There’s a loophole to playing sports at a Division I university.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is home to many athletes across a variety of both male and female sports. Not only are there athletes who compete in Division I sports but also a large number of athletes who compete in club sports on campus, also.
The men’s club lacrosse team is one of those sports and plays in the Upper Midwest Lacrosse Conference (UMLC). The conference consists of teams throughout Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana, North Dakota, Ohio, Missouri, and Kansas. The team is fully operated and run by student-athletes.
Tim Shartz has been the president of the team for the past two years. Before that, he was vice president of scheduling. As president, Shartz’s main job is to oversee all operations of the club, which includes finances, travel and scheduling.
He said the role allows him to work closely with the university, and with the UMLC conference associates.
Although not a sanctioned Division I sport, the club receives an annual $8,000 stipend from the university. The team uses this money to ensure that their basic needs are taken care of.
Shartz said those basic needs include travel expenses, paying officials, league dues and other operations. Each new player receives a helmet, gloves and a bag, which costs about $500 total.
Shartz said that the players’ dues are $750 for returning players and $1,000 for new members. Player dues cover apparel, warm-up clothes, and all other travel and league expenses that may come up.
The club is fully organized and operated by students. This provides a unique opportunity for these students to get real-life management experience.
“The club has helped me learn what it’s like to run an organization.” Shartz said. “I’ve learned how to better engage with people and work professionally with adults.”
Shartz played for the team for three years before he suffered a severe concussion during his junior season and was forced to the sidelines. He said that the competitive aspect of the game is unmatched and he misses the physicality and speed of the game.
Although his role is now different, he said he is happy to be involved and contribute to the team in some way.
When attending a large university it can be difficult for students to feel at home on campus, especially as freshmen. The men’s club lacrosse team accepts lacrosse players of various skill levels, allowing anyone to join the team.
Senior lacrosse player Ryan Page is originally from Wisconsin. He started playing lacrosse in sixth grade and continued throughout high school. In the later years, Ryan said he played lacrosse year-round.
When his senior season of high school ended, Ryan said he thought he was done playing lacrosse for good. This idea of this was appealing to him after playing year round for the greater half of the last decade. He didn’t know that UNL even had a club team.
Once Ryan got on campus the fall of his freshman year he struggled to find a place where he fit in on campus. Being from out of state, he had little to no connections on campus.
He said that not being involved in Greek life at UNL made it really difficult to get involved and he didn’t know where to begin.
“Being a freshman you feel like a small fish in a huge pond,” Ryan said. “It seemed like everyone around me was involved in Greek life or some other club that kept them busy and involved.”
Not being a member of a fraternity or a club had made forming relationships difficult for him.
Midway through the fall semester, Ryan was introduced to the lacrosse team’s goalie at the time, Mike Gaeding. After mutual friends got them connected, The two hit it off. Gaeding convinced Ryan to come to the next practice and check the team out.
“The first practice was a great experience.” Ryan said, “I hit it off with the guys right away, I finally felt comfortable and like I had a place.”
Ryan said he’s had a great experience on the team and strong friendships that he has been able to cultivate on campus.
“I was able to find a group of people I identified with,” Ryan said. “The team gave me a place to belong which was hard for me on such a big campus. It got me involved and introduced me to people I will call friends for years to come.”
The team’s head coach is Jimmy Moran. He took over the role in the fall of 2021 and said he likes watching players enjoy the game. Moran said that one of the struggles is finding a balance between school work and practice.
Moran played on the team himself for almost three years until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic shut the season down. Just like his teammate Ryan, Moran is also from out of state. He said that out-of-state players make up about 80% of the team.
“Although we love that and encourage anyone and everyone to join the team, we are trying to get more local guys from Nebraska and Iowa to play,” Moran said.
The team is a place for guys to feel like they belong somewhere on campus.
“The lacrosse team accepts anyone who wants to come play, “Shartz said. “Our mission is to grow the game of lacrosse. Accepting anyone creates a melting pot type of team. All the different personalities and cultures are really fun to be around.”
Nebraska’s club lacrosse team is just one example of how both incoming and current students can get involved on campus. The team gives opportunities for leadership roles and provides a place to belong on campus. And for players like Shartz, it’s been an opportunity to carve a niche for himself and his career.