Alumni Column: From the Sidelines

I have loved athletics at all levels since I received the top female athlete award as a middle school student in 1969 in a small town in Connecticut. Title IX did not exist, college recruiting did not exist and female participation in sports happened in gym class and some after-school activities. High school wasn’t much different, although we did have field hockey games, gymnastics meets and track and field meets after school.

When I entered Colgate as a first-year in 1973, I was completely satisfied with my athletic career consisting of intramural football, ice hockey and my beloved Raiderette dance team (although I didn’t love my white Gogo boots nor white vinyl fringed vest). What I did love was the community, camaraderie and belonging.

Two decades and three children later, my husband and I have spent many hours at youth soccer games, basketball games, diving lessons, dance lessons and gymnastic lessons where our children found a similar sense of fun and belonging. The youth sporting events evolved into high school volleyball, basketball and track and field teams, which then evolved into collegiate-level volleyball and track and field. Once again, we spent countless hours attending men’s volleyball games on the West coast and track and field meets in the Midwest. It was at that point that I learned from observing our children what it took to be a Division I  student-athlete, and I was starstruck.

It was also during this time that I started following Colgate volleyball. I met a very impressive coach and a very impressive group of women student-athletes who taught me about the rigor required to be a Colgate student-athlete. I have met with the team each year since 2012 and support their efforts with a full heart. Head Coach Ryan Baker and his staff have developed this program to be one of the best in the country. Watching them perform on the national stage is impressive and it demonstrates the commitment of each of them to the program. Their winning record, championship trophies and post-season accolades — from Most Valuable Player, to Best Player, to Best Coach — are noteworthy and truly remarkable. I applaud them.

However, what touches my heart and what moves me the most is the character of the coaches and student-athletes. As with all teams, their schedule is difficult — early ups, all-night bus rides, late returns to campus in freezing weather, academic requirements and, at times, discouraging results. But as I watch the student-athletes during practices and games, I see a group of young, smart, gifted women who support each other. Every player on that team was the best of the best in high school. Yet at Colgate, they stop being the MVP and come together to be the best team. I see starters lifting each other up. I see those on the bench sincerely cheering on their teammates. I see coaches who respect their players and do whatever it takes to make each one succeed. What I don’t see is envy, jealousy, poor attitudes and disrespectful coaches because every single player has a role during each game….some on the court and some on the sidelines. Each player is important. So they rise and fall together and it is obvious to see the love and respect they have for each other and for their coaches and trainers.

It is a complete honor to know the Colgate Volleyball team and to support them, just as it is for every athletic team at Colgate. During this time of celebrating 50 years of women’s sports at Colgate as well as women’s history month and March Mania, I applaud each and every student-athlete at Colgate University, including those who started the women’s flag football team in 1973. While I truly don’t know how student-athletes juggle the rigor of the classroom with the rigor on the court, field, track, pool or lake, I remain in awe of you and appreciate your leadership.

Go ‘Gate!