Student sports and cultural associations were seriously impacted by the last two years of the covid pandemic. Members left and it’s difficult to get them to come back.
While social clubs like Albertus, Dizkartes, and even the smaller ones such as Cleopatra and Bernlef gained a record number of members in 2020 and 2021, activities-based associations weren’t as lucky. Their numbers dwindled.
It was also difficult to keep their existing members engaged. While the members of social associations tend to live together or at least see each other at year clubs, the sports and cultural associations were unable to organise many activities due to the lockdowns. While online activities started out as a creative solution, they quickly became a tiresome and demotivating obligation.
Now that the associations are allowed to meet again, it’s difficult to get back to where they were. ‘What we’re seeing is that some members have trouble attending social activities’, says Stan Huisman, chair of beach volleyball association Tweeslag. ‘Their motivation and enthusiasm have been eroded.’
The club didn’t lose a lot of members, but now finds itself working hard to increase its profile. ‘I think we’re heading in the right direction.’
Debating society Kalliope didn’t escape the pandemic’s impact, either. ‘We were forced to do everything online for an entire year. We had a really low turnout the whole time’, says secretary Rinske Vermeij. ‘Many members just disappeared. Some of them left altogether, but fortunately, others are returning.’
Ballroom-dancing club The Blue Toes lost no fewer than half of its 250 members during 2020 and 2021. Of these, approximately seventy were newcomers, who immediately quit because of the lockdown.
‘There’s almost no one left from the new members who started in September 2020’, says chair Frederike Slaghekke. Last year, during the curfew, new members immediately left again. The dance association is slowly growing again and currently has over two hundred members. ‘But the upward trend we were on before the pandemic has now reversed itself’, says Slaghekke.
Sports organisation ACLO is seeing students return to sports. Their member numbers are back to what they were before the pandemic. ‘But we sold far fewer ACLO passes last year. At least a few thousand’, says chair Bram Pikkemaat.
Not every activities-based association has an easy time getting its members back. One such club is the Groninger Studentenkoor. As a small association, they didn’t lose many members as a result of covid, but the choir is having trouble recruiting new members.
‘Under normal circumstances, people would see us perform and decide to join us’, says choir member Marjon Dragstra. ‘The pandemic changed all that.’