In North America, when you talk about hockey, people assume you mean ice hockey. Hockey is most popular in northwestern and upper Midwestern states with cold, winter climates but is gaining in popularity even in warmer states. The US boasts now more youth hockey players than even Canada!
High schools located primarily in cold weather states offer Junior Varsity and Varsity teams. Prep schools also offer hockey as part of their sports program.
While there are not many junior colleges that offer hockey programs, those that do compete at NJCAA Division 1 level and play against other JuCo teams, as well as certain intramural college teams and local club teams.
138 colleges and universities offer competitive men’s hockey programs. There are 60 Division 1 hockey schools, competing in 6 different conferences. Division 2 schools compete in 1 conference, while Division 3 schools compete in 10 different conferences. College-level hockey is an important feeder for the NHL, providing many players to professional teams.
Women’s teams (only offered at Division 1 and 3 competition level) are offered at a total of 93 different colleges and universities.
In the US there are 620 college varsity men’s and women’s ice hockey teams.
Rowing, sometimes referred to as Crew in the US, has been a centerpiece of some of America’s oldest and most prestigious (private) educational institutions. Considered a minor college sport at present, the Harvard-Yale Regatta is arguably the oldest collegiate competition in the country.
High school crew programs (either offered via school or at local clubs) are offered at two levels – Novice and Varsity. Novice teams are made up of students with little prior rowing experience, varsity players will have more experience and rowing time behind them.
Rowing can be practiced year-round, with competition mainly in the spring.
Men’s collegiate rowing is not affiliated with the NCAA (Div 1-3) but instead fall under the Intercollegiate Rowing Association and offer top varsity teams. Freshman (first-years) often compete in their own squad, while some colleges will allow freshman on the varsity squad.
Women’s rowing is growing in popularity at many colleges and universities, at a variety of levels. Freshman may compete in their own teams. There are a limited number of lightweight rowing programs.
In the US there are almost 200 college varsity men’s and women’s rowing teams.
Sailing as a sport has been around for hundreds of years but the oldest US sailing, or yacht, club in the US dates from 1844. Competition races between this club and those in the UK ultimately led to the creation of the America’s Cup.
Sailing at high school level can be offered by the school itself or by local clubs who compete interscholastically. It is co-educational and junior varsity and varsity options are available.
College sailing does not fall under the NCAA but the Intercollegiate Sailing Association. 266 colleges and universities offer a varsity program, and compete in a total of seven different conferences. Championships can take place in fall (specialty races) and spring (larger races). College athletes are well-represented in Olympic and professional teams.
In the US there are 35 college varsity men’s and women’s sailing teams.
Softball, originally invented as a kind of indoor baseball, spread like wildfire throughout the US in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. 1934 ushered the sport into what we know it today.
Recreational teams are often co-ed, allowing women and men of all ages and skills to enjoy the game.
At high school, junior college and college level, softball is mainly played by women only. Softball is mainly a spring/early summer sport and the high school/college competition season is short and intense, beginning in early February and lasting until the end of May. Warmer states may offer travel team opportunities outside of normal team competition.
In the US there are almost 1,700 college varsity women’s softball teams.
Participation in squash in the US is growing faster than anywhere else in the world, especially among youth and women’s players.
At the high school level, squash is mainly played at prep schools but many public high schools offer Junior Varsity and Varsity teams.
37 colleges and universities located in the northeastern and upper Midwestern states offer varsity squash programs, while there are also few on the West Coast. Squash is a winter sport and squash teams are small so only a handful of athletes will be recruited each year. Collegiate squash is not affiliated with the NCAA but offers its own competition league and conferences.
In the US there are 38 college varsity men’s and women’s squash teams.
Track & Field
One of the oldest sports, Track & Field started becoming popular in the US from the 1860’s. Women’s participation began increasing from the 1920’s, as many high schools and colleges added women’s track & field to their programs.
High school track & field programs offer an indoor and outdoor season, allowing athletes to compete from mid-November to the end of the school year in May. Practice is year-round and outdoor, while seasonal meets may take place indoors.
College-level track & field is offered at both 2-year junior colleges and 4-year colleges and universities. College teams practice up to 6x a week, 2-3 hours a day. Facilities at some colleges are top notch (private tracks, stadiums or indoor arenas) and located on campus.
In the US there are 1,130 college varsity men’s and women’s track and field teams.
Volleyball has been growing steadily over the last few decades in the US, especially as beach volleyball began to be televised. Played in gyms and halls throughout the country and outside in states with warmer climates, there is a wealth of opportunities for players of every skill level.
Almost every high school will have a girls’ volleyball team, however there are fewer opportunities for male athletes. Girls’ teams compete in the fall, boys’ teams in the spring. High school offers Junior Varsity and Varsity teams, some may also offer freshman teams (9th grade or year 3). Top teams will compete at a regional, state and national level.
Women’s teams surpass the men’s almost 3-to-1 at both 2-year junior colleges and 4-year colleges and universities. JuCo’s are a good option for volleyball student-athletes as more than 75% of Division 1 coaches recruit directly from this pool of players.
Volleyball is one of the fast growing sports on college campuses. The competition season is short and intense, taking up the whole of the first semester (August through the mid-December).
In the US there are 1,830+ college varsity men’s and women’s volleyball teams.
There are no professional water polo teams in the US so college is the highest level of competition on offer. There are around 48 colleges and universities that offer water polo programs. Water polo is among the fastest growing youth and college sports in the US.
High school water polo is popular in states with warm weather, most notably California and Florida, but is played in many east north central and northeastern states.
Junior college water polo competition is mainly in California, where 31 schools offer programs.
In the US there are 120+ college varsity men’s and women’s water polo teams.
Water skiing was invented in the US in 1922 and in less than 20 years it developed into a national competitive sport. Interest in the sport continues to grow and many colleges have a water ski team.
Collegiate water ski members compete in co-ed teams in both water ski and wakeboard disciplines. Teams offer something for everyone – it is not unheard of for beginning athletes to compete together with national and world champion athletes.
Water ski tournaments generally have a relaxed atmosphere – there is just as much happening on the beach as on the water!
50 colleges and universities divided into four regions compete for the annual national championship title. The sport is not regulated by the NCAA but by the National Collegiate Water Ski Association (NCWSA).
At many colleges and universities, water skiing is only a club sport but as the sport grows in popularity more schools compete at NCWSA division 1 and 2 and there is a marked increase in scholarships being offered to student-athletes as well!
Learn more about collegiate waterskiing via the We Love College Waterski podcast – https://tinyurl.com/2p9yxxj4