Varsity Team vs. Club Team: Which is Right for You ?

October 9, 2018 | by Jo Ee Kok

Are you good enough to be a part of the elite U.S. collegiate varsity team? Or do you just want to play your sport for the fun and the exercise?
When it comes to athletic affiliations in U.S. universities, there are two different paths you can choose from – the “varsity” or the “club” team. These teams differ significantly from each other and it’s one of the frequently asked questions when it comes to College/ University admissions and athletic recruiting in the U.S.

Varsity team or club team? What’s the advantage of one over the other? It all boils down to the goals you want to achieve.

Varsity teams are composed of dedicated athletes who want to represent their school. They can participate in either of the three major National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) sports division – either Division I, II or III, depending on their athletic performance. While it’s a great privilege to be a part of the varsity team, athletes must be recruited by the varsity team coach before gaining admission into the university, or be granted a special invite by the coach to try-out for the team. If you are keen on playing your sport at the varsity level, you must connect and build a relationship with the college coaches of your sport - this is termed the "U.S. college athletic recruiting process". Competing in a varsity team is a serious commitment, and one should engage in research on the topic in order to better understand the requirements of the university – both athletically and academically, where you are trying to get recruited by.

Club teams on the other hand, are generally open to everyone. These teams are all about recreation. Anyone can join a club and can attend meetings, practices, and activities of such. There is certainly no pressure and no expectations that should be constantly met. For competitions, club teams usually compete with other institutions which may require them to go off-campus.

If you are still torn, here are some of the major comparisons between varsity and club teams.

Varsity Team Club Team
Selection process Need to be recruited by the college coach prior to applying and receiving admission into the university Anyone can join
Level of commitment needed Very high Moderate
Level of discipline needed Very high Moderate
Balance between academics and sports performance Very high Moderate to none (one can opt to just purely focus on academics)
Practices Scheduled 
(Division 1&2: 6 times/week)
(Division 3: 4 times/week) Flexible 
(roughly 1 time/week)
Opportunities for scholarship Yes, depending on athletic level and high school grades None
Funds for equipment, transportation, etc. Yes, provided by the college/university None

But if you want to progress from a Junior Athlete to a Professional Athlete and are looking for intense training, impressive credentials, and great opportunities for scholarship, then the Varsity Team route is definitely for you.In summary, club teams are similar to the sports extra-curricular activities offered in high schools. If you are a competitive high school athlete that practices 2-5 times per week or more, you should consider pursuing a spot on the varsity team.

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