Athletics is not necessarily the first thing people think of when they hear the name Kalamazoo College (well, with the exception of tennis). However, they do mean a great deal to the athletes participating in them. I joined the cross-country team as a sophomore and it has given me a peak into what life as an athlete is like and a different perspective on what athletics means to the student body. Here are some of the realizations I have had since joining the cross-country team:
1) Sports teams are very welcoming to new members. I was worried that the team dynamic would be very defined and hard to break into, but that was not the case. This is partially because my teammates are so willing to make new friendships, but also because…
2) …the team is completely different every year. Juniors will sometimes miss a season in order to study abroad, new first years will join, and seniors will have graduated from the previous year. The people on the team change every year. It is a new team each year because of the player turnover.
3) Support for athletic teams is prominent. Friends of people on teams will make a lot of effort to come see games. We had the first home meet for cross-country in about six years and there was a great turn out of friends and family who came to watch us run. If we can get a good number of people to drive twenty minutes to watch us run 5-8k races then it should be evident how dedicated K’s population is to supporting athletics.
4) People join athletic teams because they are truly passionate about the sport. There are no scholarships for athletics specifically at Kalamazoo because we are a Division III school. I have found that this means that the athletes are only a part of the sports teams because they love what they do. There is no sense of obligation to be a part of them for financial reasons.
5) The athletes’ passion means that improvement at any level is encouraged. It does not matter that I am one of the slowest runners on the team. We are all there to get better, which means different things to different people. Each person on the team is important.
6) Athletics are a commitment. There are certain time commitments and expectations of student athletes. However, I usually find that I do better academically when I am forced to schedule around these things.
7) Even though joining a sport is certainly a commitment, the team does not end at the finish of the season. The team is not limited by the actual sport. They will be a part of your experience at K throughout the year. Teams will often have unofficial practices or workout sessions because they miss seeing each other every day. There are also usually get togethers that happen throughout the rest of the year as well.
The point I am trying to get across is that athletics mean a lot more to students than one may think when looking at how small and focused on classes Kalamazoo College is. It is a crucial part of life at K for a large portion of the student body because of the bonds between classes and sense of community it forms. As someone who chose not to participate in athletics until my second year at K, my experiences have been overwhelmingly positive. I would highly recommend joining any team to those looking to become college athletes.