Thursday, 5 May 2011

The Enigma of the Vassar Athlete

The Enigma of the Vassar Athlete 
By Nicole Alter

You can see them at the DC sitting around massive tables in sweatpants, beat-up sneakers, and t-shirts that aren’t vintage. Chances are you probably hear about their parties and attractive players before you hear about their wins or losses. Who are they? Vassar’s athletes. At our small liberal arts school, most non-athletes know little or next to nothing about our sporty classmates. One has to wonder, what is it like to be an athlete at a division three school? How come people don’t go to games? What does the student population think of our athletes?
            On average, teams practice five to six days a week for several hours each day. For example, the girls lacrosse team commits themselves to cardio workouts five days a week, usually sprints, as well as weight lifting at the gym three times a week. Men’s rowing also practices six days a week, waking up at the crack of dawn for practice at 5: 25 or 6:15. The Captain of Men’s crew, Morgan Mako (‘11), says that he sleeps early every night and  “ participating in athletics has improved my academic work because it has taught me immense discipline, proper use of my time, and to work with deadlines. The quality of my work has improved because I am a Student-Athlete, not just a student”. 
Lindsay Haggerty (’13) described how the women’s lacrosse team goes to the DC after practice then to the library together to get homework done. Mo Bryne (’11) said “the majority of us get better grades during the season and you put yourself on a tight schedule when you don’t have free time and you need to sleep”. Many athletes are also part of other activities and clubs such as choir, acapella groups, and student government (Mo Bryne is the president of the senior class) and a lot of teammates have jobs. Women’s soccer team captain Allison McManis (’11) carries the lessons of “discipline, commitment, positive thinking, moral integrity, loyalty, a hard work ethic and passion” from the field into “all aspects of life”. 
As for the weekends, the team consists of “a lot” of their social life, Michaela Garrison (’13) says perhaps “ 75%- 80%” of your social life and this is “ because when you spend so much time with a group of people, they become your family, so we have no problem calling each other out, and we don’t butt heads” Maura McCarthy (’12).  Mako explains that “ my team is my social life and my entire Vassar experience revolves around my devotion to this incredibly disciplined, amazing group of individuals”. If they don’t have games the next morning, athletes might be seen at “athlete parties” because they “run into the same circles” of people. One lacrosse player explained, “especially by senior year many of the houses are all athletes so they all tend to party together”. Though David Ringold (’11) does not live with athletes or exclusively hang out with baseball players, he agrees with a stereotype that teams party harder because “We do drink more and party more than non-athletes as a way to relieve stress. Athletes spend time doing their sport and are in turn given less time than non-athletes to do their schoolwork.”
            Athletes agree that they fit into Vassar pretty well, however, they get annoyed at other students’ misconceptions about them. For instance, McMannis thinks, “simply labeling athletes as “bros” belittles our commitment to our cause and undermines any attempt to foster a space that values sports within the Vassar community”. Even though Vassar is a division three school, some non-athletes misunderstand that athletes are not accepted because of their skills in sports. According to David, “Every year since I have been here athletes have had a higher GPA than non-athletes and in my interactions I would say that intelligence varies as much within athletics as outside of it. There are also just as many non-athletes in the supposed easy classes as athletes”. Students may not realize that being at a division three school means that “academics come first, then athletics” and their acceptance is based on their own academic merit. On top of that, division three schools do not offer athletic scholarships.
It is frustrating being an athlete at a school where many people are not as interested in sports as theater or music, and the lacrosse team says around fifty people will show up to their games on a good day, but most of the spectators are other athletes or parents. Mako explains the misconception “that since Vassar is not a Div I school, that Vassar athletes somehow are not as competitive as other larger athletics programs or lack prowess because we are a "liberal arts college," as if this means something. This simply is unfounded as Vassar puts forth excellent competition in various athletic disciplines year after year”.
Something the Vassar community may not know about the women’s lax team is that they are part of a foundation called Friend of Jaclyn, an organization started that supports children with brain tumors. Currently, the team has adopted a six-year-old girl named Grace who likes lacrosse and the team will bring her around at games and send her video messages “to take her mind off of things”.  The Men and Women’s soccer team will host the annual Lose the Shoes tournament (a six person tournament open to the whole campus that benefits AIDS education in Africa) and they will be doing Spring caroling to elderly homes. It seems that our athletic teams have contributed a lot to our community and their efforts have not been appreciated enough and the athletes would just like fellow students to “come to our games, come support your student athletes.”

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