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Opinion: Synchronized swimming deserves greater acknowledgment, funding from the university

The Student Activities Center Pool is pictured. UCLA must provide additional support and resources to sports that are less acknowledged on campus, including the artistic swim team. (Anika Chakrabarti/Photo editor)

By Laura Gulbinas

March 7, 2023 8:31 p.m.

UCLA often prides itself not only on its academic standing but also on the strength of its athletic programs – but perhaps we need to rethink our pride.

Although UCLA publicizes many of its recreational offerings through social media, flyers and posters on Bruinwalk, some sports remain widely unacknowledged.

The artistic swimming team, also known as synchronized swimming, was established in 2021 as a club team and has seen notable growth and achievements since then. The sport requires swimmers to perform coordinated or identical movements in time to music, with performances lasting several minutes. However, the club still struggles to gain the acclaim that many other clubs receive, such as ultimate frisbee and flag football.

UCLA must effectively communicate with members of recreational teams regarding their needs and support students through adequate advertising and funding.

For artistic swimmers, the sport represents an opportunity for creative expression and a supportive community of people who share a unified passion.

Although new and still relatively small, the artistic swim team has achieved several considerable accomplishments, according to Noela Seung, a third-year psychobiology student and president of the team.

“I think the very fact that we have girls that are just as talented or at the level of being able to compete against team-one-level schools or teams is really encouraging,” Seung said.

The team has also seen notable growth since its establishment last school year, bolstering students’ hopes for its future.

Kaite MacDonald, a second-year psychology student and vice president of the team, said the squad grew in size since last year, increased the number of meets it participated in and successfully competed against varsity teams. With this growth, however, comes inevitable challenges, such as funding for uniforms, necessary equipment and transportation, said MacDonald.

To meet this need, the team has sought to fundraise through various methods on social media and in person.

“Right now, since we’re in season, the most fundraising we really can do is through the Spark campaign,” said Ariana Stanton, a second-year business economics student. “But hopefully, like spring quarter, when we’re not in season, we’re hoping that we can do some shows with an entry fee.”

Stanton said the team utilizes UCLA Spark, the official crowdfunding platform of the university, as well as events beyond what the UCLA Recreation department offers. But, even with these efforts, the club still falls short of funds to compensate for the equipment required by the sport, such as uniforms, sound systems and transportation.

“We fundraised to about $10,000, and it’s not even really going to hold a candle to the amount of costs that we have to pay to go to all these meets,” MacDonald said.

Given these shortcomings, UCLA must take the initiative to support students in their pursuits and provide additional funding to the recreational teams.

The UCLA Recreation department already takes significant steps to work with teams to meet their needs. The department provides recreation areas, vans for transportation and access to administrative staff for assistance.

Megan Normansell, a program director with the Cultural and Recreational Affairs department, also addressed concerns regarding funding for club sports, affirming the department’s commitment to helping its members.

“We make every effort to stay in close communication with our Club Sports representatives and participants and are as responsive as possible to their concerns,” Normansell said in an emailed statement.

The student members, however, shared a vastly different experience, citing instances of late reimbursements, unfulfilled promises and general unresponsiveness. MacDonald, for example, said she had difficulty contacting members of the department through email and over the phone.

Although students should take responsibility for their publicity and make efforts to fund themselves, they should also have easy access to the department when needed for assistance.

UCLA’s Recreation department must address its communication issues to better support the athletes under its jurisdiction.

While UCLA should be held responsible for its mission of supporting students, the Bruin community also plays a significant role in helping club sports programs thrive. Students should support their peers’ passions and interests to further advance the development of athletic clubs on campus.

Some members of the artistic swim team added that they simply want to broaden their peers’ understanding of the sport they love.

“I feel like artistic swimming, synchronized swimming, is very misunderstood generally, and I think that, if more people knew how much of a sport it is and about all of our competitions, people will be more available to help us,” MacDonald said.

Artistic swimming deserves the same recognition, funding and support that more acknowledged sports receive.

At UCLA, all students should have the opportunity to not only pursue their interests without financial restraint but also receive the acknowledgment they deserve for their commitment to their passions.

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Laura Gulbinas
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