Football Team’s Win Is No Reason To Question Players’ Commitment

In the last edition of MillerTime, toward the end of his discussion of the Pomona-Pitzer football team’s defeat of Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, author Ryan Miller questions why the team was finally able to put it all together and win a game—something we haven’t been able to do over the past two seasons. Miller’s answer to that question appears to be simple: The team finally believed they could win and consequently took the game more seriously. While I completely agree with Miller on the importance of confidence in athletics, I think the way he went about proving it and relating it to P-P football was inaccurate and uncalled for.

To question the team’s attitude and argue that we only took football seriously for the game against CMS is unfair and disrespectful. We take every game seriously, and I think that is supported by the tremendous amount of time every player on the team commits to preparing for each and every game—both on and off the field—while still performing in the classroom. I’m sure other sports do the same, so as a fellow varsity athlete, Miller should understand that all P-P athletes take their sports seriously, or they wouldn’t still be playing. 

The overall attitude of the team speaks significantly more to the question of the gravity with which the team approaches each game. As the great Herm Edwards famously and humorously said, “You play to win the game,” and the Sagehens don’t approach the game any differently. Even though we recognized that the odds were stacked against us in virtually every game—considering that we had many key players go down with injuries and that we faced schools that place much more focus on athletics, both in the admissions process and the daily lives of student-athletes, and had over twice as many players on the roster than we had—we still approached every game with the mindset that we could, and would, win that game. We were in close games all year, and we truly felt we could pull out a victory in each of the games, even if the final outcome didn’t end up in our favor. 

Obviously there is a lot more to sports, especially at the Division III level, than just having a winning record, but almost all of those other things revolve around playing passionately, collectively and honorably in an attempt to come out on top, even if doesn’t quite work out in the end. Miller is on target when he says believing you can win is immensely valuable and plays a huge role in determining the outcome, but losing doesn’t mean you went into the game lacking confidence. 

I think it is true that we probably did take this particular game more seriously and focus more on CMS than any other game this year, which is only appropriate given the significance of this rivalry game and all of the history behind this match-up, but that shouldn’t discredit the focus we had the rest of the season. This game was much more important than two 0-8 teams meeting for a chance at their first win, even if Miller might think otherwise, and both the team and the fans recognized that fact. 

While I know that Miller had pieces of evidence that led him to his conclusions and made him question the team’s commitment, I think it was undeserved by the rest of the team to attack their commitment based on a few individual encounters. I recognize that the football team’s record over the last couple of years and the team’s relatively high profile on campus—if that is possible for any sport on Pomona’s campus—makes the team an easy target for critique, but to question another team’s effort and attitude in such a public setting without knowing the complete story is disrespectful and demeans the hard work the players have put in all year. 

Student-athletes are a rare breed on campus, with only about 20 percent of Pomona students playing varsity sports (according to the Pomona website), and they should support one another’s endeavors, no matter what the respective team’s record is. We all know how much time we dedicate to our sports, and we’re all aware of the uphill battle we face playing at a DIII institution where academics come first, both in terms of admissions and in the lives of student-athletes. We should respect each other’s commitments enough to applaud our fellow athletes when their hard work pays off. When a team that has been struggling—and I am sure there are other teams on campus that fit that billing besides the football team—accomplishes something significant, like soundly beating CMS, that should be a cause for celebration, not a cause to question the team’s commitment. 

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