Columbia College Chicago has finally landed a women’s softball team but difficulty finding participants is preventing the team from competing.
The team officially joined the Renegade’s athletic department during the 2014 fall semester and hoped to compete during the 2015 spring semester but Alexis Knox, a sophomore advertising major and one of the team’s founders, said they were not able to compete immediately because they were not able to finalize a roster.
“The hardest part about creating a softball team is trying to get people to commit and working around everyone’s schedules,” Knox said.
“As a student, I know from personal experience that it’s difficult to commit to things because I work and go to school full-time.”
The intends to begin its season in fall 2015, where the Renegades will compete against intramural teams from other universities such as DePaul and Loyola.
“Once we are part of a league we will have the opportunity to play real games against different colleges,” Knox said. “The main goal right now is to join the league.”
Knox, originally from Hinsdale, Illinois, began her softball career in elementary school. In high school, academics came first, however, and she was only able to play two years of junior varsity before the sport began to conflict too much with her schedule. Nevertheless, Knox wanted to pursue the sport in college.
“I was looking into Northern Illinois’ softball team but I was more interested in Columbia’s programs so I never pursued it,” Knox said.
Columbia has few recognized athletic teams, the most notable team being the men’s baseball team. Creating a women’s softball team will be quite an achievement if it can be successfully pulled off.
“It’s important for Columbia to have a softball team because it creates a bigger community and provides students with amazing opportunities,” Knox said. “I love being part of a team because I can meet people with similar interests and play a sport I’m genuinely passionate about.”
Organized sports are a rarity at Columbia, with its students, who mostly go to the school for its art programs, lacking a focus in athletics seen at other universities in Chicago.
Abby Dougherty, a freshman Cinema Arts + Science major from East Dubuque, Illinois, was a four-year varsity left fielder and earned an All-State Honorable Mention in high school. Rather than play in college, she decided to attend Columbia because of its film program.
“I knew that I wanted to work in film. I would rather go to a great film school than an okay film school and play softball,” Dougherty said.
Dougherty said she thinks the lack of competitive women’s sports at Columbia may be a turnoff for incoming freshmen.
“Some of us gave up sports to come to this school. We knew that Columbia didn’t have sports but we came here anyway,” Dougherty said.
“If Columbia had the best of both worlds, even if it was just for fun, then maybe it would attract more students.”
Dougherty said time and money are the biggest adversities the team faces.
“A lot of things seem to happen at the last minute,” Dougherty said. “We are a dedicated team and we really want to make this team happen.”
Grace DeRidder a photography and history student from Northville, Michigan, participated in tee ball, traveling softball and in high school played two years of junior varsity and one year of varsity. Her high school team won a city conference championship and made it to the Elite Eight round of the Michigan state tournament.
DeRidder chose her art over athletics and attended Columbia, which had the best photography program of the schools she was choosing between.
“I considered playing for a school if they had a good photography program, but academics came first,” DeRidder said. “I wasn’t going to go to a school just to play softball over my education.”
DeRidder said putting more focus on athletics would help Columbia and its students.
“I think Columbia needs more teams in general,” she said. “Giving Columbia sports teams makes the school more diverse and it allows the students to branch out to other schools in the area.”
DeRidder said being able to participate in athletics allows students to create bonds and memories in a unique way.
“There is something incredibly special about being on a team,” DeRidder said.
“You learn things you never knew about a person and you care for them in a way you never would have on a regular day. They’re your teammate and you have their back.”
DeRidder said she hopes Columbia’s softball team can overcome its conflicts so it can compete.
“I miss the game so I can’t wait to play other teams and get to meet other girls from other schools,” DeRidder said. “We all love the game and want to have a good time on and off the field together.”
When it is time to play, the team should be ready after spending a chunk of the winter practicing in Roosevelt University’s gym. Unfortunately the team did not have access to much equipment and the girls are counting on fundraising efforts to help them buy equipment they need to practice.
Knox worries that further budget cutting means the team will require dues from each player.
“We’re hoping to fundraise so girls don’t have to pay to be on the team,” Knox said. “We’re also looking to get uniforms and be able to pay league fees.”
With warmer weather approaching, the ladies will begin to practice on the public baseball diamonds at Grant Park. The persistent Renegade team refuses to give up, as they continue to look for players to fill their rosters and plans to advertise it more.
“I want the students of Columbia to know that the softball team exists,” Knox said.
“We don’t require experience, we just want girls to come out, work hard and have fun!”