The whistle blows, a second technical foul is assessed on guard Jalen Mangum. He’s been ejected from the basketball club’s game against the University of Incarnate Word Nov. 30 at the University of Incarnate Word.
Mangum shouts expletives at the referee out of frustration. He’s been begging for calls all game and the officials seemed to have heard enough.
The crowd shouts obscenities at the referees. Head Coach Eric Leung is arguing with the referee, pleading his player’s case. It’s been a very physical game. Both teams are competing fiercely on offense and defense. Both benches are up, clapping, screaming, making any noise they can. The whistle blows again twice. Leung has also been ejected from the game.
Down by 12 with two minutes left in the third quarter, guard Jacquez Harris huddled the team together and began to scream at them.
“Shut up and f*****’ hoop,” said Harris. “Shut the f*** up and hoop!” He repeated this 3 times over, clapping his hands with each syllable. The team sat silent and listened.
They put their hands together in solidarity before breaking the huddle and walking back onto the court.
This isn’t a division one game, this is a Recreational Sport’s basketball game between Texas A&M University-San Antonio and The University of Incarnate Word’s club teams. The stage may be smaller but the moment isn’t.
The Rec sports department provides opportunities that allow students to engage in athletic and physical activities at a competitive level. Moreover, the department strives to foster students’ leadership and involvement, putting the tools in their hands to let them determine how successful they can be.
Rec sports is one of many outlets offered to students to participate in sports-related activities, but key differences keep those opportunities separate.
Intramural sports can be described as informal games that are more casual than competitive. Intercollegiate sports are the most organized and competitive level an undergraduate can play in and are usually entirely funded by the university.
Rec sports are in between these two levels. It’s more competitive than intramurals and requires tryouts to join. Unlike intercollegiate sports, the clubs are usually sponsored by the university but require a lot of initiative on the students’ part to actually participate and compete in leagues that are usually local.
Recreational Sports Director Arturo Olauge described how unique it feels to be with the university in its relatively young existence.
“It’s one of the things that drove me here [A&M-San Antonio]. …we have that opportunity to build something from scratch, and no one really gets that opportunity anymore,” Olague said in an interview Oct. 24.
Olague stressed the expectations are high when involved with rec sports.
“I’ve had students in meetings be like, ‘I don’t care, I just want to ball’,” said Olague. “I get it. If that’s for you then go play intramurals [sports].”
Rec sports demands a commitment to achieving excellence in the hopes that it will help the student develop what it takes to succeed at a high level.
“Maybe I’m not going to be a professional athlete because I don’t have the skills to compete at that elite level, but I can work in this field as a coach, as a producer…someone who could eventually become a general manager and make decisions at large-scale level for a multimillion-dollar organization, and it can start here,” Olague said.
Dance team steps into spotlight
Most of the organizations have been expanded to new heights and continue to grow, such as the Jaguarette dance team, the embodiment of school spirit. In this year alone they’ve almost doubled their membership — from 10 to 18 — and have their eyes set on competitions next semester.
The renewed vigor in the organization stems from the enthusiasm and commitment of Courtney Bobb-Melinger or “Coach C-Bob”.
Bobb-Melinger sees the potential in the school and recognizes the foundation that can be formed to help it flourish in the future.
“In order to have alumni pride, there has to be that institution of school spirit.” said Bobb-Melinger, “It’s like grassroots if you will, but it’s more along the lines with each one of these organizations you’re also making sure you’re cultivating an environment where they [the students] feel they’re being respected and honored [to the point] where they take value in representing this university outside of campus.”
Founded in 2016, the Jaguarettes began participating in collegiate competition in the spring of 2022, taking home the first place banner in the “Game day” category in the virtual championship, a national contest that pitted the team against dance teams from schools such as Kansas State University, Our Lady of the Lake University, and Baylor University.
In the spring of 2023, they plan on defending their title, also hoping to achieve other accolades when they travel to the College Classic in Orlando, FL.
