Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
After a semester and a half of covering the epic highs and lows of Division III sports, I have decided to take a step back and reflect on my journey from mediocrely talented (but very enthusiastic) high school athlete to a NARP, also known (to essentially only athletes or washed-up retirees) as a Non-Athlete-Regular-Person.
For four formative years of high school, athletics played a major role in my life. However, when I came to the Claremont Colleges, sports quickly dropped out of my daily schedule. Much to the dismay of fourth-grade me, who dreamed of being the starting catcher for the Washington Nationals, season after season of riding the bench on my high school team led me to conclude that collegiate sports would not be for me. Immediately after arriving at Pitzer College during the second week of classes, I auditioned for a musical and was quickly consumed by rehearsals. Theater and the arts had always been an equally important part of my high school experience, but I had never devoted so much time to a show without also balancing it out with some sort of athletic season.
Thus I began my new life as a NARP, and for a while, I relished my newfound freedom. Gone were the days of perpetual soreness from daily practices and hours of bus rides to and from games. What replaced them were more hours of practice, this time in the Seaver Theater at Pomona College. In need of structure outside of the classroom, I quickly filled up my days with extracurriculars I barely had time for.
However, fear not, former high school athletes gazing longingly at the soccer team that just went whizzing by on their electric scooters! I’m here to tell you that there is a life beyond the playing field! And while your days don’t have to be filled with a cappella and theater, there is hope for you yet.
In high school, sports served two major purposes for me. First, they were a team. They created a space I could work with my peers on something that wasn’t school work. Excuse the cheesiness, but being a part of a team and existing in its familial environment was huge for me. And while the competitive nature of athletics was a big reason for my love, the team atmosphere was something I sought to recreate in college.
Unsurprisingly, I’ve found many new teams to be a part of here at the 5Cs. My beloved sports desk, for one, has been an incredible sports-adjacent team I’ve loved being a part of for the past two semesters. I’ve found a community of washed-up high school athletes that are just as enthusiastic about DIII sports as I am. In addition to being an amazing team itself, The Student Life (TSL) provides me with opportunities surrounding sports that I never had in high school. Not only do I get the privilege of covering the Claremont Colleges’ thrilling athletics — which take place on fields of lower quality than those of the private schools that many 5C students are used to — but I get to meet incredible athletes chasing their dreams.
Writing for the sports desk and experiencing athletics from this new angle has allowed me to remain connected with sports I grew up playing. Writing lets me be more than just a fan at Pomona-Pitzer games. Interviewing players gives me a firsthand account on what’s going on on the field and in the locker room from the athlete’s perspective. TSL has been a bridge between my life as a NARP and athletics at the 5Cs.
I’ve found teams outside of the sports world in Claremont as well. The a cappella scene at the 5Cs is one built on strong camaraderie and the occasional bit of healthy competition. (The former high school athlete to collegiate a cappella enthusiast pipeline is stronger than you might think!) Weekly rehearsals and concerts provide a similar structure and end goal that I found from athletics in high school. More importantly, the bond I’ve found with my a cappella group mates rivals the strongest relationships I had with my high school teammates.
Secondly, athletics provided structure. While I noted that I found relief in a more relaxed schedule free from athletic practices and competitions at first, I quickly realized that the structured afternoons and evenings were key to academic success.
My grandfather jokes that playing for his college’s baseball team saved his GPA, and while finding things to do with your time other than homework might seem antithetical to getting better grades, to me, it makes perfect sense.
Left to my own devices, when I finish with classes for the day and find myself with plenty of time to get my homework done, the day quickly wastes away and I look at the clock to see that it’s almost midnight and I still have essays to write. (Ironically, this article is being written well past my bedtime; however, to my point, I had no rehearsals tonight. So there.) Through extracurriculars and on-campus jobs, I’ve found the same kind of structure I had in high school that gives me just enough time to get my class work done if I put my head down and do it. While this is easier said than done, I do appreciate the constant structure in my days, and I’m sure that comes from years of practice schedules and seasons of games that left me starting homework way too late. Yet the little time I had was always just enough to keep up with academics.
While I have been able to find substitutes for many of the joys I found in high school sports, some aspects of athletics are irreplaceable. This past spring I contemplated trying out for the baseball team in the fall – not with any expectations of making the team, but for a week or two of taking the field in a uniform, lacing up my spikes and playing the game I love.
And for those of you screaming at your paper “Harold! The 5Cs have such amazing club sports and intramural teams like the brilliant and sexy and talented Brain Eaters ultimate frisbee team!,” I say, “Fear not!,” for I foresee years of intramural inner tube water polo domination in my future. But for now, I have found peace in yapping about the good old days and getting WAY too rowdy at a Sixth-Street basketball game. ‘Sko Hens!