Archive for September, 2011

A True Honor

September 30, 2011

By: Karin Treese Bauer ’99
Special to the Sidelines Blog

Family. Honor. History.

Terms that lingered in my mind after a visit to Lexington earlier this month for Hall of Fame weekend and to celebrate “25 Years of Women’s Soccer” at Washington and Lee.

My brother Kevin

Family is immeasurably important to me. Always has been, and always will be. I grew up with two loving parents and an older brother with a degenerative muscle disease, and we constantly relied on one another and were a unit. I have been described at times as an old soul and have put value into all of the relationships I have had with people through the years. Some say I was even raised by committee because I had so many people in my life that I valued and respected and who impacted me in some way, even the tiniest way. These people, as well has my family, instilled in me that the “little things” really do mean a lot. I have always valued my “family,” whether the person was in my immediate family, or someone that is as close (or closer) to me than a family member, or someone simply playing a special role in my life. I am eternally grateful for each and every one of those people who have been a part of the journey so far.

Being back in Lexington, I realized how vast my family truly is. I am so very fortunate … I am fortunate to have attended W&L, I am fortunate to have received a top-notch education, I am fortunate to have had a successful experience as a student-athlete, and most importantly, I am extremely fortunate to have crossed paths with so many amazing people associated with the school (past and present) … students, teammates, professors, coaches, administrators, friends of the University. All of them honorable members of the W&L family.

My family

Honor is a word that naturally goes hand in hand with the names (George) Washington & (Robert E.) Lee, and with such an institution, with uniqueness, prestige and history … There really is no place on Earth like it. And speaking of honor, I graduated in the Bicenquinquagenary of the school. That’s the 250th anniversary for those that can’t pronounce, let alone spell, that word! I was honored last year to be inducted into the W&L Athletic Hall of Fame, a distinction magnified by the celebration of the 2010 Hall of Fame weekend almost a year ago to the day. I remember it vividly because it was the weekend of my daughter’s 5th birthday…another honor to have her and my family share that weekend with me. It really seems like I was just in Lexington for that celebration. Playing soccer for so many seasons, I will never forget the feelings that the Fall always brought…preparing for the season, the first home game of the season in front of friends and family, the cool crisp air for games in late October leading up to the playoffs, the sheer beauty of the picturesque Blue Ridge backdrop especially when the leaves change (which happened to be close to Parent’s Weekend), and so many others. This fall I found myself in Lexington again, longing for those feelings. But I was thrilled to be there to witness my classmate and true man of character Mikel Parker, as well as three other well-deserving inductees, be inducted in the Hall of Fame as the class of 2011. All of them truly honorable members of the W&L family.

Posing with Mikel Parker

There was also a celebration to commemorate the 25th anniversary of women’s soccer at W&L. Again, it was an honor to have shared in the program’s history, and to put faces with the names of so many of the influential women that have gone through the program. These are women who were pioneers and whom I heard about prior to my time on campus, and then women whom I have read about as I have followed the success of the team since I graduated. But regardless of when they spent their time at W&L, these are women who have shared similar goals as people, and as athletes. Meeting and talking with some of them, they are people that I felt like I had known for a long time because of all that we have in common. But at the root, they are more honorable members of the W&L family.

Before I left for college, a “family” member once told me, “College will be the best and fastest four years of your life.” I initially shrugged and thought, “OK, thanks.” But looking back, I agree with him whole-heartedly. To all the current student-athletes, I say enjoy every second of your time in Lexington, because you are in a very special place. Take the time to peer into the stands at your game, to just look around the field or court at your teammates, your coaches, your fans, and truly savor the moment: the sights, the sounds, the smells, the people … every second of it. Be especially thankful for your coaches and teammates, and all those around you, because they truly are your family, and always will be. And while these four years simply are the best, they will pass in a blink of an eye. I sincerely hope they are as special and meaningful to you as they were to me. I am thankful and honored to be a part of the W&L “family” and the history of this prestigious institution.


