Published: August 21, 2013
Just in case you didn’t get a lacrosse scholarship to one of Maryland’s several top-ranked lax-bro breeding grounds (Hopkins, UMD, Loyola, etc.) and you don’t have the hours or the dedication for varsity life, and frankly you enjoy kicking back with a few Bohs on weekends rather than carbo-loading before meets. But you still like to get a little sweaty, compete in games, and work on your fitness while having fun. Even if you don’t have wicked flow or a six-pack of something other than beer, there are a lot of amateur sporting opportunities to participate in at every skill level, for every price range, and for individuals or teams.
First of all, your college probably offers a ton of options for every kind of athlete to be able to join a team. Club sports are the level below varsity at Johns Hopkins, and as a soon-to-be four-year player on the Women’s Club Soccer team, I know that club sports are the perfect mixture of competitiveness, passion, family, and ridiculous amounts of fun. Our club soccer parties are infamous on campus, but we were ranked 12th in the country when we played in a regional tournament my sophomore year. We compete against neighboring colleges like Loyola and Towson (Towson has so many players they field two teams), as well as colleges from farther afield such as George Mason and, once, a school from Washington state. We don’t have enough jerseys for the whole team, so we switch shirts when we sub in and out. We practice a few times a week, and sometimes we bring champagne to celebrate after games—André, only the finest.
Hopkins also offers women’s rugby, which I’ve been dying to try, along with plenty of other club sports for both genders: lacrosse, basketball, squash, and more. You can usually find out the tryout dates within the first few weeks of school, depending on the sport’s season.
Next, there are intramural sports, which, though they are classified as a level down from club sports and are made up of self-assembled teams of students, are honestly more cutthroat than some varsity games I’ve watched. At Hopkins, students assemble their teams and battle for intramural championship T-shirts—“do it for the shirts” is the slogan. You can rally your friends, dormmates, or random strangers who appear athletic in sports like soccer, flag football, and even inner-tube water polo and something called wallyball, which people get pretty excited about.
Maybe you’re interested in getting outside your school’s athletic bubble to meet more Baltimoreans and expand your horizons while competing. The Baltimore Sports and Social Club has leagues for football, softball, volleyball, broomball (wait, broomball?), and many more and offers three skill levels. This group also takes trips to see Ravens and Orioles games, just in case you want to see how the professionals in Baltimore do it.
There are free yoga classes all over the place (easy to find on the City Paper weekly calendar), classes at the Downtown Sailing Center, and the Baltimore Gaelic Athletic Association even offers Camogie (an ancient Irish sport combining field hockey and lacrosse).
If you’re more of an individual athlete, you can take advantage of Baltimore’s growing running culture, its outdoor parks, and its biking trails and lanes. Baltimore is the home of the Under Armour Baltimore Running Festival, which hosts the Baltimore Marathon and Half Marathon. This event is held annually in October and draws tens of thousands of runners together to finish their many, many miles (13.1 in a half-marathon, 26.2 in a full marathon) in between the hallowed halls of Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium. The Falls Road Running Store offers a website (baltimorerunning.com) where runners can get supplies, information, and event calendars. My favorite run is along the Gilman trail—a 4-mile loop starting behind the Hopkins House apartments and going through the woods to the Gilman School and back.
If you’re not so into running (read: if you are not crazy), there are a lot of beautiful outdoor options for those hoping to take in the sights in and around Baltimore while stretching the muscles. Johns Hopkins has two outdoor groups of its own (Outdoor Pursuits and Johns Hopkins Outdoors Club) which organize and host groups that go climbing, sea kayaking, white-water kayaking, caving, mountain biking, hiking, and many more activities. These trips venture toward areas in Maryland and beyond, in areas like the Potomac, Gunpowder State Park, and more and are led by student instructors trained in their fields and in basic wilderness medicine (I’m a sea kayaking instructor!). The trips are affordable and open to the public, and probably one of my favorite things to do on a weekend. Beautiful outdoor scenes in Baltimore’s own backyard include Druid Hill Park, Loch Raven Reservoir, Patterson Park, Sherwood Gardens, and more—each a remarkably green spot in the urban landscape. Though Baltimore hasn’t always been so bike-friendly, we’re working on it with bike trails like the Jones Falls trail, new bike lanes, and the ever-growing Baltimore Bike Party (we’re hoping the city will stop ragging on their after-party beer licenses soon). Because, you know, what’s a good workout session without an after-party treat? I mean, we’re not varsity lacrosse players or anything.