UCF Sports Clubs Program Celebrates 20th Anniversary

Author: Nicholas Porcelli

Posted Tuesday, April 4, 2023 @ 2:20 PM

The UCF Sports Clubs program celebrated its 20th anniversary of the program first being established on Feb. 24.

Jim Wilkening, the executive director of the RWC, said UCF established its sports club program in the spring of 2003. He said this happened when the school created the Sports Club Council, and the RWC took control of existing sports clubs at the school, like rugby and wrestling.

Wilkening said the program has grown a lot in 20 years and when the program first started there were only 26 clubs. Today, he said there are currently 45 recognized sports clubs.

Kristofer Newsome, the RWC assistant director for Sports Clubs and Risk Management, said that the program has also seen a lot of success. According to the RWC’s website, clubs have won several team and individual championships. For example, the website says the wrestling club has won 11 individual four-team national championships, and the rugby club, paintball club and rock-climbing club have all won national championships as well.

Newsome said a point of pride for the program has not just been team achievements, but individual athlete achievements as well. He said he points to the stories of several former club athletes who would turn pro or go on to greater amateur success in their sport.

“Our club athletes are real athletes,” Newsome said.

According to UCF’s website, some of those athletes included Kristen Thomas, a 2016 graduate who competed in the 2021 Olympics as part of the U.S. women’s rugby team, Kyle Coon, a 2016 graduate who competed in the triathlon as a member of Team USA in the 2021 Paralympics, and Phil Dalhausser, a 2002 graduate who went on to play as beach volleyball in the 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2021 Olympics where he would win the gold medal for Team USA in 2008.

Another example of a club athlete going on to greater success happened recently as a member of the baseball club, Keano Suarez became a member of UCF’s varsity baseball team for their 2023 season.

This milestone isn’t just being celebrated by Newsome and other sports club officials, it’s being celebrated by all of the individual clubs and their members.

“Sports club has been made into a strong program across the board, and the support system it has built for its teams is fantastic. Our club could have never achieved this much success without the support system of SCC,” David O’Donnell, president of the bowling club, said.

While they celebrate, Wilkening said those in the program are also looking toward the future.

“I am sure clubs will come and go, and others will experience success,” Wilkening said. “Just like any program, we compare trends and fads and try and support the clubs that are trends.”