers, a women’s marketing organization for the men’s team in charge of fundraising and game day support. I watched as they checked tickets and helped attendees find their seats.
Parents let their children run freely up and down the front row, and no one seemed to mind. Fans were very involved as individual cheers and remarks could be heard from one end of the stands to the other. Referees tossed spare pucks over the glass to eager kids who practically fainted when they got their hands on one.
These are just a few of the subtle yet charming cues noticeably different from other collegiate games I had previously attended. The atmosphere was entirely different. Think “Small Town” by John Mellencamp.
There was no beer chugging, no shirtless frat bros and no alumni complaining about how the tailgate scene “wasn’t there today,” just families and students looking to support A&M hockey.
This is what makes club sports unique.
There are no wicked broadcasters picking apart a player’s every mistake. There are no coaches with over-inflated contracts who would better serve us by being bought out and no entitled recruits tasked with deciding which school will offer them a better car.
Club sports are simple. Student-athletes play out of sheer love for the game and are willing to sacrifice time and money to do it.
As we’re all well aware, the staple of this university is A&M’s football program, which has an estimated annual value of $147 million, according to Sports Illustrated. For reference, this evaluation is tied for first in the country with t.u.
In contrast, A&M hockey players pay $3,200 per person in out-of-pocket expenses every season just to be able to play. This is without even mentioning a rigorous practice schedule and weekend tournaments that eat up any free time these players might have left.
For Christian Spearman, forward on the A&M hockey team, the investment is worth getting to lace up his skates for another few years.
A&M has a lot of money to give out in the form of scholarships for sports such as football, while hockey players are left to do everything from hiring, and paying coaches, trainers and even their own social media team, Spearman said.
Spearman said while the club team enjoys playing, there’s less pressure involved with their organization as opposed to other major sports.
“There’s still a bit of competition, but at the end of the day, we’re guys who are here for school that just happen to play hockey,” Spearman said.
While players receive no financial support from the university, this allows them to hold elections and create their own practice schedule.
“After games, every single one of us has the ability to go out there and sign jerseys or give someone a backup stick of ours and just make a kid’s day,” Spearman said.
Without the hoops and hurdles that come with the bureaucratic side of anything tied to the university, club sports have found the sweet spot between being affiliated with the school, while managing to keep them at arm’s length.
Needless to say, this also comes with more independence.
After getting hit in his lower left jaw with a flying puck in their game versus SMU, Spearman recalled how he had to text his friend in the stands to drive him to the ER to receive stitches. He still went to class the following Monday.
So the next time you think about attending a major D1 basketball or football game, maybe swap out a game or two in favor of seeing a club sporting event. You have no idea what you’re missing out on.
Benjamin Barnes is a telecommunications junior and opinion writer for The Battalion.

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About the Contributor
Bj Barnes
Bj Barnes, Opinion Columnist
Benjamin Barnes is a Telecommunication Media Studies senior from Rochester, Indiana. Barnes' has been involved with The Battalion since his junior year and plans to start his own media group following graduation. If he's not writing, he's most likely watching a Texans game or at the gym.
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