Emerson College is a prestigious arts school, specializing in film, theater, marketing and communication, plus journalism. When it comes to studying the arts, Emerson is one of the greatest this media fueled country has to offer. Art Institutions are known for creating a system that revolves around the education – not extracurricular’s, especially athletics. Despite popular belief, Emerson should not be labeled one of those schools. Most students couldn’t tell you, but Emerson has a rapidly escalating athletic department. Though how can you blame the students, when up unto roughly three years ago, the school logo resembled an 1800’s letter seal, or had a weight room smaller than most classrooms, or a student demographic that is witness to Emerson focusing its funds and efforts on art and only the arts.
A lot of my Emerson friends joke directly to me about our teams, apparent they’re not entirely sold on the fact we have “teams”. Most of them not knowing, that as a student athlete myself, I’m frustrated to hear how one sided their views are. For starters, sports are positive in nature, for not only those involved, but also to every spectator, as camaraderie amongst student athletes and even opposing teams promote healthy implications in light of a seemingly dejected state of union. Athletics empower the average Joe to trust his abilities in the face of all adversity. Emerson, founded in 1880 by Charles Waldo Emerson, labeled as a “School of Oratory” has undeniably come tremendous lengths since the first introduction to intramurals in 1933, then the first women’s sports team in ’51.
Emerson has made valiant efforts to keep up with requests from its athletes over the past decade. In terms of results, since Y2K, we’ve ditched the monotonous logo for a sleeker aesthetic, but that didn’t go over well with the general student body, the sharp edges and outlines aggressively scream – “We’re Collegiate! Right?” But more importantly, we’ve founded sports medicine and strength and conditioning programs led by professionals, accessible to all student athletes. This takes place in our vastly renovated weight room, which used to resemble a prison cell. We’ve solidified a social media presence through student athlete involvement that has been successful in raising student awareness of team doings and events, all within our campus sports channel network: Emerson Channel Sports, not to mention our school’s nifty website. We even went as far as to introduce a Sports Communication minor, and soon even a Major. Yet, despite these enhancements, sport culture on campus is still widely unknown and very disrespected. Most students have never seen a game in four years of schooling. The issue that I read behind the lines is that – athletics and art are not interconnected. But I would argue that if we as a school performed more competitively, personal mantras like that would dissipate.
An important fact to note is that we’ve been undergoing a shuffling of coaching and administrative staff, as only two of the coaches who have been here since the genesis remain — head Basketball coach and ex-NBA notable, Bill Curley, and division three for life head Softball coach, Phil McElroy. However, athletes under both coaches’ have expressed sour opinions for their styles of leadership. We’ll never rise to the level of Miami or Alabama, or any Division 1 for that matter and we know that, but we’ve become special in our own sense. Our teams and coaches take themselves very seriously now and genuinely put winning first, as we finally have fields to call home, trainers to our aid, alumni connections, and community service exposure.
The inherent vice behind all this exciting revamping is that to be a sports school you need a full sports commitment. At huge universities, it’s practically a day job for the athlete themselves. Not only do Emerson athletes have the most lax out of season schedules ever, the in season practice schedule would be laughable to any devoted program. We’re understaffed and undersized. The baseball team may have a gorgeous semi-pro field, but it’s 40 miles out in the city of Brockton, so they practice in a mini basketball gym or not at all during the season. This also shoud go without saying, students won’t even consider driving 40 miles, let alone watch a team with a long standing losing record. As of two years ago, Patricia Nicol was hired to take over as sole Athletic Director. A lot of decisions sit on the shoulders of her alone, mostly expenditures. She’s done such a wonderful job in doing what we all knew we needed as an institution — a rebranding.
But to be frank, a lot of the smaller decisions don’t reflect the needs of our school. New uniforms are purchased every season, which seems like our most blatant waste of money. Every team could easily have a white and a grey uniform for the next decade, yet we continue to test our hand at outlandish designs that attempt to utilize our bold purple & yellow scheme, only to be recycled for something new too soon. But in the grand scheme of things, aesthetics are the least of our worries right now. Since the beginning of time, Emerson has been in the GNAC conference. For reasons unknown, we’ve only recently moved into the much more competitive NEWMAC. That has to be the most questionable move to date, as we went from a recurring contender in the GNAC, to a roach in the NEWMAC. The schools we play now are notoriously good and notoriously big bodied. They know exactly whom they’re dealing with when they play us, and treat us that way. To be fair, not all our programs are struggling with the conference change – so I’m specifically talking about Baseball, Lacrosse, and Soccer; three sports that should draw large student crowds. If we were to upset one of these teams, which we almost did but still never have, it’d be a fluke in the eyes of the conference. Bottom line, when only one or two of your six teams are making playoff runs, you’re surely going to lose the respect of your students as early as the regular season. It’s a matter of reputation, and right now, the students think our teams are laughable.
So what now, how do we go about fixing this culture? It’s already underway. There’s nothing that can be done to instantly improve anything other than winning. More winning. Winning is like making money, things happen right away because of it. It’s a melting pot process that will not change drastically by the time one student enrolls and graduates. But we as student athletes still have critiques on the little things that can go a long way in effecting that winning probability. Meal money. On road-trips, we seem to have such a measly budget that our post-game options are Taco Bell or McDonalds. Athlete hours in the gym begin at 9pm and end at 11. However, if an athlete is doing an outside program instead of the regimented universal program already in place, they force you to leave. Changes have been the top priority that we’re not focusing on strengthening what we have. We mustn’t try to be a program we are not. Our track record isn’t one of championships. We don’t make cuts on rosters. All teams share one practice space and only Basketball gets a locker room. Running a well-oiled program isn’t as easy as getting out of bed in the morning, I know, especially when there’s been much pressure to turn Emerson around. But we will continue to push, as students, for a school as wealthy as Emerson College who buys an enormous plot of land on Sunset Strip in Central LA, nothing is out of reach.