Bobb-Melinger raved about the support the team has received from the rec sports department, feeling not only aided but valued as well.
“Arturo is an amazing boss. Fully supportive!” Bobb-Meilinger said, “I love my boss and all the graduate students —they’re really helpful— because when I got here in 2018 I had no clue about this campus.”
Bobb-Melinger said she takes pride in the fact that A&M-San Antonio is still searching for a definitive identity and looks to help establish it in her tenure here.
“We’re not just a school on the far Southside, we are the school on the Southside,”
Volleyball team looking for aggressive expansion
As much as the department wants to provide for its organizations, the responsibility ultimately falls on the students to determine how far their club progresses.
Leslie Sanchez, sophomore kinesiology major and volleyball club president and Rose McConnell, senior kinesiology major and volleyball club vice-president, expressed just how difficult it can be to manage an organization.
They have been with the organization since the fall of 2021 and even though they weren’t a part of the board of executives initially, they have been the main contributors to the organization’s growth.
“We got the team ready, we’ve been practicing, we were able to find a tremendous amount of help in head coaches and assistant coaches,” said McConnell, “We were the ones who sent emails, made phone calls, and showed up in person.”
Sanchez added that the workload had gotten so overwhelming, she began to struggle academically.
They have noticed a significant change for the better recently. They echoed Bobb-Melinger on how involved and dedicated Olague is to helping the organizations.
“This summer and fall, big help. They were emailing us before we even had our thoughts together,” McConnell said.
McConnell will be graduating in the fall, but she plans on staying involved with the organization and helping it expand by becoming a volunteer coach in the spring.
With the unexpectedly large turnout at tryouts this semester, the goal is to have multiple teams within the club to ensure all those who want to participate can.
“With the two different levels of play we had it’s possible to have two different teams, like a JV and Varsity,” McConnell said, “Maybe our ‘A’ team can be moved into the athletic department as the actual volleyball team once things are situated.”
The men’s basketball team is built to win and to last, coach says
Eric Leung described the experience of becoming men’s basketball club head coach in the spring of 2020 and completely revitalizing the nonexistent system on which the organization was built. He wanted to instill consistency and values into the club so they had a good foundation.
Leung, like McConnell and Sanchez, was the one who got the ball rolling for the organization. He sent the proper emails to ensure the club’s eligibility, organized fundraisers and made sure the team practiced consistently while following a regiment for practice.
The team is fresh off a championship after beating Northeast Lakeview college in the Texas Collegiate Athletic Conference basketball playoffs in April.
Leung echoes Olague’s sentiment on commitment and progress. He understands this may be a rec sports club, but that doesn’t mean they can’t develop and achieve great things. They take pride in being a club team and that they’re growing with the university.
“When you graduate from here, it’s [A&M-San Antonio’s campus] going to be totally different when you come back,” Leung said, “We’re the men’s club team, but we don’t see it that way… if we didn’t treat it this way, we wouldn’t have won last year.”
A big part of their success is the continued support from the rec sports department.
Leung highlights Assistant Director Trevor Brunet as someone who not only aided Leung through the hiring process but illuminated him on what they were trying to build in rec sports.
With the team taking the initiative to do what was asked by the department to become fully recognized as a rec sports club, they opened up their full support to them. Fully backing anything the team did whether it was fundraising, recruiting sponsors, having marketing strategies approved or getting jersey designs approved.
“Every year your officers need to complete trainings…and they hadn’t done that, so when I came in there was no foundation,” Leung said, “They [the team] understand, at the end of this run whenever that might be… this stuff that we’ve gotten, like the jerseys, is to be donated, so that the team following doesn’t have to worry about that.”
With sights set on the future, the growth and development of A&M-San Antonio pushes the Rec Sports organizations to not only achieve for themselves, but to help foster a legacy for those who come after.
For more information on the Recreational sports department and the organizations within, click the link provided. Rec Sports Organizations