Student athletes at COCC have accepted that many of their peers may never see them compete in their chosen sports.
The Bobcat rugby team is one of three rugby teams nationwide that are based out of a community college. They are currently tied for the first place in their league. When they played against Oregon State University in Corvallis, nearly 300 people came to watch the Bobcats compete; but when they play at home, only friends and family come to show their support.
The Bobcat soccer team is slowly beginning to establish a solid standing in their league with a record of 3-3. Some of their players make remarkable plays during matches that keep sports fans on their toes. Yet only a handful of students stand on the sideline to show their support.
The Bobcats have top quality teams; but COCC’s size as a community college provides less support for their athletes than other larger colleges throughout the state.
According to rugby coach Woody Bennett, there are multiple reasons for decreased levels of support for COCC’s athletics. One of the main reasons, however, could be the physical distance COCC students would have to travel to attend sporting events.
“At OSU, with students living in dorms and closer to campus, students are right there to attend games,” Bennett explained. “[COCC] takes care of Madras, Bend, La Pine, and Redmond. You have people travelling in from all over Central Oregon to come to school… they would have to do the same to attend athletic events.”
In previous years, Central Oregon Community College had an extensive athletic program in the 1970s through the 1990s. COCC athletes were able to compete in an intercollegiate level, gaining attention from around the nation. However, over the years, lack of funding and lack of student interest led to the removal of these sports, according to Ron Paradis, the director of college relations.
“We have had intercollegiate sports in the past,” Paradis explained. “Our most recent intercollegiate teams were track and skiing, which were dropped in the nineties… [However], we do mention our club sports when recruiting potential students.”
Currently, COCC offers students the opportunity to participate in six club sports including outdoor soccer, rugby, women’s volleyball, baseball, triathlon, and cross country running. The school has adapted their athletic field to hold both soccer games and rugby matches. With the possibility of COCC hosting the Pacific Coast Regional Rugby Championships in March, COCC athletic director Bill Douglass and Coach Bennett have discussed the possibility of renting bleachers for the event to place on the athletic field.
“We have had [bleachers] priced for a few years,” Bennett stated, “They are spendy… so we hope to get them donated to us.”
Utilizing their financial and professional resources, COCC works to provide its student athletes with all of the support they can afford. Although students may not gain the same attention playing club sports as they would competing at an intercollegiate level, COCC’s athletes, like Andrew Phillis, still train with the intent to uphold COCC’s high athletic reputation.
“We practice three times a week,” Phillis stated. “But I spend more time outside weightlifting and stuff like that.”
Phillis has been playing soccer since he was in third grade and is currently playing on the soccer team as the goalkeeper. He spends an average of 21 hours training each week so that he can “stay on top.” In his time at COCC, Phillis has accepted that many people will not see his extensive training pay off on game day. But there are a handful of sports fans who come on Saturdays to support the Bobcats’ soccer team.
“There are probably seven or eight people who show up,” “But they’re loud, and they’re proud…its pretty cool.”
When game day ultimately arrives, The Bobcats do not let the number of sports fans on the sidelines dictate how they play. Instead, they focus on the game and drive to win, according to Coach Bennett.
“[Ultimately] they’re just happy to play,” Bennett said. “A lot of [students] believed they wouldn’t get to play a sport again after they graduated high school.”
Emily Kalei | The Broadside