By Joseph Storelli
For most students at the University of Georgia the phrase “student-athlete” brings to mind players from high profile sports such as football or basketball. They imagine those on scholarships often described as being on a “full ride.”
Rarely, if ever, would someone like Emily Barber come to mind.
Barber, a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering, is a goalie on the UGA club ice hockey team. She does not receive the benefits that come with being a scholarship athlete. At UGA, ice hockey is a club sport, which means it is operated by the university’s recreational sports department as a student organization. Students playing on club teams don’t receive athletic scholarships and the teams receive little financial support from the school.
This leaves Barber and her teammates to cover most costs themselves.
“Hockey is a big budget sport, especially in Georgia where there’s not rinks in your backyard,” Barber said. “So we have to get money from a lot of different ways. The school gives us a small amount, but it’s not necessarily guaranteed so we mostly self-fund. We do a lot of different sponsorships, and we have a fee to join the team.”
These expenses add up quickly for Barber, who also pays for tuition, books, and living expenses on top of the cost to play hockey. She would try to work part-time to help alleviate the cost, but the time she commits to her sport makes it hard.
“Some of the guys on the team do take jobs outside of athletics, but I honestly don’t know how,” said Barber. “Especially being in engineering, doing that and playing hockey is pretty much [all] I can handle.”
Glada Horvat, senior associate athletic director at UGA, said the university has some programs to help non-scholarship athletes who play on the varsity teams, such as a player who has walked on to the football team and participates without a scholarship.
“We provide grab-and-go, which is snacks. We provide morning snacks and evening snacks for students who are on teams, so you don’t have to be on scholarship to receive that. That’s just part of your participation,” Horvat said of the programs aimed at players on varsity teams. “And we provide a pretty good number of meals. We call those meals incidental to participation, so like after practice we’ll have some meals and you don’t have to be on scholarship to partake in that.”
Along with making sure athletes can save on food, the school also provides players on varisty teams with life-skills help.
“We do career development things, networking, we have a leadership academy,” Horvat said. “All of those things are open to all of our students, they don’t have anything to do with whether you’re on scholarship or not.”
But there is nothing in place like that to assist players on club sports teams.
For the moment, Barber isn’t worried about the money. Instead, she is focused on making it through classes and continuing her path to a degree. The fact that she gets to play hockey at school is an added bonus.
“Academics come first, especially for me,” said Barber. “I do it because I love hockey, but academics come first.”
Joseph Storelli is a journalism student at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.