University of Texas at Dallas: UTD Club Sports, Spirit Groups Up Their Game on National Stage

Club sports and spirit organizations add an extra dimension to the student-life experience at The University of Texas at Dallas, and this spring, several groups excelled on the national stage as they competed in events with their collegiate peers.

Ben Piper, associate director of programs for University Recreation, said club sports are ideal for students who might have a full class schedule or other constraints on their time. Currently UT Dallas has 18 club sports, including badminton, climbing, lacrosse, swimming, rugby and wrestling.

“Collegiate club sports give students a competitive outlet and team experience without a large time commitment,” he said.

Club sports and Comet spirit programs — which include UT Dallas Cheerleaders, Power Dancers and Temoc, the University mascot — also provide opportunities for students who participated in similar high school programs to continue to pursue their passions.

Piper said students can gain valuable professional and personal experience with their participation in clubs.

“At UTD, club sports are student-run and student-driven,” he said. “Club sport leaders and participants learn numerous transferable skills like time management, conflict resolution, financial management, managing a team and social dynamics.”
The fencing club had three teams place among the top 30 in their respective events at the U.S. Association of Collegiate Fencing Clubs Nationals Competition in April in Providence, Rhode Island. The women’s foil team finished 19th out of 32 teams; the men’s sabre team placed 17th; and the men’s epee team finished 26th.

The club is open to fencers of all skill levels and trains with the three kinds of blades: foil, sabre and epee.

“Most of our fencers have learned fencing during their time at UT Dallas and did not have previous fencing experience. We are extremely beginner friendly,” said the club’s media manager Malika Kumar, a psychology senior.

Kumar said the club had not been in a national competition since 2014 and planned to attend the nationals in 2020, but COVID-19 restrictions delayed that hope.

“Our success would not have been possible without the love and support of our coaches, Chuck Helms, Marcus Deng and Jim Bassler,” she said.

Power Dancers
The Power Dancers took two second-place finishes in Division III — one in hip-hop out of five teams and the other in team performance out of eight teams — at the National Cheerleaders Association & National Dance Alliance Collegiate Cheer and Dance Championships in April in Daytona, Florida. Temoc placed fourth among collegiate mascots.

Miguel Hernandez, spirit coordinator, said the Power Dancers’ performances show that UT Dallas is a force to be reckoned with.

“I am blessed to coach an amazing group of athletes that are positive and hardworking and continue to push past their limits each year,” Hernandez said. “Our program has become highly competitive over these last four years, and I am excited to see our spirit programs continue to grow and enhance the UT Dallas experience for students and alumni.”

The table tennis club, which had 48 members this year, placed 20th in the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association 2022 national championships in April in Round Rock, Texas. The competition included more than 250 of the best players from over 50 colleges and universities. This was the club’s third appearance at nationals, although it qualified in 2020 before the event was canceled.

“Our club aims to promote table tennis, help people enjoy the sport and get better at the same time,” said club officer Tai Lun Zhang, a neuroscience senior. “This year there were six Olympians competing at the championships, and that just goes to show that we have continued to improve and hold our own against the nation’s best. We will continue to work hard and improve every year.”

The tennis club placed third in Texas at the United States Tennis Association (USTA) Texas championships and in the top 50 in the nation at the USTA National Championships in April in Orlando, Florida.

The club has both recreational and competitive memberships. The competitive members travel on weekends for tournaments, said Thu Pham, a healthcare management senior and the club’s president.

“Our club holds fun, inclusive practices where anyone may join and play with us. Our members are very diverse in skill level and experience with the sport, so all skill levels are welcome,” Pham said.

“Qualifying for nationals goes to show how talented, hardworking and strong our team really is. More importantly, it shows that even if you join our competitive team for fun, you have so many opportunities to do cool things.”

The Ultimate Frisbee club hosted the men’s and women’s Division I USA Ultimate conference championship tournament on campus April 16-17. The men won their tournament, and the women finished second in theirs. Both received bids to the South Central Regionals in Colorado. Although the women were unable to attend, the men finished fifth.

Brian Honea, a psychology senior and men’s team captain, said that the people he has met through the Ultimate Frisbee community have become friends and mentors.

“We are a very diverse Frisbee community, and we pride ourselves on being inclusive and accepting of anyone who wants to play,” he said. “I like that in our free time a lot of us throw around campus and keep the community presence known, and many of us wear our team-branded clothes to class.”