When you picture a coach, you might picture a one like Sue Sylvester from the TV show “Glee,” Jimmy Dugan from “A League of Their Own,” or even a coach you’ve once had. I think of one of Conn’s newest members to the Camel Athletics family, women’s basketball coach Jackie Smith. Her kindness toward everyone she meets, dedication to the success and growth of the team, and gumption to showcase the team’s talent has helped the team improve both on and off the court. I interviewed Jackie to learn more about her background, love for basketball and dreams for her team.
Not many students at Conn are taught by the women’s rowing coach, but I was. Midway through last semester I started a class called Sports Leadership taught by coach Eva Kovach. This class was part of Conn’s Career Informed Learning courses, which bring alumni or community members to class to discuss how the concepts we learn about play out in the world. The dean of sophomores, Carmela Patton, recommended that I take the class because of my interest in sports. In high school, I competed year-round and ended my high school career as the captain of my cross country team and track and field team. I have always enjoyed spearheading groups that I have been a part of. That added with my ability to be loud and make friends has so far served as a good formula for molding me into a leader. During my first year of high school, I always respected my captains but I also thought that the biggest part of the job was simply being nice to everyone. After leading the teams myself and dealing with issues within my teams I understand that ‘leading’ is multifaceted. Being a part of this class gave me the opportunity to look retrospectively at my past roles as a leader and learn what I did well, but also learn what I can improve upon.
In the beginning of my first semester at Conn, I joined the club Ultimate Frisbee team, and even though the spring tournaments Riptide and High Tide were months away, returning team members talked constantly about how great spring break was going to be. So I knew I was in for a fun time when I set out to spend my spring break with 40 of my friends.
“I believe that we will win! I believe that we will win! I believe that we will win!”
The crowd roared in fight songs atop the hill hovering over Tempel Green as Graham Koval (’18) slide-kicked the ball into the goal, officially sending the NESCAC men’s soccer quarterfinals into penalty kicks.
In all four years of my Conn experience, I have never been to a sporting event with so much of the student body there for support. You can normally expect a big turnout for the annual a capella challenge concert—this year’s was ABBA-themed—or the MOBROC (a student-run organization for bands on campus) shows in the Barn. But the crowd at this sporting event kept growing, snaking around most of soccer field.
It's 4 p.m. on a Wednesday and I am in a frantic hurry to put on my tennis sneakers. I have signed the consent form, dressed in my tennis whites and I'm hustling to the Athletic Center for club tennis practice. Today, we expect 10 students to play—maybe more, as there are over 111 on our mailing list. As I make my way across the bridge to the indoor courts, I can feel my heart racing and wonder if this is how Serena Williams feels before a big match. Maybe, I think, but she is a pro and I am someone who plays recreationally.
Conn is known for its sports teams but people often forget that we have club sports, too. Club tennis is a community of tennis players who want to play tennis and, most importantly, have fun!
As an athlete, it's rare that I get to spend a full Saturday at Conn during my season. I'm usually at a track meet or competition and don’t get back until 7 or 8 p.m. This past weekend, however, I was at Conn instead of my meet, thanks to a sprained ankle. It was fortuitous timing, though, because I got to see some friends I had not seen since my semester abroad.
Two of my friends from my abroad program, IFSA-Butler Scotland, were visiting Conn as competitors in a tennis match against the Camels. I set out to the tennis courts around 10:30 a.m. and got to see my friend Mei Lin finish her doubles match while I talked with my other friend from abroad, Ian. After her match, Mei Lin and I went up to the center of campus and I showed her around before getting lunch with her and two other friends who go to Conn and were also on our program. It was so fun and exciting to show her so much of what I had told her about in Scotland. After lunch, we watched more tennis before heading to ArboFest, a yearly music event in the Arboretum with free food, live music and great company. We walked around the Arbo, catching up quickly on everything we had done since leaving Scotland.
When I was abroad, I made a ton of friends, but since we all live so far from each other, I was unsure if we'd ever reunite. This weekend showed that sometimes the odds work out unexpectedly. I am kind of grateful to my sprained ankle, because I got to see my friends again.
