By CASSANDRA SWIHART TOWER Staff Writer
A majority of students at Bethany College can attest to having attended or participated in an intramural athletic event or tournament on campus. Though many are student-athletes participating in demanding school sponsored varsity sports, they can still be found making teams outside of their preferred sport in efforts to have fun and compete against different teams of staff and students. Throughout the school year, events such as volleyball tournaments, basketball tournaments, frisbee games, and football games are put on by Coach Kline through the school, a sorority or fraternity as a philanthropy event, or by a group of students for fun or as a fundraiser.
Common at larger institutions are club sports teams. These teams consist of students that are not playing for the varsity team but are still on a team competing against other schools. In other cases, these teams are for sports that were not previously offered on campus and can eventually become actual varsity teams. A great example of this is the newly started Women’s Lacrosse team here at Bethany, which is currently a club sport without a legitimate spring season schedule. Next year, Coach Blake will move this team into NCAA Division 3 competition, with hopes of success as the program really gets off the ground. Though Bethany currently does not have any other club sports teams, it is possible that more can be created in the future if interest is shown.
Above intramural and club athletics on campuses is varsity athletics. Athletics for women’s sports include Cross Country, Basketball, Golf, Softball, Swimming and Diving, Tennis, Soccer, Track and Field, Volleyball, and Lacrosse (beginning in the 2018-19 school year). Men’s athletics include Baseball, Cross Country, Golf, Lacrosse, Tennis, Basketball, Football, Swimming and Diving, and Track and Field. Each of these teams is sponsored by the college and receives some funding in order to have the proper equipment to compete in NCAA Division 3. Bethany also has an Equestrian team that competes in shows throughout the school year. Student-athletes put in long hours of work to be part of their respective teams and play their hardest in efforts to positively represent the college.
Though the rigorous schedules and time requirements of being a student-athlete could be seen as something that might negatively affect the student’s performance in school, statistics show that it is just the opposite. The NCAA reports that the graduation rate of college student-athletes is higher than that of college students in general. Further, scholarship opportunities at Division I and Division II levels provide a more affordable opportunity for gifted athletes to attend their institutions and play in addition to receiving an education. This opportunity is something that many may not have had without the scholarships they have received and leads them on the path to lifelong success after graduation.
Another highlighted benefit of participating in collegiate athletics is that it keeps students active and promotes a healthy lifestyle. Though the demands of varsity athletics may be more than those of an intramural athletic league or tournament, each is still an opportunity for students to get moving and do something physical that promotes overall health. Athletics provide an identity for students, and even on small campuses such as ours, they are likely to be known based on the sport they play, as well as other affiliations such as Greek organizations or clubs that they are members of. Many students find themselves being referenced by not only their name but also what team they are part of. This identity is something that many athletes found themselves to have throughout high school, and therefore it gives them a sense of belonging as they transition into college.
Overall, the benefits of athletic opportunities on college campuses can be seen regardless of level. Athletic games, meets, and matches draw crowds of other students in support of each other. Athletics are a great way to bring attention to the specific school and to get its name out to people who would likely otherwise be unfamiliar with it. Students who participate learn time management skills in juggling school work and practices. Participation can even provide motivation to do well in classes in order to remain eligible to play. Bethany athletics continue to participate in D3, and intramural opportunities are constantly being added. Athletics can bring a campus together, and this can certainly be seen here at Bethany.