As we begin our third year on the women’s tennis team, we are fully convinced that the athletic program at Williams is the ideal for college sports. So we are more than a little biased when it comes to this ever-important issue. We have formed intense, unbreakable friendships and look up to our teammates as both athletes and people. We have also attained an ongoing intense respect for our coaches.
Together with these incredible rewards, however, comes a substantial commitment. Tennis has taken an extensive amount of our time, forcing us to give up hours of potential studying, socializing and resting, but the experiences we have had on a team at Williams far outweigh any sacrifices we have made. We believe that if you asked other athletes, they would agree.
When we put on our purple and yellow uniforms, we cannot help but feel a special bond to the school and its community. The Williams tradition of excellence coupled with the abounding support here give us an intangible advantage for which we are incredibly thankful.
Alongside this unique privilege as a Williams athlete comes a serious responsibility. We hope to perpetuate this tradition of greatness and support, but can only do so by holding up standards both on and off the playing fields. We need to acknowledge the opinions from faculty and other students that as a group, athletes have not consistently met the Williams academic and behavioral goals.
If our love for athletics is true, it is our duty to combat these claims. We need to understand that poor performance in class or on weekend nights not only reflects the individual involved, but also any group with which he or she identifies. While this may not seem fair, it is a reality. We have chosen to be athletes and we accept the unparalleled support given to us by much of this campus. We, therefore, must hold ourselves to higher standards in all areas of our lives, now more than ever.
The establishment of the Athletics Committee fills a void on this campus. It is essential that a college provides a place for athletic issues to be discussed and analyzed; this is the perfect addition to Williams. Students must take an active role in helping this committee fulfill its duty. This is important to our position as student-athletes and as such, we have an obligation to challenge these faculty members to successfully create a mission statement.
The ad hoc Faculty Committee on Athletics from last year was a valid step in bringing athletic issues into discussion. It is essential that we address the issues that surfaced and not let them remain at a standstill. Even though Williams is a model in Div. III athletics,in success, reputation and leadership, we must not rest on our laurels. Instead, we should continue to look for ways to improve.
Even in light of this administrative addition, it still remains the responsibility of each individual athlete to make the reputation of athletics stronger. The faculty and staff are working to understand the role of sports on this campus and as athletes, of course we should as well.
Perhaps we should require that all athletes read The Game of Life by James Shulman and William Bowen and discuss it with their team. This book gives insight into how athletics affect student priorities. It would bring up valid conversations regarding the role of sports in a place where education is supposed to be the first priority.
In any case, it is our responsibility not just to understand what the College thinks of the athletic culture, but also to shape that opinion so we don’t have to write editorials defending ourselves. Just as we represent our school on the field, we must represent ourselves as athletes in every aspect of campus life.
When we realize that every one of our actions affects the perception people have of athletes, we will be able to strengthen our reputation and move forward in the great tradition of Williams sports.