Does Size Matter? Does a Small School Mean a Small Team?
One only needs to browse the internet to learn about the academic advantages and disadvantages of different school sizes. For instance small schools have smaller classes, often a stronger curriculum, more personalized attention in both the classroom and during advising, increased participation in institution programs,, and generally stronger curriculum and a tight knit communitymore family friendly community feeling. Larger schools often have more diversity when in comes to courses, majors, extracurricular activities, student population, sports funding, library resources and housing options. Schools range from fewer than 1,000 to over 35,000 students, so when it comes to your academic choice of schools, your personality and goals will help you decide how much size matters.
When it comes to considering your equestrian team experience, many of the same principles apply. But don’t be surprised if you find that a small institution has a large team or that a large institution has a small team. Smaller equestrian teams tend to have more of a family feeling and often spend time outside of the barn and team practices socializing and studying together. Often more experienced members will work with newer riders to bring them along. On a smaller team there tends to be one instructor or coach so you as the student-athlete-rider will not only have access to the that person for instruction but that person will likely be available to advise and guide through the college process.
Smaller teams have a variety of disadvantages as well. For instance if there is only one coach that person may be stretched very thin. The team coach might be a riding instructor at a local barn where the team has chosen to take its lessons from, and that person may only be obligated to work with the team during scheduled ride times. Competition management, scheduling, recruitment, and fundraising may become the sole responsibility of the team.
When these responsibilities fall on the team this is where being on a large team might have its advantages. From barn chores to event management, larger teams are able to spread the responsibilities. Larger teams often have more than one coach, which allows for specialization in regards to discipline or specific talents. Costs associated with the team will depend on which institution department sponsors or assists with the team. Therefore if fundraising is part of team responsibilities having a larger team will be beneficial in selling raffles, holding events, creating newsletters or simply gaining support from the larger community.
Larger teams come with their disadvantages as well. Larger teams generally equate to large expenses and the team may be responsible to cover the costs. While specialization or multiple disciplines might be offered teams can be competitive within themselves. On a larger team you likely to see a first string and second string or riders, which could equate in the amount of time in the saddle and potential scholarship opportunities.
After determining which that a school is a good academic fit for you, then consider the following questions to see if the equestrian team program is the right fit as wellor you:
How many riders are on the roster? Are their backgrounds similar to yours?
How well does the team get along? Do riders generally quit the team after the first season or stay on all four years?
How many lessons and or hacks will you be able to participate in each week?
Does the team participate in barn chores, teaching responsibilities, group activities, study sessions, or workouts?
Does the team have fundraising obligations?
What equipment does the team provide for the riders? Or what will you be expected to bring to the team?
Will being on the team allow for participation in other activities (sorority, clubs, events on campus)?
What do current members like most and the least about the program?
Are there any team rules or policies that you should be aware of, what is mandatory, what is optional?
One last thought when it comes to size. Don’t assume you know which size school or which size team you will like. If for no other reason to confirm your choices make sure to consider all options.