The ongoing pandemic has resulted in countless deviations to plans and canceled events, as well as created a looming uncertainty of what the future holds. The same is true for Texas A&M’s water ski club team.
A typical fall semester for A&M’s water ski team includes three or four tournaments, along with other events such as weekly meetings. However, due to the present circumstances, the team will not be competing in tournaments this semester.
A&M senior and third-year member of the team Lindsey Thompson said she is disappointed about the lack of opportunity to compete but remains optimistic about improving her skills while practicing in the meantime.
In addition to the cancellation of tournaments, the team is also undergoing changes regarding practices and how the team will operate as an organization.
“In the past we were able to go out to the lake whenever we wanted,” Thompson said. “But this year we’ve been assigned cohorts, which is a group of 10 or less people that we’re allowed to go out to the lake with and practice times for three days a week.”
Thompson said in addition to the assigned groups, the team is required to wear a face covering any time they’re not actually skiing. This year, their practice schedule will be more structured. Not only is the lake not available as it has been in the past, the team must also adhere to a restricted boat capacity of two people.
JD Eyler, a senior and two-year member, is serving as the secretary for A&M’s water ski team. Eyler said limiting the number of people at the lake won’t benefit the team’s bonding, but they’re staying connected in other ways.
“We have weekly meetings over Zoom and consistent conversation in GroupMe that still allows the members to engage with one another, as well as maintain close relationships,” Eyler said.
Although the team does not practice or compete on campus, they remain subject to all of the university’s rules and are supervised, as they are an official sports club in A&M's Department of Recreational Sports.
A&M’s water ski team is currently made up of about 40 members, but they allow new members to join anytime regardless of experience. The team skis at a private lake located about 20 miles from campus that is equipped with a boat and all necessary equipment. Each member is required to pay semesterly dues but there are no additional member requirements.
Thompson, a veteran of the waterski team, said she grew up on a lake and always enjoyed skiing, but it wasn’t until she attended MSC Open House that she learned of A&M’s team and decided to give the club a try before she fell in love with it.
“What was once a hobby has turned into a sport and is my favorite thing to do,” Thompson said.
The team consists of an A team and a B team and both compete in three events. The A team is made up of the top five male and top five female members of each event. On the other hand, the B team does not limit the number of participants and includes anyone that wants to compete or ski for fun. The team generally competes in tournaments hosted in either Texas or Louisiana.
The tournament events include Slalom, Trick and Jump. While everything about the club is optional, Thompson said she competes in every category and the team encourages every member to participate in all of the events.
Thompson said due to the pandemic, she’s had a lot more time to spend at the lake and work on perfecting her craft. While she was looking forward to the upcoming season, she emphasized that the best part about the water ski club is the culture of the team.
“When I first joined the team, I was just blown away by how well everyone gets along and loves each other,” Thompson said. “The coolest part about going into a new year is getting all the new members and kind of just bringing them into this whole skiing community that we have and making new friends.”
When asked about a favorite memory from her involvement on the team, Thompson said she couldn’t pick just one, but that the water ski team has enriched her college experience immensely.
“Honestly it’s just the coolest thing ever for it to be a Tuesday afternoon and be out at the lake doing homework while watching your friends ski and then all of a sudden, it’s your turn and you get to hop in the water,” Thompson said. “I have so many moments where I just think to myself, ‘This is the best thing ever.’ It’s all so fun.”
Eyler has a similar passion for the water ski team and appreciation for his teammates.
“One thing I have found incredible is, even with the onslaught of bad news about tournaments, people are more excited than ever to get back out on the lake and ski,” Eyler said. “Call it quarantine fever or a love of the water but I know I’m not alone when I say we might be a competitive team on paper, but in person, we are all just a bunch of Aggies who know a bad day on the lake is better than the best day off of it.”