Story by Ryan Tipper
At Whatcom Community College, student athletes who hope to further their education and athletic careers will find the available options on campus to be limited. With only men’s and women’s soccer and basketball present as well as women’s volleyball, why is it that not more competitive options exist?
Kris Baier, Director of Student Life and Athletics at Whatcom, was able to shed some light onto how the athletics on campus works and operates.
“Currently, we have five teams that compete at the NWAACC Conference.” Baier said. “The men’s and women’s basketball have been competing there since 1995. Men’s soccer was added in 2005 with women’s following in 2008. The women’s volleyball team has been around since 1998.”
The Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges (NWAACC) is the parent organization for 34 community colleges in the states of Washington and Oregon. Whatcom Community College competes there in both the fall and the winter quarter each year.
While Whatcom’s inter-collegian sports teams are few in number, they are known for constantly being top competitors in their leagues. All of them tend to consistently make it to their post-season playoffs “which is a difficult thing to do, especially regularly, so that’s always exciting.” Baier said.
“In 2006, the men’s soccer won an NWAACC championship.” Baier said. “So far that is the only time Whatcom has, so far, won an NWAACC championship.”
One thing that Baier was adamant about was what kind of recognition competing in the NWAACC can give Whatcom’s student athletes. “The most important thing about all the teams competing well, at least from administrator eyes, is that it gets our current student athletes out there to be recruited for other programs.” Baier said.
Another key factor in Whatcom’s athletic success is the standards that are expected of its student athletes not just on the court, but in the class room as well. The administrators at Whatcom will take quick looks at where their student athletes are at with their grade point averages (GPAs) to round out an average on a regular basis.
“The average GPA is around a 3.29 last time it was calculated and that is extraordinary.” Baier said. “We did a snap shot check of where we were at and it blew the doors off of it.”
While Whatcom is simply a community college, it’s still a starting point for many student athletes who “wish to continue their sports careers by moving onto the next level.” Baier said. “You have to do just as well in the class room as you do playing the game.”
Also prevalent on Whatcom’s campus are the diverse sports clubs. These clubs meet and participate in the sport they center focus on simply as a recreational past-time during each quarter.
“Recently, around three or four years ago, we had a ping pong club.” Baier said. “That was pretty exciting to see but not enough students picked that up for it to continue.”
“Right now we have an international sports club which is pretty popular,” Baier said. “And there has been some recent interest in forming a tennis club.”
One thing Baier recalled was that Whatcom “Used to have men’s and women’s cross-country as an inter-collegian sport.” He said. “Because of the recession, it was however, recommended to the athletic director before me to eliminate both of those teams.”
Currently “there are no set plans to develop any new competitive teams here at Whatcom.” Baier said. “There are a few sports that could be brought on if the resources are allocated.”
Baier listed a few of the sports that would have the easiest time finding a home at Whatcom. “To bring cross country back would be exciting, to have a tennis team would be exciting and golf wouldn’t be that difficult either.”
Baier, along with the other administrators present at Whatcom, find that the biggest cost for sports teams comes from their traveling. Whatcom Community College’s location makes for obstacles in this area as all the teams they compete against are
either south or very south.
“Because of this, it takes a lot more money for us to compete than some of the other college’s programs where they can just go next door.”
Other cost effective issues are also taken into consideration when fielding a new or recurring sports team. Field construction and maintenance, uniforms, equipment, scholarships and facilities, the list goes on and on.
“I would love for Whatcom to have a baseball team.” Baier said. “In order for them, or any sports team to be competitive, you’re looking at thousands and thousands of dollars to make that happen.”
The administrators behind the curtains of Whatcom’s athletics, such as Baier, are able to see and understand far more than the students on campus or even those that are student athletes.
“When talking about athletics, playing the game is just the tip of the iceberg.” Baier said. “Below that point is fund raising, academic eligibility, and everything else that requires financial resources.”
If those resources are indeed present, then the process of getting a competitive sports team noticed by Whatcom’s administrator’s starts with the students.
When a club is formed on campus that is centered on a sport, it’s always open to any and all students who are interested in joining. When a club gains enough students and has enough backing and support, the schools administrators will take it into consideration as to it becoming a future inter-collegian sport.
“It really starts with the clubs.” Baier said. “If you get 10 people together who are interested in tennis and they start competing on the club level and it carries enough momentum, then it can translate into an inter-collegian sport.”
If a club were to reach that level, “it requires Whatcom to pay an extra $250 for each team when we add it to the NWAACC.” Baier said. “There are the scholarships that have to be included along with that, that have to be sustained annually.”
On top of all that, there is the cost of coach and assistant coach salaries along with all the cost-effective things that are required for Whatcom’s current competitive sports teams.
Looking forward at Whatcom’s future, there are big changes on its athletic horizon. A giant, multi-story, multi-accommodating student recreation center is currently undergoing its final stages of preparation before its planned finish date in fall 2015. “The student recreation center has been in the works for at least 7 years.” Baier said. “Student leaders from a while back now have been saving money and doing everything they can to help with the funding for the building.”
The buildings location will envelope and expand upon Whatcom’s current gym located in the Pavilion, as well as the entire building and the street it all resides on. “This right here is going to be turned into a park.” Baier said when gesturing to the small street parking that currently resides next to the Pavilion. “I would imagine the park would work for a portable stage for say an outside concert.”
As the dates getting closer, more information will be available and common knowledge as Whatcom’s new recreation center gets its feet off the ground.
While the athletics at Whatcom Community College don’t quite vary, more information on their infrastructure helps students and staff understand why the campus has the sports teams that it does. If students want to try and bring a new one to the school, all they need do is support it, play it and work to see it grow.