This past weekend was one of my favorite meets as a track athlete: the Silfen Invitational or, as I call it, the Conn Home Meet! Conn only puts on one home meet every year and it also serves as a chance for our families and friends to see us compete. Also it means no travelling, which is awesome.
This meet is always especially important to me because I am from Philadelphia. Like many Conn students, it's hard for my family to attend my regular meets, but they make an effort for the Invitational. In addition to my immediate family coming to this meet, some of my extended family comes as well. This year, I had one aunt, two uncles and my grandfather to cheer for me as I do what I love.
I also had friends who came to support me. I was pleasantly surprised when they came because there was another all-day event happening on campus and I wasn’t sure they would make it. With competitions all over the East Coast, it's unusual for my friends to see me compete, but this weekend was a great exception. There were many alumni who visited as well, friends who I'd competed with in years past.
This was my third home track meet and it is different every year. (It was actually the first year we competed at home with decent weather.) It was so sunny that I actually got a bit of a sunburn. It was worth it.
I started swimming when I was about 4 years old, and since then I've continued once in a while. I was on my high school's team for a bit, but I knew that I'd never want to be on a college team. I didn't want to give up on swimming — it's the only exercise I can bear, because I'm not sure I'm actually a land creature — but the idea of being on a team was terrifying.
I went into college thinking that I'd swim on my own terms during open pool hours. A lovely thought, indeed, and one I followed through on... once. I underestimated the power of my sedentary nature. What free-thinking human being would willingly jump into a cold pool, while half naked, and then proceed to flail their limbs until fatigued? Not this gal.
There was a pervading sense of guilt that came with this passivity, but it went unattended to until I happened to notice that there were swimming classes in the course catalog. I thought that signing up could be risky because I really had no idea what proficiency level the other students in the class would be on.
It's been a relief, however, to find that the course is adjusted for each student. Everyone's on a different level, and there's really no pressure. It's taught by Matt Anderson, our water polo coach, and there are only six students in the course, so there is ample individual attention. It's been a great way to improve my stroke, force myself to work out and also score an extra course credit.
If swimming isn't your thing, there are other single-credit athletic courses, as well. If you're really ambitious, you could even go for something like scuba diving.
Valentine's Day weekend was also the last weekend of regular-season indoor track meets. From here on out, it's championship season until we return to school following spring break. You might think that for the last weekend of the regular season, it would be nice to have a normal meet where the athletes can just work on trying to qualify for the upcoming meets over the next three weekends.
Well, that wasn't the case for us. All across a very snowy Boston, our team had athletes competing at two different meets over two days, with some athletes competing at all the meets. On Friday, our team was represented at the first day of the Boston University Valentine Invitational, and Saturday we had athletes competing at the BU invitational and the MIT Invitational.
Needless to say, our schedule was complicated. We had a document with the order of events at each meet and a list of who was competing in each event. A separate document listed our bus schedule and who would be on which route and at what time. This was important because half of the team got to leave early on Saturday and got back to Connecticut College at 3 p.m., while those of us competing later at MIT and BU had to wait until everyone was finished before driving back.
Even though everything was so complicated, the athletes and buses got through it, even with the giant amount of snow that was falling in Boston as we departed. The late bus even made it back before 10 p.m., which was nothing short of a miracle.
I should also mention that our whole team ran great throughout the weekend. There were 35 personal records broken, 9 qualifying marks, 2 school records broken and 1 tied, and two relay teams are now nationally ranked. All in all, a very good end to the regular season — now on to championships!
Last Saturday, our men’s ice hockey team donned green jerseys in support of Connecticut College's Green Dot program, turning their game against Tufts into an event aimed at raising awareness about issues of sexual assault and power-based violence. The Green Dot program was adopted at Conn in 2010 as a part of the Think S.A.F.E. Project, initially as a grant funded by the U.S. Department of Justice. Today, the Think S.A.F.E. Project is very much a part of Conn culture. The program helps to train and educate students, faculty and staff about issues related to domestic, sexual, personal and dating violence, as well as stalking. This includes information about prevention and bystander intervention.
