Athletic Alumni Weekends
A number of the Pioneer athletic teams held alumni weekends this past fall, bringing almost 300 alumni back to campus to support the current teams, reconnect with team mates, coaches and faculty, and to swap memories of their days as student-athletes. Many alumni also took to the court, pool, pitch, or field for competitive fun against one another and current team members. Below, the coaches share highlights of their weekends for both alumni and students.
8/30/2008 - Soccer, Heather Benning, Head Coach - Women's Soccer
8/30/2008 -Men's Tennis, Andy Hamilton '85, Head Coach
9/12/2008 - Women's Cross Country, Evelyn Freeman, Head Coach
9/12/2008 - Men's Cross Country, Will Freeman, Head Coach
10/4/2008 - Volleyball, Tom Sonnichsen, Head Coach
10/11/2008 - Football, Max Hawsey, Head Coach
11/7/2008 - Swimming and Diving, Erin Hurley, Head Coach
11/15/2008 - Men's Basketball, Dave Arseneault, Head Coach
Soccer Alumni Weekend
For nearly twenty years, Grinnell soccer alumnae have returned to campus for an annual varsity/alumnae contest. Typically held the Sunday of opening weekend (first Sunday in September), the event has drawn as many as 25 former Pioneers to the pitch. The weekend typically begins with the first varsity match of the season, with the alums returning to cheer on the Pioneers. Sunday a 90-minute match is played in which the alumnae have won nearly as often as the varsity. After the alumni game, former members of the men's and women's program traditionally head to the home of former Pioneer Head Coach John & Emily Pfitsch for a barbecue. This serves as an excellent opportunity for the alumni to reconnect with one another.
Men's Tennis Alumni Weekend
The men's tennis alumni weekend was started by a group of guys who studied at Grinnell in the 1980s and were coached by former athletic director John Pfitsch. When I took over as the tennis coach in 1996 one of the guys, Eric Eidsmoe '84, contacted and noted that his group of alumni players came back every other year over Labor Day weekend. This was fantastic news for me because a few of these guys were classmates of mine, 1985, and I knew almost all of the other former players.
After a few years of coaching and adding more graduates to the group of alumni tennis players, we began to host the alumni event every Labor Day Weekend. The original group from the 1980s comes on even years and they combine with former players from more recent years. On odd years the alumni team is made of recent grads.
The weekend unfolds like this: some try to arrive on Friday and all are here by Saturday. Most of the guys get on the court once or twice on Friday and Saturday to prepare for the big match. If there are other sporting events the alums always fashion their day around seeing the current athletes compete. Saturday evening is typically spent at a local steak restaurant and then having a few cocktails. On Sunday the match is played in the morning so that the alums can see the alumni soccer games in the afternoon.
An interesting part of the tennis alumni weekend is that it now revolves around food. The guys always go to Pagliai's on Friday, for steak on Saturday and to Coach Pfitsch's post soccer game barbeque on Sunday.
Women's Cross Country Weekend
Each fall a number of alumni women travel to Grinnell from various parts of the country to attend our annual Les Duke Cross Country meet. No invitation is necessary as they are always welcome to race or cheer. These women always remember to pack a stylish outfit because they are well aware of the traditional post-race cocktail party during the evening of "the Duke" at an off campus apartment house. The party is not as much about cocktails as it is about dressing up in sequins or silk or a creative outfit made from old team t-shirts or bandanas. Party games like "I never...", dancing until dawn, and the eventual arrival of the men's team highlight the evening.
Track and field alumni also gather in Grinnell, often unannounced, to attend our annual Dick Young Track & Field Classic the 3rd Saturday of April. Strolling around the track they seek to find familiar faces of former teammates, coaches and professors. A generous few even return offering to work the meet as officials - (not a relaxing weekend by any means but yet another chance to relive the glory days, re-tell the same old stories and ask, "Have you heard from so and so lately?")
Men's Cross Country
We always have a large number of former runners and athletes return to Grinnell for the annual Les Duke Cross Country Invite (fall) and the Dick Young Track Classic (spring). These events have grown into major national events and provide the perfect opportunity for former athletes in those sports to return and see other former athletes (as well as to see great competitions!).
Less often, but very successful, have been cross country alumni weekends on campus (we had one this fall for the men). Former runners came back from all over the country for the event that was the weekend of the Les Duke Invite. A number of them spoke at a special Friday night dinner for both current and former runners. It was a special weekend for me as I got the chance to catch up with some very special former athletes of mine, all of whom are now very successful in their fields.