So, what is an athletic trainer anyway?

September 27, 2011

By: Rachel Wheeler
Assistant Athletic Trainer

So when presented with the opportunity to write a blog (which I can honestly say I’ve never done before), I was a bit undecided about what direction to go with it. I didn’t want it to turn into a platform for talking about my job or how much people in my profession work and yada yada yada…the truth is a lot of people, not just in athletics, have difficult, time intensive, high stress jobs requiring them to work long, arduous days with limited time off! It’s a quality in work that I feel has become all to familiar to many. However, I think despite my hesitations, it is important to talk about my job since there always seems to be confusion surrounding what an athletic trainer actually is! I have been asked numerous times: What exactly do you do? Are you a physical therapist? What did you major in? Are you a pre-med student? The list goes on and on! I think my favorite might actually be when you are introducing yourself to someone and they ask, “What do you do?” I respond by saying I’m an athletic trainer! This is typically followed by an awkward smile and, “Oh, ok great! So you’re a PT or a strength coach?” Ugh…!! There’s clearly a lack of understanding in the general public about what my job really is!

There's more to athletic training than just taping ankles!

So, what exactly is an athletic trainer? While I very much appreciate and admire the work done by physical therapists, strength and conditioning coaches, personal trainers, and even just your regular old unspecified ‘trainer,’ I am not in fact any of those! I think the easiest way of describing what an ATC (certified athletic trainer) does is by saying we’re kind of a jack of all trades. We have a background in prevention; clinical evaluation and diagnosis; immediate care; treatment, rehabilitation, and reconditioning; organization and administration; and professional responsibilities. These are known as the 6 Domains of Athletic Training: they are the framework for our education and knowledge base! We have to go to an accredited program for 4 years to be eligible to sit for the Board of Certification exam in order to be certified. We also must maintain our certification by advancing our knowledge through continuing education units (CEU’s). It is also worthy of noting that we are a recognized allied health profession!

We are not only the first on the field to assess what’s going on and determine the best course of action, we are also trained to perform the evaluation, assess the situation, recommend and perform treatment, and rehabilitate the injured area! We can make recommendations on nutrition and healthy eating/lifestyles, assist with lifting and conditioning programs, and even check someone out when they just aren’t feeling up to par whether it’s an illness or case of the blues. I sometimes actually think the job of an athletic trainer is half all of that stuff and half life counselor! It would almost be appropriate some days to have that cliche couch/chair thin in the corner of our offices for all of the therapy we do and advice we give!

The greatest parts about this job is that you are forever on your toes since no day is the same, and the relationships you form with the athletes/clients/co-workers, etc. There are days when the skies open up and it pours on you (literally and figuratively), and there are others that just give you a perma-grin! There are really long hours and sometimes even an under appreciation for all we try to do. It’s mentally and physically fatiguing, and sometimes I think I wish I could just find a quiet nook to sit for 5 minutes and gather my thoughts! BUT, there is nothing I would rather be doing and I love my job!

P.s. To answer the questions presented earlier, no I am not a student and yes I did actually graduate from college with a  B.S. and M.Ed in Athletic Training! It really is a major and a wonderful career!

Learning on the fly

September 23, 2011

By: Nathan Shearer
Head Wrestling Coach

“Learn on the fly” is an often used cliché when starting a new experience. I am beginning my first season in the W&L athletics department and will undoubtedly be doing so at times. However, a few years ago these words were not a cliché, but a reality.

In 2008 my family drove to Gatlinburg, TN as part of a family vacation. The cabin we stayed in also hosted members of my wife’s extended family. All of the usual happenings were taking place until Jerold arrived. Jerold is married to my wife’s Aunt Nicky. They live in a rural town a few hours from Atlanta, GA. Their home is not a farm, but does house many types of animals beyond dogs and cats. The yard is sprinkled with large excavating equipment, broken down cars, and small barns. He is constantly searching for his next big adventure.

I have never been skydiving before, but when Jerold offered up the opportunity I agreed without hesitation. Jerold “knew” someone about an hour away that would take us. We traveled into obscurity before stopping at a white pop up tent located alongside a corn field. There was no driveway so we drove the car through the field until we arrived at the tent. A card table was positioned inside the empty tent. The walk from the car to the tent was challenging. Mentally, I had prepared to arrive at an actual business that provided first time skydivers the necessary tools and safety measures to enjoy a safe landing. No business, no rules clinic, no safety suggestions! I did sign a few crumbled pieces of paper acknowledging the risks that lie ahead. I was handed a pair of eye goggles and told to board the plane. The body of the plane looked like a phone booth tipped on its side. Four people: the pilot, Jerold, my tandem partner, and myself, crowded into the flying machine. My knees were on the windshield, my head rested against the back window, my right shoulder pressed against the door, and my left shoulder was touching the pilot. Personal space was imaginary. The pilot explained we were getting the “U” take off. We climbed two thousand feet before nose diving and pulling up at the last second. This was the first and only time I have flown vertical!

Prior to take off I was assured all instruction would take place during our ascending adventure. My tandem partner believed a nap was more important. The following 35 minutes I spent conversing with the pilot who assured me this was routine. It seemed like one of those “I’ve done this a thousand times” answers that makes you nervous.  As we reached our designated elevation my tandem instructor calmly awoke to offer these instructions:

  1. Open the door
  2. Grab the bar that braces the wing to the plane
  3. Position both feet outside the plane
  4. On the count of three….JUMP!

What am I to do?

September 20, 2011

I am in a bit of a tough spot. Washington and Lee, the University that I have worked for and called family for going on four years now is hosting Alma College this weekend in football. I attended Alma College (for five years actually) and played football for them. Come Saturday I have to make a decision. W&L, my new home, or Alma, my old home?

I have to admit that I was pretty excited to hear that Alma may get put on the schedule last spring. I had been emailing one of the Alma coaches, John Lewis, back and forth about open dates on the schedule for both us and them and just generally catching up. When it turned out that we had the same open week, he gave me a call and asked if I thought it would be a good matchup. I said “yeah, they will run the ball right at you all day, but I think Leister (offensive coordinator John Leister) could draw up a few things.” That, and I certainly felt it was a better matchup than, say, Juniata from a year ago.

I admit that my bravado when speaking of Alma’s ability to compete against the Generals was a little biased given my having played there, but also because my memory of Alma College Football was one of an incredibly explosive four-wide receiver, no huddle, shotgun offense that could score 40+ points at will. I was fortunate to have played my senior season with Josh Brehm at quarterback. The same Josh Brehm who would win the Gagliardi Trophy as the best player in all of NCAA Division III following our senior year. So, when asked about Alma Football, that is what I remember and there is no doubt in my mind that that version would have beaten this version of W&L.

While I don’t think that this year’s team is as talented as some of the ones that I played on, I do feel that Saturday’s engagement will be an entertaining one, and one that I am most definitely looking forward to.

But, when this Saturday rolls around, where do my allegiances lie? Do they lie with my current employer and the signer of my paycheck? Or with my former coaches, teammates and signer of my diploma? Surely I could not be chastised for choosing one over the other could…could I?

Wavering allegiances pop up all over sports. Some may remember the flap created over the sister of former Notre Dame quarterback, Laura, who was dating former Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk. Well, those two teams squared off in the Fiesta Bowl in 2006 and she wore a two-toned jersey. Half Notre Dame and half OSU. She caught some flack for not being able to chooses sides, but given that she ended up marrying Hawk, who can blame her. Brother, or husband? Not a position that I want to be in.