As I entered the ice rink that night, I saw a sea of green. Students wore their Green Dot training t-shirts, green pucks were up for raffle, green posters covered the walls, students banged together green noisemakers and the hockey team wore their special green jerseys, forgoing our usual blue and white team colors. Even our mascot showed his support by swapping out his normal shirt for the one pictured.
While we won the game that night 4-1, it wasn’t our only victory; our campus community came together in support of an important initiative.
I've enjoyed ice skating ever since my friend invited me to the neighborhood rink in middle school. We had to go with her mom, and I almost died at least 20 times, but it was fun. By the end of middle school, I was taking figure skating lessons. I towered over the other, younger skaters, most of whom only came up to my knee. Surprisingly, I moved up in the skating world faster than my small, youthful friends. Once I finished the basic skating levels, and a few figure skating classes, I quit.
I haven't skated much since, so I was excited when I found out that Conn has an ice rink. Many of the schools my friends attend don't have rinks on campus. On a recent Friday, I went to my first open skate here. It was only $1 to skate for 3 hours, and all profits went to the College's Relay For Life chapter.
I was eager to skate again, but a little nervous that I wouldn't be able to do the things I used to be able to do. Most of my friends were having trouble just staying upright, though, so there wasn't much pressure. After I got accustomed to the ice again, I started trying to do some of my old tricks. Some were rough, but others went pretty well.
I was in the middle of the rink practicing when someone skated up to me and asked if I was in the figure skating club. I said that I wasn't, and she told me that I should be, and that she could give me more details if I wanted them. I haven't agreed to anything yet, but I'm definitely considering joining. I really miss ice skating regularly, and it was flattering to be spotted as a possible member. I've already signed up for the email list, and we will see where things go from there.
I think the highlight of my night was when my friend Brion joked that he wasn't impressed by my tricks, and then, seconds later, face-planted on the ice. If he had gotten hurt, I wouldn't be able to note it as the highlight of my night, but he's fine, so I can tell you that it was HILARIOUS.
Occasionally, The ConnCollegeLive Experience will invite guests to blog about their experiences as Camels. Today, Chelsea Preston '16 contributes to the guest blogger series. Chelsea was a member of the 2014 Connecticut College women's soccer team, which won the College's first NESCAC Championship and played in the NCAA Division III tournament. We asked Chelsea to capture, firsthand, what it was like to head into the national tournament.
Friday, Nov. 14, 2014
We boarded the bus at 1 p.m. after being sent off by a group of students and fans, including President Bergeron, at the entrance to the Athletic Center. After a three-hour trip, we arrived at Montclair State University to practice on the turf field where we'd play our game on Saturday and, hopefully, again on Sunday. We only had an hour to practice before the next team would need the turf, so we quickly went through our typical drills. The energy was high. We were playing music and were just happy to be there, in the national tournament. After practice, we headed back to the hotel, watched some film on Swarthmore — the team we would play the next day — and headed to bed.
Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014
In the morning, the team boarded the bus to go to teammate Leah Salituro’s house for breakfast. Her house is only 30 minutes from where we were playing, so we had a great team breakfast there. On away games, Coach Riker likes us to take a walk to clear our heads for the upcoming game, so we walked around the neighborhood before going back to the hotel. We had some downtime to catch up on homework, then it was time to leave for the game. We arrived at Montclair's athletic center and started to prepare for the game. We played our usual music to get us pumped up and we were ready to go. We were excited, but nervous to play a team we had never seen before. It was a new challenge we were ready to face.
Game: Conn College vs. Swarthmore
The game, the first round of the NCAA tournament, was exciting as we pulled ahead with a set-piece goal from my teammate Becca Raymond. Swarthmore came back and tied it with a goal. In the second half, we got another goal from Livi Block and, to finish it off with a minute left, Mitchy Medina scored to make the final 3-1. We were so excited to have made it through that game and to be able to play on Sunday. It seemed like a never-ending season.
Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014
We woke up, had team breakfast, and hung out at the hotel until we left for our game. Two games in two days is never easy, especially when you are playing teams you have never seen before. We gathered up all our energy in the locker room like we had the day before and were ready to play. This day was different because we weren’t as nervous as we had been on Saturday.
Game: Conn College vs. Montclair State
Montclair put up a fight, and so did we. It was a tough game and we made it through regulation time without a score. It seemed as though we were going to make it all the way to penalty kicks with 50 seconds left in overtime. Unfortunately, Montclair got a shot off that ended up in the back of the net. Our season was over.
The historic, long, exciting season we had worked so hard for was over, in mid-November. Not many teams can say that. We are so proud of our season, for being NESCAC championss and for having made it as far as we did. We went from the bottom of our league to No. 1 in one season and won our first NCAA tournament game. This season was certainly one for the books!
Chelsea Preston '16 is an art major and a forward on the 2014 women's soccer team.
In my 18 and a half years, I had never been to a gym.
That finally changed this past month. My friend Brion needed a gym buddy, and I obliged. I was a little hesitant about going with a gym aficionado; in fact, I was a little hesitant about going at all. I've always heard that gyms are intimidating, and I certainly don't know how to use any of the equipment, except the treadmill and exercise bike. I was afraid that I'd walk into the gym and immediately be pegged as a fish out of water.
I was surprised to see a number of students and College staff doing different exercises at their own pace. There were probably a few washboard abs in the room, but it actually wasn't that intimidating. Everyone was paying attention to their own things, and I didn't feel like I was being watched or judged. There was a lot of equipment that I didn't know how to use, but Brion helped with that, as did the handy-dandy instructions on every machine. There was also a lot of empty space in the complex, so it was easy to find some privacy when needed. I also got to use the pool, which was great because I love swimming.
Another bonus element to working out: The gym offers a gorgeous view of the Thames River, so you can try to focus on something pleasant while your pores cry with sweat.
I've come to appreciate our gym in many ways. One of my friends that goes to school in a city was given a membership to a gym a few blocks away as a consolation for the lack of a complex at her school.
Overall, my first trip to the gym was not a terrible experience. Although, for about a week afterward, I could barely walk ... but that's another story.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, my friends and I head to the Athletic Center for dance fitness class, also known as Zumba. Dancing along to Shakira's "Waka Waka" or Nikki Minaj's "Pound the Alarm" is probably the most fun way to stay active.
At the beginning of June, I was one of 40 students who returned to campus for Reunion 2014. As student hosts, Sam Santiago ’17 and I had the pleasure of working with 15 ladies from the Class of 1959 who returned for their 55th reunion. (For historical reference, it would be another 10 years after these ladies graduated before Connecticut College would accept men.) Sam and I also served as hosts to a 100-year-old member of the Class of 1935 who returned to celebrate.
At Reunion, most returning alumni stay in the residence halls. For the weekend, the Class of 1959 called Wright dorm home. With cookies, the 1959 yearbook, posters of celebrities of the era and decorations, Sam and I transformed Wright’s common room into a “hospitality suite” fit for reminiscing. Our alumni called us “house mothers,” a dated reference to the young, female professors who used to live in the residence halls and tend to the students.
Highlights of the weekend included a “blue-book quiz” that tested the ladies’ memories of their college years and a class dinner at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum that featured a vocal performance by the talented Nancy Savin ’59.
Most of all, I simply enjoyed talking with the alumni, learning about their lives during and after college. An alumna named Gail described how each student used to take a required final examination in their area of study. If they failed it, even if they had a 4.0 GPA, they could not graduate! Gail also described how the number of people in a particular class used to diminish greatly, as women left to marry men from the Coast Guard Academy, Yale, Wesleyan and other schools.
Members of the Class of 1959 have a deep love for their alma mater. Despite the College’s changes and renovations over the years, the 55th reunion class kept saying that what never changed about Connecticut College is the truly wonderful people.
When you revisit an old passion, you often can’t help but throw your all into it. It makes you feel alive. For me, that passion is soccer -- the best sport on the planet.
I started playing soccer in middle school, as an ambitious player who was on on two or three teams at once. While I didn’t continue on to play the sport in college, I’m still getting the chance to play frequently -- this time with less competition.
