For Waterskiers, Life is Lived on the Edge
Not all college club sports are strictly fun and games. At the University of Illinois, the Water-skiing club travels an hour each week just to practice, and students fund the trips and tournament entrance fees. The team travels all over the Midwest to compete against other schools.
Brian Alvin, a U of I sophomore, has been a hobby water-skier for eight years. The 2005-2006 season is his first on the team.
“Everyone is extremely passionate about [water-skiing],"Alvin said.
Alvin competes in the tricks section of competitions, where he tries to successfully complete as many tricks as possible over the course of 30 seconds. He also participates in the long jump, and slalom when needed.
Annually, Alvin estimates that he spends $750 dollars to just be on the team. This includes team expenses for travel, equipment and entrance fees.
“It’s definitely worth it," he said. “Making the team has helped me learn a lot of new tricks."
The only downfall to the team is that there isn’t a real coach, but according to Alvin that isn't really a factor.
“All the upperclassmen help a ton," he said.
Although the team isn’t NCAA sanctioned, players must keep up grades in order to play. The time commitment is enormous for a club sport, especially near the end of October, when nationals take place.
“It definitely gets intense," Alvin said.
In 2005, the team has seen a great amount of success in tournaments, finishing second at the Southwest Missouri State University Fall Showdown, fourth at the Purdue Fall Classic and fourth in the regional qualifier in preparation for the nationals in October.
At the nationals, which finished Oct. 22 in Paducah, Kentucky, Illinois placed fourth in the men’s overall team performance. Ahead of them were Texas State, Texas A&M and 2005 national champion Auburn.
The Illinois women won the overall team national championship. Corynn Cassidy led the way for the Illini, taking the top honors in both women’s trick and slalom. Her teammate, freshman Christine Madden, earned the national title for women’s jump with a 96-foot jump – nearly 20 feet farther than her closest opponent.
“I knew as I came into the ramp," Madden said about the winning jump. “It felt great."
Only a freshman, Madden is excited about the potential the team has in the coming years. She and Cassidy have been water-skiing since they were both young and now find themselves winning championships for the same team.
“I love knowing that all of the practice we've been doing since age 7 is finally paying off," Madden said.
The success of nationals has justified the money, the time and the practice that both the men and women put into this club sport. Team members don’t look at it as a club, though; they look at it as their NCAA sport, and they bleed Fighting Illini orange.
“We’ve all made life-long friends" Madden said. “We all can’t wait for spring skiing."