Just the other night on Monday Night Football a similar incident took shape. Former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick returned to the Georgia Dome, but this time as the quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles. All of us remember the federal dog fighting charges and subsequent prison term for Vick. He was essentially fired by the Falcons (and rightly so) not long after signing a 10-year $130 million contract. Well, he returned to Atlanta to the dismay of many and the delight of many others. Vick, before his legal woes, had endeared himself as one of Atlanta’s most beloved athletes; a young, charismatic and supremely talented quarterback in a city that desperately needed a football hero of that magnitude. His legal woes polarized the community and while some have forgiven him for his transgressions and allowed him to return to the pedestal of beloved athlete, some have never forgiven him for what his actions did to the Atlanta franchise. Sure enough, at Monday night’s game the stands were littered with Vick’s No. 7 jersey. Some in the current Philly green, others still in the Falcon red. It was apparent, that while Vick had tarnished his standing among some Falcons fans, others could not look past the phenom that had been their quarterback for several years.

This coming weekend is not the first time that my allegiances have wavered. I grew up the BIGGEST Chicago Bulls fan. Michael Jordan was a god to me. When he retired, unretired, and began playing for the Washington Wizards, my 17-year old brain was severely confused. On the one hand, the greatest player to have ever played and a man that I had idolized as long as I could remember was playing. On the other hand, he was playing against MY team. What was I to do? I mean, my wall was plastered with images of No. 23, tongue fully out, rising above some helpless defender for one of his many highlight reel dunks. But now he was doing it in the wrong jersey. In the end, I forgave Michael for competing against my Bulls, understanding that sports is a business. But there was no way I was going to ever don a Wizards No. 23 jersey, that place on my back was reserved for a certain RED and BLACK jersey emblazoned with No. 23.

Back to this Saturday. I am truly torn. Alma’s head coach is a man named Jim Cole, a man that I have the most respect for short of maybe my father…even if he was quoted in the newspaper as saying “we never thought he could ever make a meaningful catch for us…” in reference to me. The way that he has run that team for the past 21 years is the way I feel athletics should be. I remember being treated like a man, but also being expected to act like one. I can still see him pacing the sidelines with his epic moustache (and it is a great moustache) talking about sudden change and inspiring his troops. The last time I spoke to him in person was during the spring of my final year of college. He always gets together with the seniors just prior to graduation to reminisce and wish us luck. I remember him asking me how I was such a devastating blocker (I was a pretty good “crackback” blocker and “earholed” my fair share of guys in college) despite weighing 190 pounds soaking wet. I told him that I just “knew”. I just knew where guys would be and how I could position myself to take advantage of their aggressiveness or momentum and allow our ball-carrier (usually a kid named Kyle Ryan) to continue downfield. He said that he could stand to have a few more guys like me and I was pretty flattered by that. I had gone from being a guy that saw limited playing time (and would never make a meaningful catch), to having knee surgery and missing a year, to being an integral part of an explosive offense and garnering All-MIAA honors as a senior, and now I was being “thanked” by my head coach. He didn’t actually say it, but by telling me that he wished he had more guys like me he was giving me the ultimate compliment. He may not remember saying it, but I do, and I will never forget that.

Same goes for the offensive coordinator, Leister. A bit of a loose cannon (he’s from Montana and still rocks a mullet) to say the least, he is also one of the most brilliant football people I have been around. I remember going into his office during camp when I as a junior and lamenting about some of the seniors (who were actually classmates of mine, but given my year off I was only a junior eligibility-wise) and their unwillingness to run hard on our Monday conditioning. I told him that I did not bust my ass back from knee surgery to be told to run slower to allow a slacker to look better. He told me to forget them (PG version) and keep doing what I was doing that my time would come. Sure enough it did and he reminded me of that meeting a year later when I was a senior and it was my turn to lead.

Add to the mix defensive coordinator John Lewis was the running backs coach at Alma while I was there. The receivers coach (Brian Zimmerman) was there while I was there, Kurt Faust (O-Line) was there, and three current coaches; Tyler Wellman, James Lang and Jimmy Thrubis were all teammates of mine. AND, current quarterback Jarrett Leister (coach’s son) and current defensive back Scotty Cole (also coach’s son) were ball boys on the sidelines and majority of practices. I have known those kids since they were like 15 -16 years old. The more and more I think about it. I think I may have to go sit on the opposing sidelines for this game. Or at the very least, wear some Alma gear with my W&L gear. So, if you see a spectator on Saturday that looks a little confused, its me (and maybe my dad) and know that I have given this a lot of thought…probably too much to be honest.

