College Club Sports?

My son is potentially recruited for D3 basketball. May not pan out, but he doesn’t love the schools to go to unless he plays. He prefers the bigger schools, potentially ivies or similar schools, but can’t imagine going to college and not being on the varsity basketball team if he is at a D3 school, after playing all his life and bring around that level. So if no offer that’s fine, but if it does pan out it is tricky for him.
We are having trouble finding out about the experience of strong high school varsity athletes deciding to go to school they love, with the goal of playing club sports, with or without offers to play on a team elsewhere. What is the experience really like on the club teams at say Georgetown, Yale, Dartmouth, Northwestern, Duke, (D1) etc? Has anyone made the decision to turn down (or not received) a NESCAC/D3 offer gone to play Club in order to potentially go to a school they love? Is there a way to find out more about the team/travel/competitive experience of club basketball teams (don’t see games on YouTube anywhere)? Could it be a good and challenging experience for someone who really hoped to play in college? Do some club teams typically have tryouts and former varsity players, or kids who might have played D3?
I know it is very kid- and school- and even year-dependent, but any information or experiences people who are ahead of us at this stage can share would be so helpful — thanks!

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Hopefully you will get way better answers, and I am interested too. But I’ll just toss in my S24 is a varsity athlete who is looking at club in one or two of his sports.

One is a NCAA sport and the club teams are VERY competitive to get on, very time intensive, and so on. He probably will only do that sport intramural. But that sounds like what your kid is looking for.

Not really relevant, but his other (better) sport is not NCAA, so only club. But it can still be very intense. I think that will be a sort of maybe A team, maybe B team, thing for him depending on the college.

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Typically the club teams have links and contact info on the college’s athletic page. It can be difficult to get good information about the team, tryouts, team needs by position, etc. As noted above, some of these teams are very competitive to make. They can also be playing at a very high level, higher than some (good) D3 schools, even some D1 schools.

I know some students who played on competitive club teams and loved their time on it. I also know some who stopped playing because the time commitment was too great.

An important consideration for some families is that club sports are paid for by the student/parents, not the school. Expenses can include gym/facility/field rental, uniforms, tourney entry fees, etc. Some of these teams travel a lot, including air travel, hotels, meals. Some travel by car/bus and keep things closer.


Some club teams are very competitive to join. There are very few men’s varsity volleyball teams for example so the club teams at many schools can be very hard to get on, especially at the big schools. Son was an all state player but still tried out for the club team once he got to college. He was in engineering and preferred to go to a good school for engineering and play club as opposed to going to other schools that were not as good in his field, just so he could play varsity volleyball. It was a mature decision on his part . Many years ago with him but I believe men’s volleyball still doesn’t have many NCAA teams but club had local and national tournaments and probably still does. Look at your particular sport for options . Good luck. Look at the club team websites at schools you are considering.


Great to hear about how your son made a decision like this. I have been scavenging for him to try to share what the experience can be like - seems pretty varied. Thank you!!

Super helpful info thank you- had no idea they might be even more competitive playing than D3 teams.

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A relief to hear others are in the same boat generally. Thank you for replying

Check out the All Americans, brackets for playoffs,


Thanks for this! I would bet these players were some pretty serious players in high school - hadn’t seen these on the site

I know of a young man who played club basketball for Texas A&M. One of their responsibilities was to scrimmage the women’s varsity team. I thought that was interesting.

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This is worth exploring. I wouldn’t go to a D3 school just because that’s the level where I can be recruited. A marginal to decent D3 player will probably find plenty of opportunities for good pickup games at a big school, or club. He’s going to need to make the transition at some point anyway.

I’ve seen too many good HS athletes base their college decision on the sport only to find that due to coach changes (inevitable), injuries, not clicking with teammates, playing time, losing interest in the sport for whatever reason, they end up miserable at a school they don’t like.


Depending on the sport, many club players on competive teams at big , good schools, can be more talented in general than many D3 players.

One other anecdote because it still cracks me up when I think about it. Other kid years ago was a varsity basketball, volleyball player in high school. Also played lots of baseball growing up. Lots of more talented kids than him on his basketball team (including one who also played football and has a Super Bowl ring and will probably make the Hall of Fame). He did lots of bench sitting in basketball and knew his place.

Fast forward, he gets to UVA and goes to the new student fair. They see this tall, athletic kid and the rowing people were all over him (club members, coach). He called me because they kept contacting him, telling him how fun it would be, how they live together, etc. He had never done any rowing in his life and did not particularly want to start getting up at 5 or 6 am to start training. What should I do? So, I told him it was up to him but seemed like something he should just thank them for and pass on. Which he did.

And he purposely did not pursue D3 schools for any sports, both because of wanting a bigger school and potential higher cost inolved.

He was a good, regional player in volleyball. That is the club sport he would have potentially wanted to play in college. He tried out as a first year student for the team. His frat brother a year older ,already on the team , assured him he was a shoe in to make the team. Well, he only showed up for 1 of the 3 competitive tryouts to make the team. Did fine but others showed up at all tryouts, did fine also, showed up and demonstrated they really wanted to be on the team. His friend told him after the fact that he would have made the very competitive club team if he had shown up for more than one tryout. Would have been nice if he had given him some heads up on that to begin with!

