Back home in Britain, universities make little to no effort to recruit athletes and college sports rarely extend beyond intramural tournaments and drinking games. One of the reasons I chose to study here — and one of the reasons the United States is home to some of the greatest institutions of learning and produces of some of the finest graduates — is its tradition of both embracing and promoting student athletics.
To be sure, I am no expert on American sports. I am not an athlete and despite the best efforts of my most patient friends, I continue to be baffled by the rules of American football. But what I do know is this: Athletes who make up Yale’s community are champions who walk among us, contributing to all of our undergraduate experiences in an overwhelmingly positive and constructive way.
A college experience is more than a transcript of classes and extracurricular positions held. It is about the molding of character, the development of skills and qualities which will stay with us for life. The skills learnt from playing sports, competing in a team and demonstrating an unwavering loyalty to our college are ones that craft exceptional men and women over a four-year period. These skills can never be taught in a classroom. Character traits like self-discipline, comradery, resilience, confidence and a fierce work ethic are attributes that we should all be striving to develop as part of our liberal arts education. Student athletics is a tradition as ancient as the Greeks, who understood the need to balance physical training with the cultivation of the mind, believing that true intellect was found in both activities. Student-athletes are engaged in a daily battle to achieve that balance — a struggle that demands a larger time commitment and greater personal sacrifice than many realize — and they deserve nothing less than our resolute support and enduring respect.
But a major consideration that is often forgotten is the enormity of the contribution made by the athletic community to the quality of life and college experience of everyone on this campus.
Whether or not we notice on a daily basis, we owe an awful lot to the varsity athletes who enhance this community. Their example encourages us to participate in club and intramural sports, and their programs constitute the infrastructure necessary for the rest of us to take part. They enhance Yale’s lively and generally inclusive social scene. And they are responsible for the myriad of sports events and competitions that every student has the ability to attend and enjoy. It is their determination and school spirit — dedicated to a discipline that commands the time commitment of three additional classes and the responsibilities of an extracurricular leadership position — which makes all this possible. All while being held to the same academic standards as everyone else.
But most importantly, we learn from each other at Yale. Yale’s exceptional and diverse student body is what makes this campus an engaging and enlightening place to live and learn. Humanities and STEM majors share experiences and knowledge with one another. Students from across the world eat alongside students who have never left the U.S. Conservatives and liberals debate and learn something new in the process. Friendships are built and communities bond. The conversations had and affections formed over our four years here will affect us more and mean more to us in the years to come than the vast majority of classes we will take.
The contribution student-athletes make to this melting pot of experiences and perspectives means that no Yalie is ever denied refreshing conversation, exposure to an outstanding work ethic or even just a new friend.
Yale’s admissions process factors this in. Just as the Admissions Office tries to create a class balanced by home state and country, interests, background and skills, they recruit the most dedicated and talented athletes, committed to both the academic challenge Yale offers and the personal challenge that a devotion to their school, their team and themselves commands. Their inclusion in Yale’s community makes our time at Yale a more enriched, informed and well-rounded experience for everyone.
Ben Mallet is a junior in Davenport College and a member of the YCC Student Athletics Taskforce. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .