Why We Play

"Why We Play" 2013 speakers Erran Briggs, Allison Liddane, Alex Gothard, Johanna Kupe, Allison Thomas, Brad Merrit, Jeanne Hess and Rebecca Gray

“Why We Play” 2013 speakers, left-to-right (top), Erran Briggs ’14, Allison Liddane ’13, Alex Gothard ’15, Johanna Kupe ’13, Allison Thomas ’13, Brad Merrit ’13, (bottom) Jeanne Hess, Rebecca Gray ’81.

“Why We Play” was the topic of the Winter Quarter Week Six (Feb. 15) Community Reflection in Stetson Chapel. Co-sponsored by the Kalamazoo College Department of Athletics, the annual Reflection offers a space for K student and alumni athletes to share in the collective stories and songs that capture the spirit of sport, recreation, and joy from their Division-III intercollegiate athletic experiences.

Professor of Physical Education and Head Coach of Volleyball Jeanne Hess opened the reflection before an audience of about 200 people. She read an excerpt from her book, “Sportuality: Finding Joy in the Games,” in which she explains why she thinks student athletes choose play sports. “The spiritual life is a purposeful life, and the ‘sportual’ life is a purposeful and playful life,” she said.

Student athletes Johanna Kupe ’13, Alex Gothard ’15 and Allison Thomas ’13 performed “Solider,” a song by Gavin DeGraw. Kupe said she selected the song after a teammate left the encouraging lyrics on a note in her locker before a volleyball game.

President of the Athletic Leadership Council and two-sport athlete Allison Liddane ’13 spoke about the approaching end of her collegiate athletic experience. “My list of ‘why I play’ could be never ending,” she said. Golfer Brad Merrit ’13 read an essay about the recent death of K’s Head Men’s Golf Coach Steve Tyler. Merrit, who won the MIAA Sportsmanship Award, said Tyler was his reason for playing. “We wanted to make him proud,” he said.

Football player Erran Briggs ’14 spoke about his unique love for the game and Division-III level. “When you allow yourself purely to play because you love it, not because you need it, you experience the game on a new level,” he said.

Rebecca Gray ’81 was the featured alumna speaker. A former basketball and field hockey player, Gray is K’s sole Rhodes Scholar. Speaking fondly of her time as a student athlete, shortly after the passage of Title IX that opened more intercollegiate athletic opportunities to women, Gray said sports continue to enhance her life. “For decades now, playing sports, for me, has been a completely reliable and utterly uncomplicated pleasure,” she said. She added that she looks forward to the day when she is no longer referred to as K’s only Rhodes Scholar, but simply as its first.

Community Reflections offer a unique forum for discussion, worship, performance, and community expression each Friday at 10:50 a.m. (refreshments at 10:30) in Stetson Chapel. The entire campus community and general public are invited. On Friday of Week Seven Feb. 22), the Chapel will host “40 Days of Lent: Preparing for Easter.” This reflection will focus on the traditions, history, and ways in which Christians today celebrate Easter and Lent.

Story and photo by Elaine Ezekiel ’13