Rockhurst to add seven new athletic programs

Chloe Fleming, Reporter

In October of 2022, Rockhurst University announced that they would be adding seven sports to the school within the next two years. Those sports are men’s and women’s swim, men’s and women’s dive, men’s and women’s track and field, and men’s volleyball. All of these have been rising in popularity and interest among the student body at Rockhurst, as well as in the surrounding community and Midwest.

The primary motivation for adding new sports at Rockhurst is to increase enrollment.

“It was an enrollment initiative, so we’re looking at creative ways to add students to Rockhurst,” Rockhurst athletic director Kristy Bayer said. “There are different ways to do this, through academic programs, but with athletic programs, you can quickly add them without many hoops to jump through. You institutionally say that you are adding a sport and you go forward with that, so that’s an easy way to add students for the next academic year.”

The new sports teams are a great addition to the KC area, especially since many of these teams are not found in the metro. Prospective athlete, Teagan Kimble, spoke about the appeal of these teams, saying, “There are only a few options for sports in KC, and they’re usually the same standard ones. Having these is awesome for those wanting to be in the metro area.”

Among the sports being added, Rockhurst student, Caroline Knopke, took a special interest in the new swim and dive teams. Knopke was a part of the interest group meetings and worked to find other students who shared her passion for swim and dive to advocate with her.

“I went to the focus group meeting and talked a little about swimming and diving, my experience, and what I was looking for,” Knopke said. “Finding other students who were interested was a little challenging at first, but the more I reached out to people the more interest I saw.”

The recruitment process for these new sports began with Bayer emailing high school athletic directors and principals all over Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. This has gained the programs a lot of attention without needing coaches. After the coaches were hired, it was then up to them to begin recruitment.

“Recruiting for them will be a lot more in person,” Bayer said. “Since they don’t have competition right now because they are just here, their sole focus will be building the roster for next year and recruiting prospective student-athletes.”

The allure of a new sports team versus a team that has already been established is competition time. This is one of the advantages that the new teams at Rockhurst have over other programs, especially for high school students looking to compete.

“A benefit, to a high school student, for a new program is immediate competition,” Bayer said. “You could choose a more established program, but you may not be a prominent player or student-athlete on that team. You may not have as large of a role as you would if you came to Rockhurst.”

Coming to a program in its first year also allows students to make history, as being the first students to represent Rockhurst in these new sports.

These new programs are open to all students, whether that be transfer students, high school students, or existing students at Rockhurst. The recruiting process, which is generally geared towards high school students, is expecting to add many new faces to the university.

“By adding more sports to Rockhurst, we as a school will have a larger demographic of high school students looking to further their athletic careers in college,” Knopke says. “I think that it will attract high schoolers from Kansas City and those looking to play their sport at a Division II school as well.”

With the new sports additions, the Rockhurst community hopes to see many new student-athletes on campus and a revival in enrollment. The new influx of students will bring more opportunities for campus and community involvement and possibly even give rise to new student-led organizations.