With the opportunity of playing sports at different schools, BYU extramural sports’ athletes share a common vision in choosing to play at BYU — having the opportunity to play with a group of teammates that uphold similar values.
Some athletes participating on extramural teams, such as lacrosse and racquetball, and non-BYU affiliated teams, such as women’s rugby, have opportunities to play at an NCAA Division 1 level school following high school graduation but are attracted to the high standards set forth by BYU’s Honor Code. Despite having to pay to play, BYU students from across the country participate in these lesser known sports around campus because of the passion and love they have for the game.
Team unity that was experienced in high school sports is brought to a whole new level at BYU, where players feel their religious background and affiliation with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints brings greater identity and purpose to the team.
Pat Matheson, a junior majoring in international relations, said playing on the BYU lacrosse team helps athletes mature while reaching their athletic goals. Matheson acknowledged that representing BYU and its affiliation to the Church brings greater fulfillment than any other team he had previously been a part of.
“Lots of the freshmen coming in, they were like me; a freshman kid comes in from high school, we won the national championship last year, and he says, ‘I want to win a national championship at BYU,’ so he comes here to win a national championship,” Matheson said. “Within a few months he’ll start to realize that this is more than just lacrosse. It’s more than just winning. It’s more than just getting a trophy at the end of the season and being popular. It has to do with representing somebody and something else bigger than yourself.”
Twin brothers Jared and Jacob Houghton decided to continue their lacrosse careers at BYU, after playing lacrosse with a NCAA Division I program.
Before their missions the Houghton brothers played lacrosse at the University of Denver and had lacrosse scholarships. Despite having scholarships available again to them following their missions at the University of Denver, both brothers felt the Honor Code and religious atmosphere of BYU would provide a better atmosphere to play in.
“I totally would pay to play lacrosse any day. I just love it so much,” Jacob Houghton said. “I love being around the guys who have the same values as me but also who love to play lacrosse and play at a high level. It’s just a lot of fun. It’s given me a lot of good experiences and a lot of things that I’m going to remember for a long time.”
Jared Houghton said most athletes on the BYU lacrosse team had a great desire to attend college at BYU. The overall team experience, practices and workouts are designed to be as similar to a Division I program as possible.
“Being a lacrosse player at BYU is unique, in the fact that we pay to play. But yet we consistently are able to attract some extremely talented athletes to come, and we’re able to consistently win national championships,” Jared Houghton said. “I think it’s a combination of people who want to play lacrosse in college, but also want to go to BYU. … Although we’re not a Division I program, we’ve tended to act like a Division I program.”
The women’s Cougar rugby team has no affiliation to BYU, but provides BYU students an opportunity to continue their athletic endeavors after high school, while providing a unified team atmosphere. The team participates in fundraisers throughout the year, such as working concessions at BYU football games, sponsoring events at Classic Skating and knocking on doors in search of donations.
Most girls on the women’s team never played rugby before college, but they are willing to pay dues each semester to learn and play the sport because of the positive atmosphere that comes with playing on a team of BYU students.
Rebekah Siebach, a senior majoring in exercise and wellness, was a walk-on for the BYU women’s track and field team but ultimately decided to pursue a different sport that involved the feeling of playing as a unified team. Despite the lack of free apparel and early class sign-up that came with being a member of the track and field team, Siebach has developed a love for the sport of rugby since her first day of practice.
“One of the main differences that I noticed is track is a team sport, but at the same time it’s individual,” Siebach said. “It’s you that achieves the times that you want to achieve, whereas rugby, it is a team sport and you’re all working together, and the person next to you, and all the other members on the team are working just as hard as you are … to be able to achieve the goal of winning. That aspect I didn’t really feel with being on the track team. That has driven me to stick with rugby, that feeling of working as one and being unified.”
Samantha Wright, a senior majoring in manufacturing engineering, played soccer, softball and basketball in high school but felt she was done with being part of an athletic program when she went to college. Wright played intramural sports her freshman year but said it wasn’t the same as being part of an established team and wearing a jersey. She began preparing to try out for the BYU softball team, but when she failed to make the team her desire to play a college sport led her to women’s rugby — a sport she knew nothing about.
“Everybody chooses BYU because it’s a church school and because of the environment and they turn down opportunities elsewhere to play sports,” Wright said. “It’s good for us because that’s who we recruit from, girls that could have played sports at other schools and decided to come to BYU.”
Another extramural sport that requires dedication from members is BYU’s racquetball team. Players are willing to hit the racquetball court at 6 a.m. three times a week, participate in regular strength and conditioning training and pay team dues in order to play.
Joe Blank, a senior from San Jose, Calif., was recruited to walk on Utah Valley University’s baseball team but ultimately transferred the mechanics of his baseball swing to racquetball after being cut from the team. After transferring to BYU, he started playing on the racquetball team, despite the unavailability of scholarships and rigorous time commitment involved.
Kristin Hatch, a senior majoring in recreational therapy, found herself in a similar situation, when she transitioned from playing tennis at BYU Idaho to playing racquetball for BYU’s team. Even though it’s a sacrifice to pay to play racquetball here, her love and devotion to the game drives her to compete on the court.
“It would be great to have that [scholarship] as an added bonus but really there’s so much love of the game going on,” Hatch said. “People really are willing to come. You commit to something and then you live by that commitment.”