And, as a postscript, a big congratulations my boss Brian Laubscher and his wife Mindy, who welcomed their first child into the world on Sunday afternoon. Parker Burke Laubscher weighed in a 7 lbs 12 oz and both mother and child are reportedly doing fine.

Adventures of a Not-So-Adventurous Summer

September 16, 2011

By: Shana Levine
Associate Athletic Director

My 4th summer here in Lexington just ended a few weeks ago.  And the past 3 were spent driving/flying around the country going to see friends, family, weddings and, of course, friends’ weddings.  The past 3 have also flown by at mock speed.  This year my husband Clark and I attempted to slow down the summer and draw it out as long as possible by staying in Lexington and actually live here during the summer.

The plan to slow down the summer originated in the middle of spring term, approximately May 15th, when one of our VERY LOUD football coaches walked into the main athletic offices and made an announcement that came close to putting him in the hospital and me in jail for assault and battery.  Let me tell you a bit about this week of spring term – I was teaching my 4-credit Women in Sport class (fun, yet exhausting) and my group fitness classes and was working on the two NCAA events we were hosting that week (women’s lacrosse and the first three rounds of men’s tennis).  To say that I was stressed, tired and a bit irritable would have been a ridiculous understatement.  So, it was in the middle of all of this that our football coach walked into the main office and shouted (in his best football coach voice), “LET’S GO, LET’S GO, LET’S GO!  GET READY!  ONLY 90 DAYS UNTIL FOOTBALL PRESEASON STARTS!! GET READY – LET’S SEE SOME EXCITEMENT!!”  So, I calmly got up from my chair, reminded said coach that we DO NOT start the “countdown to camp” before the lovely students have even left for the summer!  I proceeded to calmly shut (or maybe slam) my office door and screamed in my office.  Trust me; this was a better option than the alternatives running through my head.  Don’t get me wrong – I love our student-athletes – but that was the wrong time for that comment.  That evening I got home and told Clark, we need to make the summer last as long as possible.

We decided to see if staying in Lexington and enjoying the time here rather than traveling would make summer feel longer.  So, what did we do in Lex this summer?   Clark played a lot of golf…and is still pretty bad at it.  I kayaked.  We hiked a lot, which our dog loved.  And did all of these things with friends, which made each activity even better.  We had a great group of friends come down for 4th of July weekend and laughed more than I had in a long time.  I also thought this would be a great time to try and plant my first attempt at a garden.  Result?  Fail.  I managed to grow tons of zucchini and basil and exactly 3 tomatoes.  My plan to make pasta sauce to last through the winter clearly did not come to fruition.

There were also a few reasons that we had to leave our lovely town – some we were thrilled about and some not-so-much and some in between.  The first trip was a four-day family reunion down in Myrtle Beach. In June.  Let’s just say it was a bit crowded.  We do not have any kids, which seemed like an entrance requirement for anyone in Myrtle Beach AND for anyone at our family reunion.  This was not a fun four days.

We did take two quick trips for pleasure and they were both a blast.  The first was a quick road trip up to Washington, D.C. to see a soccer double-header: USMNT v. Jamaica and El Salvador v. Panama in the Gold Cup.  Pretty amazing experience – it really felt like a Salvadorian home game.  Then we went to Nashville to celebrate Willie’s 30th birthday.  Willie and Clark met in college and have been friends since – Willie was the best man in our wedding and one of the funniest people I know.  So, Willie in Nashville was well worth the trip.  And I gained a bit more of an appreciation for country music…just a bit.

