The Clubs of Cambridge Past: Why Do Clubs Go Defunct?

Evan Gmahle, Publishment Editor

The time is 3:14 p.m. and all eyes are fixed on the clock. While the teachers try to call their students’ attention to the board, it’s a hopeless struggle in the face of the prospect of going home. 

The clock strikes 3:15 p.m., and as the bell rings and feet pound the floor, there are those few who stay behind. They are members of extracurricular club, be it educational, competitive, entertaining or anything else. 

Whether students think about it or not, those clubs won’t last forever. Be it the next day or at the end of the universe, all clubs will eventually close, and Cambridge is no stranger to this fact. 

At the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, 50 clubs were listed on Cambridge’s websiteOn the list for the 2018-2019 school yearthat number was 94. That is a net loss of 44 clubs over just two years, and this doesn’t even include clubs active at the beginning of this school year which have since gone inactive. 

These 44 clubs folded for a reason, but what is that reason? This can perhaps be answered by marketing teacher Pamela Masinko, former supervisor of the Ukulele Club. 

The Ukulele Club was created in 2018 by a group of seniors who merely wanted a space to practice the ukulele. The founders knew Masinko from marketing class and asked her to sponsor the club, which she accepted. 

According to Masinko, the club lasted for the school year, and it was essentially known that it would only last that long because the club’s six members were mainly seniors. 

Masinko said the topic of the club was just too niche for it to have possibly gained a significant number of members beyond the groups of friends who initially founded it. 

There wasn’t any attempt at marketing or expanding the club, and it remained solely the domain of one friend group for the year of its existence. 

Nevertheless, the members enjoyed their time, and it was a good opportunity to bring together “people with a common interest,” she said over email. 

The Ukulele Club may have gone as quickly as it came, but this is not necessarily universal to former clubs. Case in point, the Fencing Club. 

The Fencing Club was as old as Cambridge itself, being present since opening until its closure this school year. Unlike the Ukulele Club, which simply lacked in membership, the end of the Fencing Club came from a multitude of issues, culminating this year to finish it off. 

First was, as with the Ukulele Club, a numbers problem. According to counselor and former sponsor Amey Rishel, the members’ commitment was high, but the number of members was low. Last year had six, and with two of them graduating, the problem was only exacerbated. 

The second difficulty was the lack of a sponsor. Rishel served as the club’s sponsor last year, but had to stop because of the workload that comes with the club. In addition to regular meetings, the fencing team traveled for tournaments and meets, with the sponsor playing a significant role in organizing, planning and paying for them. 

With Rishel standing down, the club would have to find a new sponsor, which would have been its third in three years, but the final issue would stop them before they could even try: COVID-19. 

Social distancing and quarantining came down hard on many sports, especially those which required a level of physical contact, like fencing.  

Among the restrictions put in place was that the only sports which could be school-sanctioned were GHSA (Georgia High School Association) sports. Fencing is not among those, so even if all the other difficulties the club encountered were removed, COVID would have ended the club. 

All hope is not lost for the Fencing Club, though. All the equipment the team used is still present, and Rishel said she would be happy to help a new supervisor or group of students reestablish the club once it is allowed again. 

Senior Shir Halfon has been involved in many clubs over her past four years in high schooland while most of them stand strong, the difficulties that faced the Fencing Club and the Ukulele Club exist even in those which continue, in addition to new problems. 

The Debate Club, for example, still exists, but with a one serious challenge: money. Halfon said that since her time in the club to now, it has always been lacking in funds. 

All the club’s activities, particularly attending tournaments, have been paid for out-of-pocket by members. These massive expenses hindered the debate team’s ability to compete against better-funded teams.  

Halfon left the club at the end of her sophomore year, disappointed but not angry at the club’s inability to contend. 

“I knew that sometimes when you partake in a certain thing, you can’t improve any longer,” she said. 

Though it would end the Fencing Club, COVID proved to be something of a boon to debate. The lack of in-person competitions significantly reduced the cost of participating. Even so, the club, now on its fourth sponsor, still faces financial difficulties. 

Halfon said several other clubs still technically exist but have had few-to-zero actual meetings this year. 

Halfon said National English Honors Society, of which she is a member, still meets, adding however that early virtual meetings and the waiving of the volunteering requirement due to COVID has lowered turnout.  

And the Gender Equality Club, of which Halfon is President, sometimes has nobody join the Microsoft Teams call, while the National Spanish Honors Society hasn’t held meetings altogether. 

While the number of members has already proven itself to be a challenge for any club, Halfon said she believes it’s even harder for non-competitive clubs, where motivation dies out over time and people lose interest. 

“They just don’t have motivation to join anymore just because it’s not enjoyable,” she said. “It’s very, very difficult to get any sort of substantial, significant turnout.