An Athlete's Community of Support

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 am

 

Author: (Unpublished) Erin Labasan

If you’re a student-athlete (emphasis on “student”), you will almost certainly love it at Grinnell. Sure, depending on your sport, you can find higher levels of athletic competition at other schools, but to find a place where you can be encouraged to excel in the classroom just as much as you excel on the field (or in the pool or on the court) is a much rarer phenomenon. The key to Grinnell’s success in both the academic and athletic spheres is the support the athletes receive not just from teammates and coaches, but also from professors and the student body at large. All these people care about my development as a human being and push me on multiple levels to achieve beyond my expectations.

I know that at some schools, being a “jock” would be all that defined me, but at Grinnell, people recognize that’s not all I am. Even if I spend much of my time at the athletic center, no one’s stopping me from exploring additional facets of campus life. I get to be a student, a tour guide, a writer, a varsity athlete, and anything else I feel like pursuing, all at once. It’s kind of liberating, knowing that people will let you be you.

And it’s personal here. You can see it in the class sizes (the student to teacher ratio is about 10:1) and within our athletic programs, too. My senior year of high school, when I was applying to colleges, I filled out maybe a dozen athletic inquiries online. In response, I received mostly generic, automated messages thanking me for my interest. But within 24 hours of sending my information to Grinnell, the head volleyball coach e-mailed me personally with some additional questions, like: What was I looking for from a college athletic experience? What was my philosophy of the game? He recommended I come to Iowa and experience the Grinnell community for myself.

I remember that word specifically: “community.” It has been the most relevant word in the last three years of my life while at college. Before I was even officially enrolled at Grinnell, the volleyball and softball teams made me feel welcome with personal e-mails and phone calls. Once I was here, I became part of a culture in which literally everything is an all-campus community event, where everyone, even the soonto- be-graduating seniors, cares about supporting his or her fellow students.

It really hit me during the last home volleyball game of the 2009 season. Looking up into the stands, I realized the gym was packed, vibrating with the crowd’s energy. But it wasn’t only other athletes who came out to support us, and it wasn’t just the student section that was crowded — professors, dining services and facilities management employees, the president of the College, and people from town who had no discernible connection to anyone on the team all turned out for our match, some with painted signs, some with painted bodies. Buoyed by this incredible support system, we won every one of our home conference games that season.

At Grinnell, you don’t have to choose between great athletics and high-quality academics. You can have both, plus a couple thousand people cheering you on the whole way.

Erin Labasan '11 is a Psychology Major from Neotsu, OR.