You hear every year how the school has changed, how it’s breaking from its values. And whilst I may not be there now to confirm this, this article reminded me that some vital pieces of Sarah Lawrence will never disappear OR good habits die hard. If I can elaborate, I promise not to ramble.
Of the original 15 or so boys that were part of the first team to play scrimmages against Webb and Hampshire, around 10 had never played a competitive game of soccer in their life. A couple of them had never even kicked a ball in anger. Two of them identified as homosexual. Another, who was abroad at the time but played with us previously, was born female and recently went through gender reassignment surgery. And not least, two girls trained with us on occasion and could easily have played if league rules didn’t stipulate otherwise. So for your hero to feel “like a boy scout who accidentally showed up at a gym instead of a troop meeting” is not uncommon. The five or so boys that had played soccer in the past could have played at an extremely competitive level, but other passions had led them down a path of political philosophy, social work, and other noble causes only SLC kids seem to normalize as a natural course of action. In the second year of the soccer team, my last at Sarah Lawrence, and the team’s first in the Hudson Valley Conference, we were more or less the same group of players. I’d like to say that at all times everyone felt comfortable, but like any team, like any social group, we had our issues. Issues with the coaches, with certain players, and with the indignity of not having a practice field booked in time on more than a single occasion (mind you we were also overly critical). Now before this strays too far into nostalgia (too late?) I do have a point.
In our second year, we lost to the Culinary Institute 9-1. It was a severely humiliating experience, made worse by rather unsavory comments made towards our players throughout the game A couple of players quit soon after, I had my captaincy renounced in a non-soccer-related incident,,and we continued to lose. We lost four more games in almost equally humiliating circumstances. But defeat after defeat, humiliation after humiliation, we ate together – – broke bread after every practice. We threw awful parties just so our friends would have somewhere to gather on a Friday or Saturday, and our group expanded. From what I understand, after I graduated the team continued this camaraderie. I’m personally unsure if it’s the creation of a space ‘just for boys’ or that the team has been fortunate to have such amicable players on it every year, but something seems to happen at Sarah Lawrence that doesn’t happen anywhere else. You can ask the same of the basketball teams, the swim team, the equestrian team, softball or the tennis or volleyball team, Sarah Lawrence and close-knit athletics are two branches of the same tree.
Again, the sentiments felt by the author of the Open Letter are not uncommon. His circumstance was clearly unique and difficult, but what he’s so successfully done is show how sport can welcome anyone, regardless of personality, skill level, or affliction, and treat each person on a team as rightfully equal, And at Sarah Lawrence it is in our diversity, our sometimes socially awkward, overly self-assured, manifold miscellany that we celebrate difference rather than berate it.
The school will change. Students including players and editorial staff will leave and many of them will not register daily what a truly momentous environment they were blessed to be a part of, if only for a few short years. Perhaps if you ask the theater thirds or the burlesque troupe about community, they will recount similar stories of camaraderie. In fact, I’m almost certain they will. If we can take anything from this boy’s story it is that when you are at your most vulnerable, a common college experience, you can depend most on a very real sense of communal love to support and reassure.
So take this college time and embrace it. It is unlike any other you will experience, and one that will shape you, whether you are awake to it or not. Stories like the one you published should be celebrated, not solely as one of a boy overcoming his struggle with his health and social despair, but as SLC’s ethos personified.
I’m sorry. I seem to have rambled a bit here.