All that was missing was Richard Simmons

The final trip of the summer was one of the most memorable.  As part of my “professional development,” I attended the DCAC fitness conference in DC the first week of August.  This was as incredible and exhausting three days that lived up to all of my preconceived notions and stereotypes.  There was clearly a run on spray-tan and brightly-colored spandex.  There must also have been some sort of hidden caffeine-injection station that I could not find – the amount of energy that attendees had rivaled a cheerleading competition in Disney – if a date with Justin Bieber was the prize for first place.  Basically we all attended fitness classes for three days straight, starting at 7am and going through 6pm.  By the end of the conference I could no longer sit up on my own because my abs were so sore.  Seriously; to get out of bed I had to roll onto my stomach and use my arms to push myself into a sitting position!  Then I would head back to the conference center with 300 awake, spandex-ed, over-caffeinated people were ecstatic to be doing boot camp for a third time.  Wow.  I did learn a lot, but could not do anything with that knowledge for about 2 weeks since I could barely move.

So, I am not sure if it’s because we completely failed at remaining in Lexington and enjoying ourselves for the majority of the summer or if it’s because I am getting older which apparently causes days to blur together at warp speed or if it’s just because summer here is actually really short (students leave early June and come back August 12).  But, all in all, operation extend-summer was a complete failure.  A serious failure.  A failure comparable to failures like laser-discs or New Coke or Boondock Saints II or the Arsenal 2011-12 season or the Steelers 7-turnover game against the Ravens or Wayne Rooney’s hair transplant or the XFL…well, you get the idea – it just didn’t work.  If anyone has any ideas for us to try next year, please feel free to forward them along.  The search for a longer summer will continue next year…

That being said, when August rolled around I found myself looking forward to the student-athletes coming back for preseason and getting the fall sport seasons underway.  Preseason was capped off with an amazing first weekend of classes – so many home contests, Hall of Fame inductions and the celebration of 25 years of women’s soccer at W&L.  What a weekend!  So I guess it’s safe to say while the summer didn’t feel long, it was long enough…

Where I was during 9/11 and what I felt

September 12, 2011

By: Brandon Uhl
Head Men’s Track & Field Coach

Do you remember where you were and what you felt when this happened?

It was just over 10 years ago that we were attacked by terrorists. I’m often told by my wife that I don’t remember anything. However, I remember 9/11/2001 and the days after very well. I had just graduated from Slippery Rock University. I was living with some friends who were still students. They had all left and went to classes that morning and since I worked at an athletic club at night, I was able to sleep some.

I got up that morning and had my customary bowl of cereal and turned the tv on espn for sportscenter. It wasn’t long after I was watching that the breaking news came that the first twin tower had been hit. I remember thinking, how can that happen? Before long the next tower was hit and no matter what channel you turned to, it was showing images of the twin towers.

Then the news came that the planes were commercial aircrafts and terrorists had taken them over. I immediately felt helpless and angry that this could be done to us. Those feelings grew as news broke that the Pentagon was hit in Washington, D.C., and another plane crashed in Shanksville, PA.

The plane that crashed in Pennsylvania, was only 2.5 hours away from me in Slippery Rock. It made me feel very small. I always felt that we would never be attacked as Americans and how in the world did they get control of those commercial planes without being caught.

Throughout that day and days after, more and more new information came out about the attacks. The twin towers fell to the ground and I was in complete shock because I thought they were indestructible. The story that brought some sense of fight to me was the fact that citizens on the flight 93 plane that went down in Pennsylvania were able to get to the terrorists and save further destruction.

The 9/11 attacks made me realize how much I took for granted. The songs that came out from various singers had many emotions, but the one song that stuck with me was Alan Jackson’s, “Where Were You.” It summed up many of the emotions I was feeling and always seemed to be on when I was traveling to work and back.

Ten years later I travel back and forth to school 40 minutes each day and feel very fortunate that I get to do what I do. My thoughts and prayers go out to all of the people who lost loved ones during the 9/11 attacks. We should all appreciate what we have and never forget what happened to our country that day.

What’s Better? Real or Fantasy?