The reason I bring this anecdote up is because your son seems to still want to play in college. If he decides the club route may be for him, just remind him to do his best and take tryouts very seriously. If the club team is at all competitive. Many club team members in some sports would/could have been college varsity athletes.

And like varsity sports, some club kids do drop out and don’t necessarily play all 4 years. So, love the school beyond the athletic factor!


I agree, and so true: has to separate from this form of it at some point. I feel like basketball can always be a part of his life but choosing the school “just to play” doesn’t cut it for many reasons. Tried the “busted knee” test and think it’s really important. This is helpful to hear from others so thanks again.

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Thank you for taking the time to share this! I keep hearing from people that once they got there and did club or were recruited for it like this (my son also played soccer and sadly gave it up for AAU bball), they are happier even. This story made me think he could play soccer too again…


I can’t strongly caution you enough to NOT go to a school you’re not in love with to play a sport. My son was a recruitable D3 athlete in one sport and D1 in another. He decided not to pursue any sport in college due to the time commitment (going to boarding school he learned how much he didn’t like the travel and spending hours on the bus stressing about missing study time and social opportunities). He also looks at sports as a “more than part-time” job that would take him away from research opportunities, perhaps a real part-time job, various labs, interest clubs, etc.

He has friends from our town that are going/ have gone to schools solely because they were offered a spot on a team. Many of them had no idea what major they were interested in, so just picked something the school offers. My guess is that they will finish with debt and no degree when their playing time is done. Talk about the ultimate “pay to play”.

One friend went to a school to play a spring sport and was cut his first year after the fall exhibition season. He was already living with the team, all of his friends were on the team and he was just a lost puppy after that. To add insult to injury the school recently cut the entire department that housed his major.

Other kids we know are on roosters of 35-50 kids and will never see an inning of playing time. They will probably not even travel with the team as only so many kids can “dress” for each game.It almost seems like some of these schools offer kids a spot on the team as an admissions recruiting tool. Especially when D3 offers mean nothing because nothing about them is binding.

We know a “heavily recruited” (according to the family) D2 football player that played 2 downs his freshmen year and has never played again going into this senior year. All the practices, all the travel, all the expense, all the additional time (going back to school weeks early) and he’s played 2 downs.

ALL of these kids would have been better off playing club. Or even intramural. At DS23 school the club baseball team is WAY better than most D3 teams as it is a large D1 state flagship with no varsity team. I believe they are lucky enough to have sponsors, so at least they do not have to do their own fundraising for travel. They also have an incredible club wrestling team with a number of kids who have won national titles this year. The great thing about this team is that you can join at different levels and not travel if you don’t want to. His school also has an unbelievable number of intramural sports. He is very much looking forward to athletics that are on his terms rather than having to be a “committed” athlete.


My daughter has played club hockey since she was a freshman and she’s now in her third year of grad school (had 2 or 3 years off). I say this with love, but she is awful. They let anyone play. I think I could make the team. The school heavily subsidized the club so it isn’t too expensive for her. For many years, they just played locally in Wyoming and Colorado, usually other colleges but sometimes what I call ‘bar leagues’ (teams of women from ice rinks). A year ago they switched to D1 Club, so now play CU, the montana schools, they’ve traveled to Utah and this year are going to Seattle. It is just for fun for her.

Now the boys’ team? Very competitive. Try outs, cuts, more try outs. It is much more of a team than a ‘club.’

I think your son could find very competitive intramural basketball at some schools (Duke?).

If he can’t find anything on the school’s website, try facebook or other social media. At my daughter’s school, the club teams are run by the recreation department not the athletic department, and the website isn’t updated very often, but my daughter found out the team existed and then found out more about it the first week of school at a table in the student union. She did not choose the school because of hockey, but it was a bonus. She also looked into the club lacrosse team but didn’t like it so didn’t join.

Call the schools. Ask if there school sponsored club teams, if there are are tryouts and cuts. Ask about the cost if that is important (a club team can be several thousand dollars if there is a lot of travel).


The level of competition can vary by sport and by school, but generally the club teams at a D1 school are going to consist of all former high school varsity and high school club players from what we have seen.


Your son sounds like mine. Varsity basketball and AAU through high school but he’s short and when it came time for recruiting the only schools that showed interest were D3 schools that he wasn’t interested in. He decided to stop playing organized ball and just play for fun. He did intramurals in college and plays lots of pick-up basketball. Obviously the level of competition isn’t consistent or the best but he has fun. He had friends on the football team and loved playing with them because even though they don’t have great basketball skills, they are crazy athletic. At home, he has friends who play on D1 teams and loves playing them when kids are home on breaks.


Random aside, but I spent a couple summers working in a lab at the University of Michigan, and I would sometimes go do pickup basketball games with some friends. By far the best athletes I have ever seen really up close were the Michigan football players in pickup basketball games. I never actually played in those games (you knew which games were approximately at your level, and that was NOT my level). But just watching was a fun experience.


At Michigan (not listed) my son played like intramural sports. They had like 4 different levels with like competitive being one of them. He had a blast. Great way to meet people. His softball team sucked but he said they had so much fun sucking. He also reffed many sports and got to see the other side also.

Flag football at 10:30 pm on a Sunday…:football::triangular_flag_on_post:.

Sports was his outlet from having intense engineering classes and got him moving. But I agree with the above and pick a school for what you want to go into and use sports for the social aspect/competitive thing you do and just have fun.