This semester, we, the sports editors at the Weekly, have tried to focus our coverage of Occidental’s division III sports teams on the players themselves, not just the games they play. We know that student-athletes spend long hours at practice, strength and conditioning, watching film and whatever else it is coaches demand of their athletes. We want to know what these student-athletes are like outside of athletics, and what they care about beyond their respective sports. By focusing on the people and not the games, we have sought to provide a perspective to the sports section that reflects both the values of our readers and the multifaceted talents of our athletes.
We have written about Conor McGregor potentially fighting Floyd Mayweather, why world football (soccer) is the real up-and-coming sport in this country and the United States’ long-awaited triumph in the World Baseball Classic. These are important headlines for many sports fans, but not necessarily for the average Occidental student. Instead, we mainly focused our efforts on producing stories about the people behind Occidental games management, a nationally ranked jump roper, an Occidental strength and conditioning coach and other stories that might only make the back page of a major publication.
At their core, the sports teams at liberal arts schools do not carry the same weight as those teams at a Division I school, where millions in TV revenue and merchandising flow into state schools and universities every year. Yet, what schools like Occidental lack in monetary gain from their sports teams, they make up for with students who stay involved when they aren’t playing. Occidental has some of the most accomplished student-athletes because they are able to handle the academic workload while maintaining involvement both on and off campus.
Take Rebecca Reese (senior) for example, who we recently covered in a women’s lacrosse piece. Besides serving as a team captain and double majoring in biochemistry and Spanish, Reese holds a leadership position on Project S.A.F.E, Occidental’s student-led sexual assault awareness and prevention organization. Students, professors, faculty and staff care more about people like Reese and the full breadth of her personal accomplishments rather than just the number of goals she can score for the women’s lacrosse team.
At the end of the day, we are a sports section, and by definition are here to talk about sports. We are not reinventing the wheel or trying to put a neo-modern twist on sports journalism. Our goal has always been to find an interactive way to engage our readership.
From the moment we pitch stories on Sunday nights to the Wednesday publication, we want to know about what makes our peers special besides the fact that they can score a hat trick at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps or 30 points in a rout of Pomona-Pitzer. Most everyone at the collegiate level has many years of experience in their sport, but Occidental students, in particular, remain involved and engaged with their communities when all is said and done on the field, in the gym or in the pool.
To us, and to the majority of the Occidental community, the results themselves aren’t what distinguishes our athletes. The numbers on a scoreboard or on a piece of paper matter, but the context and challenges surrounding each result are what make them extraordinary. Since we started as editors in August 2016, we have been working to not only make the section more fun but also more reflective of the Occidental experience. We hope that next year’s editors will also believe in how talented Occidental students are and continue to recognize their achievements.
Who knows, they might be really good at sports too.
Owen Hill and Nolan Watson are senior economics majors and the sports section editors for the Weekly. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.