It’s Saturday afternoon and you find yourself in line at the Greer, grabbing a snack before you head off to cheer on your friends in one of the number of games that take place on campus each week. As you and your friends decide between an Arnold Palmer or an iced chai and a chocolate chip cookie or Twizzlers, you also decide which games you will stop by. The same is true for the group of friends behind you in line. And the group of friends behind them.
Do you choose to cheer on the varsity team or the thirds team? The boys’ team or the girls’? What factors lead you to choose certain teams over others? Do you select the team your friends are on? Or the one that an announcement was made about at lunch? Does it depend on who the game is against?
Athletics are a hallmark of Deerfield. While some athletes are of a professional caliber and will play long after they leave the Pioneer Valley, the mission of the Deerfield athletic program is not to create a student body of professional athletes.
Instead, it provides a structure that allows students to develop their athletic skills, while, at the same time, learn the values of teamwork, leadership, and integrity. If these characteristics were not important, then Deerfield would not insist upon all students taking part in some co-curricular activity.
Every team at Deerfield serves the same purpose: to provide individuals with a place to develop their athletic skills and build character. Of course there is a difference between varsity athletics and thirds teams: many varsity team members have been playing their respective sport(s) for years, while thirds team members may be trying new sports for the first time.
Upon your arrival at Deerfield, it doesn’t matter if you walk onto the field with fifteen years of experience or fifteen minutes. You will be given the opportunity to bleed green in the gym, on the court or field, on the slopes, or in the pool. Or does it matter?
Behind the cheerleaders’ jubilant shouts and fans’ enthusiastic support lurks the sentiment that Deerfield, as an institution, “favors” certain teams, the ones with more fans and campus support, over others, leading those teams to have “better” equipment or “better” fields than other teams.
While not shared by all, the sentiment does seem to be something that blooms each year like one of the other perennial topics, such as dress code, increasing stress levels, or parietal policies.
I do not think Deerfield “favors” certain teams over others. I do think, however, that certain teams are more well-known than others on campus.
The high attendance numbers at these teams’ games or increased interest in the teams is not the result of administrative favoritism, but rather students’ passion. Student athletes on these teams, whichever ones they may be each season, expend countless hours making announcements about upcoming games at meal times, designing customized team apparel to show their pride, or talking about their team with other students.
This is not a mischievous plan to make their team popular. Rather this is the byproduct of true passion.
Passion at Deerfield isn’t just found on the athletic field. With over 200 academic courses offered at Deerfield, some of the brightest students learn and grow in the classroom under the careful guidance of dedicated teachers. No one believes that Deerfield “favors” more advanced students because of smaller classes.
Walk through the Memorial Building and see the student artwork that graces the walls. Head to a dance on a weekend with friends and see the commitment to campus life by the student DJ’s. Thought-provoking white houses, guest speakers in the Garonzik, more accessible peer tutors, and everything else that happens on campus is the result of a group of dedicated individuals.
Sports are no different from the plethora of other interests of Deerfield students.