Return to captains’ practices

I’ve been thinking recently about the NESCAC’s ban on captains’ practices. Being an athlete, I don’t think very often, so I thought I should write some of my thoughts down before I fell back into an alcohol-induced coma (because as a cartoon in the Record depicted a few weeks ago, athletics is the sole reason for binge drinking on this campus. What use would a healthy body be to an athlete? That’s a whole different issue however).

Captains’ practices are a great way for teams to bond, especially with first-years; they’re also a good way to get a little exercise. By letting the NESCAC presidents forbid captains’ practices, we are allowing them to determine what we can do with our free time. Going to captains’ practice is a choice made by each student about how he wants to spend his time.

It seems that the NESCAC is just outlawing captains’ practices to look good. With all the hype surrounding athletics’ place at college over the past few years, our academic-minded conference was bound to take action. But if the presidents really believe that eliminating these non-compulsory practices is going to solve our “problems,” then someone needs to go over to President Schapiro’s house and talk some sense into the man.

I can understand not allowing teams to go to tournaments out of season. The travel and time commitment for those weekends can be extensive, though the tournaments are usually a lot of fun and a good team bonding experience.

Outlawing captains’ practices, though? How does practice two or three times a week negatively affect my academic performance? Particularly since these practices are voluntary and can be skipped if they are getting in the way of school work. If anything, these practices keep me sane during an otherwise stressful semester.

I also question how club sports fit into all of this. What about WUFO and rugby? Both sports require a high level of commitment in time and energy from participants. When I asked a frisbee player about the team’s season policy he replied, “Well, I guess we’re a two-season sport.” What is it about frisbee, or even crew, that allows athletes to play for two seasons? Or, what is it about lacrosse that doesn’t allow me to choose to play for two seasons? Is it the helmet?

Arguing this probably will lead nowhere. So instead I have thought of our school’s other co-curricular activities that could be cut back to allow for more time to be spent in the library. Maybe actors should only be allowed to act in one or two plays a year, or just limit all their performances to one semester. A cappella groups could only sing in the fall. How about eliminating the Record? According to some, I may have just “wasted” my study time writing this piece. Why stop there? Maybe the school could cut off cable during study hours or limit the channels to only news. That way avid TV watchers would be forced to do more homework.

The presidents of the NESCAC need to take a look at the policies they are implementing and ask themselves if they are simply trying to look good in the rest of the country’s eyes. If they believe that athletics plays too large a role in admission policies, then they should cut down on tips or eliminate tips all together. There are enough smart, athletic people out there who would love to come to NESCAC schools to field good teams. If the college presidents don’t believe this, what does that say about their faith in our schools to attract the students we want?

Eliminating captains’ practices is a meaningless change in the scope of school philosophy. This change forbids student athletes from playing the sport they love with their friends, except for when the school says they can. It doesn’t affect our school atmosphere, it won’t affect the quality of play from our teams, and it won’t affect any intelligent person’s view of the role of athletics at our schools.

Do we honestly think that people will look at the fact that we don’t practice in multiple seasons and say, “Wow, look at the NESCAC’s commitment to academics?” I’m sorry that a student on the Colby hockey team got hit in the face with a puck, but the answer is not to stop the team from practicing. Why not make team members wear facemasks instead? It’s just a thought.