by Gustavo Torres
The lights of the stadium mesmerize all who attend. Crowd chants bring unison to a group of people who have never shared a conversation before, let alone a glance. On the field, players line up at the line of scrimmage, with all the elements of the stadium fueling their adrenaline. However, only a select few have ever experienced the feeling of being on the field, with all the tears and emotions around them. Then the ball is snapped. Some will walk to their cars after the final buzzer with one thought – I wish I could play. An opportunity like that does not come around often. It only comes once a year at Texas State University.
Club Football makes that opportunity come to life. Since the fall of 2011, Club Football, part of club sports at Texas State University, has been giving students and people of the community the opportunity to play the sport they love, with all that comes with it. They are coached by two volunteer coaches, head coach and defensive coordinator Nick White and offensive coordinator Jay McCool. Once the members pay their club football fee, they are provided with all the game day necessities such as game jerseys, pants, pads, and helmets.
Considered a semi-professional football league, Club Football is a full-contact league in which members play against other semi-professional football teams from around the San Antonio and Austin areas. They play a 10 game regular season, complete with a playoff system and championship game. Although the regular season begins in the spring semester of the school year, players begin their off-season in the fall, where they start to learn who they are as a team.
The off-season is crucial in deciding what the identity of the team is. The first few practices focus on the fundamentals of playing football and its concepts. Many of the players come in with raw athletic ability, while others come with past football experiences. The blend of experiences help add a unique aspect to the team. No matter what your skill level is, all are welcome to play the sport.
All of the club football players come from different parts of Texas and the United States. One player comes from across the Atlantic Ocean. Jan Sarka, 37, is from the Czech Republic and a graduate from Galveston College and the punter/kicker for the team. Sarka also has a deep respect for all of his teammates, as they put their bodies on the line every game.
“You have to do everything right. If not, people get hurt,” Sarka said. “So, I love it, and I am not playing football. I am at the field when they play football [but] I am just punter and kicker. Those guys, you know, I got big respect because they are risking their health and everything just for fun and they love the sport,”
Sarka also understands that being a team means more than just playing the sport together. It means growing together in experience and friendship.
“This reminds when I was young. Be part of the team. It’s like the best thing. It’s like you got friendship, sometimes you got [upset] with somebody, you yell at somebody over here but then you are buddies,” Sarka said. “You hate them sometimes but at the end of the day you still love them because you are buddies and we are part of a team.”
For Sarka, this is an opportunity to feel what he felt as a kid. For others, it’s an opportunity to show their abilities for the first time in their playing career. Manny Serafin, a sophomore at Texas State, has loved football since 8th grade. Now, he has the opportunity to show his team what others have never believed he could do.
“I never got to shine really in high school but since I’m out here I get to shine a little bit more,” Serafin said. “It’s not just ‘oh its club football’ it’s ‘hey we’re out here working just as hard as everybody else’ you know. I want you to work just as equally as hard.”
Like Manny, other players were never given the chance to showcase their abilities at a younger age. Ana Zuniga, a senior at Texas State, now has an opportunity to inspire others to find the will within themselves to do what they love, as she is a woman playing a sport intended for men.
“I didn’t make the volleyball team [in] middle school so I was like ‘well here’s my chance to play football,’” said Zuniga. “Whoever you are, if you want to go do something, go do it. Do not be intimidated.”
While Zuniga can be seen as an inspiration for equality, she believes she is simply doing what anyone should do – follow your dreams.
Many students at Texas State University do not know what Club Football is. A select few have discovered that Club Football is the anticipation of the ball being snapped, the excitement of the pre-game huddle, and the sensation of walking off the field as winners. Moreover, Club Football is where aspirations are lived through hard work, sacrifice, and teamwork.
President: Daniel Brinker
Vice President and Treasurer: Jimmy Lombardo
Marketing Director: Manny Serafin
Equipment and Safety: Eric Reyes