Club Night offers abundance of opportunities for cadets
August 24, 2011
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Aug. 24, 2011) -- Do you like climbing great heights? There's a club for that. How about speaking foreign languages or debating?
Eisenhower Hall became the hub of cadet activities Aug. 15 during the annual Club Night, where hundreds of cadets from the Class of 2015 gathered to select what clubs they want to pursue this academic year.
Some clubs travel the world, others claim national championships two and three years in a row. There are some barely a year old and others that have been around for a century. With so many to choose from, many cadets arrived at Club Night having already researched the different clubs.
"Club Night was a nice break because we were able to get out of the cadet area and be informal with upperclassmen and simply see what goes on outside of what we see day-to-day as students," Class of 2015 Cadet Todd McLaughlin said.
Having just completed his first day of class, McLaughlin decided to sign up for the Orienteering Team, with tryouts scheduled for the next three days.
"I went to their meet at the last mass athletics during Beast and decided I'll at least see the tryouts through," McLaughlin said. "They are looking for team compatibility and mental skills from what I can tell."
McLaughlin was also interested in a management position on the Men's Crew Team and said a member of the (West Point Cadet Sports Parachute) Jump Team made an encouraging pitch for their club.
Booths lined both floors of Crest Hall as club members enticed new recruits with the merits of their athletic, academic, cultural or spiritual activity. There are roughly 120 clubs sponsored by the Directorate of Cadet Activities. Natashia Grable from the DCA Business Office said the Drill Team and Chess Club are perhaps the oldest of all cadet activities, but other popular ones like the Debate Team and Model UN have been around for some time and are competitive on the national collegiate level.
The Scoutmasters Club recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, while the Women's Boxing Team is working to improve its standing from hobby club status to a competitive club.
Some cadets, like Class of 2012 Cadet Sam Wharton, have been able to support more than one club at West Point. This year, he's the president of the West Point Cadet Catholic Choir, a member of the Eisenhower Hall cadet staff and has worked as a photographer on the annual cadet yearbook, "The Howitzer," since his plebe year.
Class of 2012 Cadet Lisa Warner was a high school basketball player, but began playing lacrosse at West Point and is now co-captain of the team.
"A lot of the skills transferred over from playing basketball but I had a firstie who took me under her wing and she worked with me a lot on catching and throwing," Warner said.
Her older siblings played lacrosse in high school so Warner always found the sport interesting. Her brother, a West Point graduate, had friends on the lacrosse team and she met some of the female players at his graduation.
"Coming in as a plebe you don't know what to expect, so it can be nerve-wracking," Warner said. "Never having played before I didn't know if I'd be good enough but I had a good attitude, I'm athletic and was able to pick up the skills quickly where they could mold me into what they needed me to be on the team."
Warner said recruiting for a winning and competitive team makes it an easier job, but the difficulty will come when they have to cut cadets from the roster after four days of tryouts.
"We're definitely looking for athleticism in the girls, but one of the key priorities is having a good attitude," Warner said. "West Point is hard enough, and there's a lot of stressors so lacrosse should be an outlet--it's supposed to be fun."
It was not out of the ordinary on Club Night to see cadets dressed in western attire to promote the Equestrian Team or someone suspended from the balcony from the Climbing Team. The Powerlifting Team needed no props, but they brought a scale to weigh plebes.
Class of 2012 Cadet Tyler Wright said the 22-cadet roster fosters a strong family environment. He joined the team four years earlier weighing 160 pounds and squatting 300 pounds. Today he's bulked up 20 pounds and hopes to squat 600 pounds this year.
"If you want to challenge yourself to lift more than you've ever lifted before, to become as mentally strong as you've ever been, then you'll come to the Powerlifting Team," Wright pitched to plebes. "The thing about our sport is you have to learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable. There's going to be a lot of weight on your back and you're going to be hurting, but there's a big emphasis on safety in what we do."
Class of 2012 Cadet Ben Poth was recruiting for six new members for the Pistol Team, the 2011 National Champions. With three consecutive championships to its credit, it would seem daunting for a plebe to join such a competitive team. Poth said the team looks for potential in new members more than experience.
"I didn't have prior experience myself," Poth said. "It's more about being approachable and having a willingness to learn. Our coach's philosophy is that it takes time to develop a shooter. So we like to mentor cadets the first two years as they develop."
The Spirit Band took center stage inside the theater during Club Night to provide musical entertainment as they recruited new musicians. Nearly one-third of the band is composed of plebes, and Class of 2012 Cadet Mike Kohne, the Spirit Band president, said Club Night offers the new class a chance to see and hear the band while deciding if they want to join.
"The good part about West Point is that cadets are pretty multi-talented," Kohne said. "There's an amazing amount of them who come here as All-State musicians while being that varsity football player they were in high school. So it's surprisingly easy to find people here who are pretty good musicians."
So much, in fact, that it can be competitive--especially in the drum section, Kohne said. The band is authorized 90 full-time members, but those who don't make the cut are encouraged to keep playing.
Kohne said if they bring their instrument to a football game, they could still join in the fun.
We've got approximately 50 people who have consistently shown up to practice in the last couple of weeks, so we're looking for another 40 or so," he said. "We expect to get at least 100 to sign up tonight. Depending on the section, tryouts will follow.
"The drum line is always a competitive section, because they're really, really good," Kohne added. "For the other sections, we're looking for cadets who know their instruments and want to have fun while working hard. If we have too many for one section, we'll have to narrow it down on a case-by-case basis."
After Club Night ended, Kohne collected all the signatures and sent out emails to inform potential members about practice dates and location.
"We'll basically throw them into the mix during band practice," Kohne said. "They'll learn all the basic songs like the "Alma Mater" and we'll see what they know, what they don't know and what we need to teach them."
The Spirit Band travels often during the year, working every Army Football game both home and away, spirit rallies and other sports events like basketball and hockey.
Last semester they provided music for the Sandhurst Competition at Camp Buckner and even supported a cross-country meet.
"Basically, if there's something going on, we'll be there," Kohne said. "We supported Acceptance Day and March Back, and we'll be supporting events all the way through Special Olympics which is just before the last week of school. We're a yearlong party everywhere we go."