A year ago, the gravel road to Dream Lakes Estates was lined with cars five days a week. Cheers of encouragement filled the air as people raced through the water performing zigzags and jumps behind a red Mastercraft boat, and students sat with their teammates at a wooden table on the dock until until the sun melts on the horizon.
The Iowa State Water Ski Club has been training at Dream Lakes Estates for 35 years, but held no practices in the 2022-23 school year.
The group created a petition on September 1 to fight for permission to practice and compete after the university changed the organization to an enthusiastic non-athletic club on July 17, 2022.
The petition received 2,500 signatures within 18 hours of its creation and had more than 5,000 signatures as of Sunday. Several fans added comments, including alumni and members of other varsity teams.
“Iowa has always been a powerhouse both on the water and on land with its spirit and pride in its team,” said Mallin Blaxall, former president of the University’s water ski club team. of Cincinnati, in a comment. “They’re a nationally recognized team and the college scene just won’t be the same without them.”
The university’s decision follows a year-and-a-half-long review of athletic clubs after a crew club accident resulted in the deaths of two students in the spring of 2021. That review included an analysis by the American Council for athlete health and sport contributions. club members.
“Student health and safety was at the forefront of this review process,” the university said in an email.
The water ski club received official notification of their “high risk” classification via email on July 17, 2022. The email informed them that this decision was based on “their club’s activity under conditions uncontrollably dangerous”.
The water ski club’s advisor contacted the university for additional information and received no response until the office of risk management invited the club’s board of directors to a follow-up meeting the first week of September.
“When we had the follow-up meeting about why we were cut, they were adamant that it wasn’t because of safety,” said Amanda Luttschwager Rose, a mechanical engineering student and president of the Water Ski Club. “They think we are safe. Seems like it’s only because our boat and our lake don’t belong to the university.
The university leases the lake and equipment from the Water Ski Club but does not own them, according to Luttschwager Rose. The team trains on Dream Lakes Estate, a section of land with a lake specially built for the Iowa State Water Ski Club by the club’s founder.
The water ski club is one of 29 sports to receive a “high risk” classification according to the final sports club restructuring and categorization document. Recreation Services sponsors 17 of these groups and University Departments sponsor three others.
The Water Ski Club contacted other organizations that received a “high risk” classification, but received no response.
To identify “high risk” groups, the Office of Risk Management met with each sports club in the fall of 2021 to discuss their organization’s activities and risk factors.
Sports clubs classified as “high risk” must meet several outlined requirements to continue their previous activities according to a report by the Sports Club Review Committee. The university created this committee in the fall of 2021 following the publication of two independent reviews of the crew club accident.
To meet these requirements, the Water Ski Club should find a university department to sponsor them. The committee’s report recommends Recreation Services as a sponsor, but also notes that any department can sponsor a club if adequate safety plans are in place.
Luttschwager Rose and other members of management are unsure whether a department sponsor would automatically allow the team to train and compete, but considered it an effective first step.
When emailed a series of questions, including a survey of the specific criteria the water ski club should meet, the university responded with a statement and attached a copy of the final restructuring and categorization of sports clubs.
“The university recognizes that the changes to the water ski club are difficult and impactful for the students involved and the club’s supporters,” the university said in an email.
The water ski club emailed several university departments, but each responded supporting the university’s decision. The water ski club board created the petition after realizing that a department would not sponsor them and the university would stand firm in its decision.
“We tried every other item before moving on to the petition,” Luttschwager Rose said. “The petition was the last call, basically.”
The university offered the water ski club and other high-risk sports clubs the opportunity to become enthusiastic non-sport clubs. Under this status, groups can meet to discuss and learn about common interests, but are not allowed to engage in related activities.
“I think water skiing is a sport to be done,” said Sydnee Keener, junior marketing student and vice president of the Water Ski Club. “You can’t really sit down and talk about it, especially because a lot of people who join this club don’t really know what waterskiing is.”
The university also suggests that students participate individually in local, state, regional, and national teams not affiliated with the State of Iowa. However, the National Collegiate Water Ski Association requires members to be associated with a school.
“I miss being able to compete and represent Iowa State,” Luttschwager Rose said. “I also really miss seeing all the other water skiers from other schools.”
A red Mastercraft boat gently bobs up and down as it sits on a dock at Dream Lakes Estates. Two long strips of water reflect a picturesque image of nearby trees, and an occasional ripple is the only thing disturbing the water’s surface. The birds chirp softly in the distance, unchallenged by any other noise. Above, the sun begins to set over the empty seats of a wooden table on the quay.