Club Night at the U.S. Military Academy is usually full of energy and noise.
Underclass cadets make their way through tables representing the different clubs at West Point as current members try and convince them to sign up. In one corner, a rock band may be playing as members of the ski patrol wander the entire room with skis in hand. A rock climber sometimes can be found rappelling from the ceiling as a celloist adds to the cacophony of noise.
It is a chance for each club to try and recruit new members, whether they are a competitive sport, academic group, religious organization or simply a new hobby for cadets to try out.
This year, though, Club Night looked very different much like every activity taking place at West Point. The event was spread over two nights, clubs were limited to one representative and only plebes (freshmen) were able to attend in person. All other cadets looking for a new club had to attend a virtual event and connect with clubs remotely. The changes were put in place as part of the COVID-19 mitigation efforts, but despite the masks and smaller crowds the clubs were working as hard as ever to recruit.
The women’s team handball club, which has captured multiple recent national championships, is facing the prospect of a fall semester without any competitions due to COVID-19. But on Aug. 18, team representative Class of 2022 Cadet Tasia Stevens was there with highlights of the sport playing ready to add new members.
“We provide an escape,” Stevens said of her pitch to the plebes. “Even just physical exercise is helpful, but we provide a team aspect with other people that I can trust and talk to. We provide an outlet away from your company.”
Because of the COVID-19 restrictions, cadets are currently restricted to West Point and unable to leave post. That fact of life was on Class of 2024 Cadet Williams Domler’s mind as he began the process of looking for a club. Among his priorities was finding a club that will allow him to leave cadet area even if that only means trips out to Camp Buckner just outside the gates.
“I think this year is pretty important because we’re stuck on post,” Domler said. “I’d say getting off of the cadet area and doing something that's kind of fun and relaxing is pretty important this year.”
Class of 2024 Cadet Nicklaus King spent his time during the Club Nights looking for an activity that will help him through the next six months of COVID-19 confinement, but that will also be something he’ll enjoy all four years.
The first clubs that jumped out to King were the CrossFit club and the aviation club, but Class of 2021 Cadet Gabriel Fuhrman was pitching a similar message as he worked to recruit members for the triathlon team. Fall competitions are likely canceled for this year, but Fuhrman’s message to the crowd of plebes surrounding his table was simple, “It’s not a one-year team. You’re going to be here for four years,” and by joining his team you may have a chance to compete in events as far away as New Zealand, all while joining a close-knit group.