Intramural athletics at Conn are a way for students like myself to continue playing sports they enjoy, but more for fun than for competition. We make our own teams of friends, and we play two or three times each week against other teams that students have formed. It’s exciting for me because, of course, I get to get back out on the field and, with that, comes a rush of adrenalin.
Playing soccer and meeting new people is what it’s all about. We bond through sweat, hard work and the passion to win. Even more important, though, might be the grace of losing. In fact, other teams have told us that, even when we’re losing, we still look like we’re having fun. While no one particularly likes losing, everyone loves being together and going for the goal. Yea, that’s right-GOOOALLLLLL.
Floralia, our spring festival, kicked off a day earlier than usual with a 5K color run last Friday afternoon. My friends and I threw on our white T-shirts and met at the back of Cro, the student center. We joined a giddy, lively crowd as music pumped-up the runners. Clouds of colored chalk powder already floated through the air as we dipped our hands into buckets and threw globs of it at each other.
Moments later, the race began and we were off on a course that took us all around campus, even to places I hadn’t known existed. (As we looped around the Lyman Allyn Museum, on the south end of our campus, I realized there was a stone mushroom garden. Who knew?!) As we ran past different intersections on campus, members of campus organizations, including Student Health Services, the Think S.A.F.E. Project, Student Activities Council and others, threw colored powder at us. We blindly ran through the clouds of color, which added to the thrill of the run.
My friends and I were having so much fun that, before the run had even ended, we talked about our plans to do it again. We had to pause our conversation, however, when we encountered obstacles such as low-crawl nets, hurdles, and a stone wall. Though the quirky, unexpected obstacles bore no resemblance of my usual 5Ks from the cross-country season, the hills certainly did. My friends and I agreed that the color run would beat a cross-country race any day. There’s just no competing with color.
This past weekend was the track team’s annual home meet. Each year, we host one meet -- The Silfen Invitational -- and it’s always a big day. For once, we don’t have to wake up early and take a bus somewhere. Instead, eight other colleges travel to New London! By having the meet at home, it’s an opportunity for our families and friends to see us compete and support our team.
I had more family at this week’s meet than I would have ever expected. Since the Invitational coincided with Easter, my Philadelphia-based family was visiting and they were able to spend time in New London cheering me on. One of my cousins had never been to a meet before, so it was a great experience for her.
I just loved that my family could see me pole vaulting, doing something that I love. Best of all, they got to see Camels win!
I joined the women's club rugby team my freshman year, and since then, it's been a whirlwind of practices, games and team bonding. This year, along with the men's team, we hosted two fundraising games to benefit breast cancer research. While the two games were just for fun, we hope to help raise awareness on campus and make a difference in the fight against cancer.
Not that there aren’t good classes being held at night, but as a track athlete whose practice regularly goes to 6 or 6:30, the added stress of having to get to class afterward is one I try to avoid for my mental health. However, when I joined the Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment, I was signed up for a seminar that takes place 7-8:30 pm.
Now, you might wonder how I can leave practice, change, eat, get my books and get to class in under a half hour, but luckily, the College has a nifty system for athletes whose practices end after dining hall hours, or for those athletes who also have night classes. We call it the “Cro Pass.”
With the Cro Pass, you get certain items from Oasis, our snack shop, for free. (Cro Passes are only redeemable on the day you were given it, and has to be signed your coach.) Because of my night course schedule isn’t typical for athletes, it’s pretty infrequent that others from my team are eating in Oasis. I try not to eat alone, and I certainly don’t want to be seen eating a whole pizza, solo, on a Tuesday night. So, I decided to use my Cro Pass as a way to befriend my classmates in the Goodwin-Niering Center.
One of my classmates, Maia, is also involved in tons of activities, including dance, so she occasionally hasn’t had the chance to grab dinner before class. She has become my regular Cro date for post-Goodwin Niering seminars dinners, and through this, also a very close friend.
Just this week, she texted me saying “Are you living that Cro Pass life today??” After all, aren't all good friendships are based on food?