We also had a few former runners join us at Stanford this fall to see us run at the Stanford Cross Country Invitational. They then attended an alumni function after the meet for a lunch with the teams. President Osgood also attended and spoke. A very neat weekend!
Volleyball Alumni Weekend
Those who return for our volleyball alumni match are usually those who were outstanding players while at Grinnell College and/or those who really enjoyed their time on the team and the opportunity to be a part of intercollegiate NCAA athletics. Regardless of motivation to return and play, it seems that the one overriding consideration is if the date of the alumni match fits their very busy schedule. The size of the alumni team varies from year to year. We almost always have former players who return to support their alumni teammates and reconnect with the campus, but choose not participate because they are beginning or expanding their families. Both the alumni players and the current players always comment on how good the others are. The real connection between the two groups takes place at the post match dinner, where they all mingle and tell "war" stories about past competitions, tournaments, and seasons. The alumni leave with a personal sense of satisfaction, knowing they can still play and a high level. The current players get a strong sense of what has gone before and begin to realize that Grinnell College volleyball players go on to great things. It gives them a glimpse into the future.
Football Alumni Weekend
What a great weekend! A lot of former Pioneer football players made their way back to Grinnell College to honor the 1998 undefeated conference championship team, and to share stories, see old friends, get to know some of the current players, and to just have fun! It was a great way for alumni, both young and old, to reconnect to Grinnell College and all the exciting things that are happening on campus and with the athletic facilities. Some alumni had not been back in a few years and a lot has happened to the campus since they last stepped foot on it. The highlight of the day was the football game. The Pioneers defeated Knox College 21 to 14. Two alumni helped contribute to the win with great motivational speeches. Josh Magden '99 gave a motivational speech to the team at the morning team meeting. Josh told the players to take advantage of the opportunity to defeat Knox and to be a college football player. Mark Trocinski '99 gave a pre-game speech in which he simply said "Let's go out and be the more physical team today." The Pioneers did exactly what Josh and Mark articulated by taking advantage of opportunities during the game and being the more physical team. A reception immediately following the game was a great opportunity for our current players to connect with the former Pioneers. The evening concluded with a great turn out at Greg Wallace's house where alumni shared stories and memories that have lasted a life time.
Swimming and Diving Alumni Weekend
43 alumni, ranging from class of 1980 to last year's class, came back to Grinnell recently. Most are young, with the biggest class represented being the class of 2008 with 12. Our schedule started with the annual Scarlet and Black Dual meet on Friday night between the current team. Then on Saturday we had the Randall Relays. This Relay meet pits the odd year graduates (or graduates to be) against the even year graduates (and graduates to be). Each relay team must have a least one alum participating. We found this to be the best way to have the new team meet for the former team(s). We also had a display of "wacky diving". The divers put together a skit that sometimes makes your heart jump out of your chest. After the relays, there was a water polo scrimmage between the current club water polo team vs. alumni. Saturday, we had a team dinner reminiscing and sharing stories of the past with the current team. One of the most memorable moments during the swimming and diving alumni weekend was the marriage proposal by one swimming alum to another. This couple was back with their 5 month old daughter. We have had other alumni bring their children back to attend this function. Getting the alums and current team together is also an incredible networking opportunity for the current team.
The last part of the weekend ends with a sanctioned masters swim meet on Sunday morning for the alums that are in great shape. This year our alumni have traveled from as far away as California, NYC and India(!!!) to return for this weekend. It was an incredible weekend!
The Men's Basketball team hosted a modified version of their usual Alumni Game. With several current Pioneers out with the flu, a make-shift squad played mostly conventional basketball against a game Alumni team. Led by Steve Wood '04 and Mike Hochman '01, the Alums staged a furious second half rally and dropped a nail-biter, 104-102. Other notable performances were turned in by Mike Schmidt '08 and Doug Ticus '07. Patrick Choquette '04, injured earlier in the week prepping for this game, assumed the helm for the 'old-timers' and nearly organized a huge upset. Others attending the game included: David Rein '08, Mando Guzman '08, Joe Fox '08, Max Brauer '07 and Evan Gerking '01.
Next year there will be a change in the traditional format. The game will be hosted on Saturday, October 17th. The football and soccer teams play at home on this date, which should provide everyone with a full day of activities. The game format will include an 'Alums vs. Alums' scrimmage, allowing more alumni to join in the action.