TRAVERSE CITY — Northwestern Michigan College is heading back into the field of team sports after a nearly 40-year hiatus.
NMC’s club soccer team already has played nine games this season.
The club team has been a quiet endeavor. It hasn’t attracted huge crowds or media buzz, but it’s providing a level of competition NMC missed, said J.J. Breithaupt, who captains the team.
Breithaupt was co-captain of the West Senior High School soccer team his senior year. He enrolled at NMC after he graduated in 2012 and wanted to continue playing competitive soccer. But he discovered NMC offered only intramural sports, a program adopted after men’s varsity sports teams and women’s cheerleading were disbanded in 1978 when Title IX was implemented.
“I’ve been playing year-round since I was five years old, and I couldn’t see myself not playing,” he said.
Breithaupt talked about the idea of starting a soccer club with Don Cunningham, director of NMC’s University Center and a lifelong soccer player who coached a Traverse Bay Area Youth soccer spring Under-18 team. Students transitioning from high school to NMC wanted something more, Cunningham said.
“We often hear from students there’s nothing athletically to do here,” Cunningham said. “Think about it. For years mom and dad took them in a van from game to game. Now they’re out of high school, and they still want to play competitively.”
Cunningham helped organize four games in fall 2012, and the Student Government Association agreed to help with expenses such as travel and jerseys — about $1,000 each year. Breithaupt is the team co-captain with Charley Needham.
NMC has no formal soccer practices — Cunningham handpicks the best students who drop in at the twice-a-week intramural practices, usually young men, sometimes a woman or two.