Seniors leave sports teams in final season
After a grueling summer of workouts and preparation, Ernie Bove '10 could not wait to kick off the football season in the College's opening game against Williams last fall. "I had trained really hard and I was the most excited I had been for football season," Bove says.
Only minutes had passed in the second quarter when Bove tore his ACL, an injury that ended up costing him his college football career. Stressed from the injury and tired of recuperating on the sidelines, Bove decided that leaving the team would ultimately be in his best interest.
For many seniors, injuries, dissatisfaction with coaches, the opportunity to study abroad, academic commitments and an overall desire for more free time has prompted veteran players to leave their teams in pursuit of other options.
"It's hard being around the team after [the injury]," Bove says. "When they win, you're happy, but when they lose, you wish you could've made a difference. Football is a really physically and emotionally demanding sport and it takes up a lot of time. Once you have an experience like that and your whole season is gone in the blink of an eye, you start to reconsider that you're putting a lot of time into a season when you don't know what you're getting back on the other end."
Bove considered pursuing treatment and returning to the team, but worried about the possibility of becoming injured yet again. "I thought about it a lot; it was definitely a very hard decision," he says, but he ultimately decided not to return to the team. "I don't think I could go through [the rehabilitation process] again if I got hurt. There are no guarantees, and it is hard to put in all that work for something that has no guarantees."
Tara Davidson '10 joined the women's soccer team as a recruit her first year at the College. That same year, she also began to play for the women's tennis team. Davidson knew she wanted to study abroad for a semester of her junior year, but it was her overall dissatisfaction with her soccer experience in college that prompted her to leave the team permanently. She switched her primary focus to tennis when she returned from a fall semester abroad.
"I had to decide which semester to go abroad, and during the fall [of my sophomore] year I had had a disappointing season [and a] tough time with the coach," she says. "My relationships with my soccer and tennis coaches were the deciding factors to not return to the soccer team and to go abroad in the fall instead of in the spring."
Davidson now participates in the fall tennis training season as well as the spring tournament season. "When I came back from being abroad I started to focus a lot more on tennis," she says. "This past summer I trained for tennis primarily. Fall tennis season is a lot more relaxed, with matches, not tournaments."
Aaron Block '10, on the other hand, left the men's tennis team this fall after spending last spring in Australia. He chose not to return to a team comprised mainly of underclassmen. "I'm the only senior that would've been on the team, and most of my friends were upperclassmen, so with them all graduated it wouldn't have been as much fun. I figured I might as well enjoy senior year and hang out with friends," he says.
With tennis behind him, Block began exploring new activities on campus, ranging from rock-climbing to pottery. "It definitely gives me a lot more free time," he says.
Another consideration in team size this fall has been the financial state of the College. In order to save money on player and travel expenses, many teams decreased their roster sizes this season. Men's soccer coach Mark Serdjenian notes that cutbacks on roster size gave talented younger players a favorable advantage during the tryout process.
"This was a unique year because we...had a JV team for 50 years, and this was the first year without the JV team," he says. "We kept 25 guys as opposed to usually having 36 in the program. If an upperclassman is similar to a freshman or sophomore, the younger player's going to get the edge because they have more time to develop."
Without a junior varsity team, Serdjenian must pay even more attention to his new players. "Making cuts is one of the least favorite weeks for a coach," he says. "Now, especially with the freshmen, it's pretty critical that we keep and cut the right guys, or else we're hurting the future. All in all, as a coach it's nice to have a smaller, more competitive team in the long run."
Davidson cites dissatisfaction with coaches as a major reason why many upperclassmen choose to leave the teams they enthusiastically joined freshman year. "I miss the girls. The team dynamic was really good," she says. "My coach made my overall experience miserable, which outweighed the enjoyment I had on the team and with my teammates. I think there is a growing trend of upperclassmen leaving their sports, often because of discontent with their coach. You'd think if there was this much repetitive discontent with coaches, it would be better addressed."
Serdjenian says that in his experience, seniors who choose not to return to their teams do so because of newfound interests. "Over the years, I'd say that the reason that upperclassmen might not return to a team is that they, in consultation with me, might perceive that they're not going to play that much, or they've developed some other love or some other passion that's taken over."
Bove began playing football as a young child and started receiving recruitment offers from colleges as a senior in high school. His devotion to football over the years made leaving the team even more difficult. "Sports [had] been a big part of me growing up and to accept that that part of my life was over was definitely tough," he says. "I can't stress how hard a decision it was."
After spending the spring semester of his junior year abroad in Chile, Bove returned to the Hill this fall with more free time and a dorm full of former teammates whom he continues to support from the bleachers. "I've noticed that without football I have more time to devote to my schoolwork and looking ahead," he says. "I live in a five-man with four other football players. I'm still really good friends with the guys on the team. I still go to home games to watch them and cheer them on."
After college, Bove hopes to use his international studies major to volunteer in Latin America or possibly pursue international development in graduate school. For now, football is on the back burner. "I miss [football] and it would be a blast to go out there with [my teammates], but overall I think I made the right decision. I'm in a position where I need a little break from sports."