September 9, 2011

By: Rachel Buck
Sports Information Assistant

Disclaimer: Fantasy football is highly entertaining and gives you the opportunity to pay attention to players and teams that you usually could care less about. On the flip side, it’s highly addictive and teaches fans strategy while also giving them an ego that they could actually run a team.

There is no question that fantasy sports (with a significant emphasis on football) have become a major part of the American sports culture.

During the lockout it seemed like some fans were more upset about not having a fantasy team in the fall than not having an actual NFL team. And now that the season is back, I’m pretty sure there won’t be a single NFL gameday that goes by where you won’t hear the words “that guy is on my fantasy team” multiple times, or have to endure friends, co-workers and the guy one table over at breakfast dissecting the weekend and who they should/shouldn’t have started.

Adding to the level of insanity that this multi-million dollar industry has already created (magazines, strategy websites, etc), the NFL is now directing teams to show live fantasy stats on its scoreboards.

Many questions ran through my mind as I read that article, but the top two follow:

1. Are bragging rights for winning a league (or the humiliation of finishing dead last, even after all of the smack talk and touting of their drafting skills) more important than bragging rights over anyone when your team makes the playoffs or wins a big game?

2. Do people really go to a sporting event and fret more about fantasy numbers than the game (that they paid for) going on in front of them?

If those questions are actually truths, I wish I could understand the rationale.

I realize that some leagues play for money. I know this, and that is a good reason to get excited. But a large number of fans play in leagues that are free. They play against their friends and no money is ever exchanged, just bragging rights. To get excited when your team is on the cusp of losing a game because one of your fantasy players just got six points? Well, like I said, it is a mystery to me how that kind of fan thinks. (And don’t even get me started on people who fret over starting a fantasy player because that individual is lining up on the opposite side of their favorite team and they are afraid of the player having a good game).

So what if I started receiver A instead of receiver B on my fantasy team and Player B had a better game…did my real team still win the game? Yes? Then it doesn’t matter. In my opinion, having my team win on the field will always trump individual fantasy accomplishments.

The biggest thing that bothers me about the NFL and its push to show fantasy stats at games to “replicate the at-home experience in the stadium” is the oxymoronic nature of that statement. Does the NFL really think the only way fans are going to attend games is if they make the stadium experience more like a typical Sunday afternoon on the couch with an HD broadcast and a bowl of pork rinds?

I don’t think the NFL realizes the unique position it has over other leagues…instead of having to fill a stadium for 40+games over a span of seven months like MLB, NHL and NBA, they have to fill eight home games over four months. I’ve always seen football as more of a Mecca experience than other sports, with the limited amount of home games for fans to attend. The economy has hit professional sports, especially in the ticket sales department. However, with the passion that resides in this country for the NFL, well, I don’t think that league will every truly hurt for fan support (or money).

So if I do decided to go to an NFL game, I want to soak in the au jus. I want to have an $8 beer and $5 brat. I want to see the super fans around me with their crazy gear (although I don’t always want to listen to their banter). I want to see the green grass and the players, and see/hear the hits as the teams march up and down the field. That’s a game, and something you can’t experience sitting in the comfort of a recliner, even with the invention of 3-D television.

Some may argue that the NFL is trying to create a “best of both worlds” by giving fans the actual gameday experience in addition to providing real-time fantasy stats. But if the fan’s focus is dedicated toward their phone and the fantasy football world, I don’t think they are really enjoying all the team/stadium has to offer.

Checking my phone every five minutes to see my fantasy team points isn’t going to change the outcome. I’ve gone to games with friends who have spent more time checking Facebook/Twitter/fantasy sports than actually watching the game, and it is often more frustrating than if the team on the field is playing terribly. They keep their eyes on their phone, but then when a big hit/play occurs, they are the first to turn and ask “what happened” and are upset when the arena doesn’t show a replay. You wouldn’t be in this situation if you would just watch the game! Sure, I’ll tweet during games (I’m a big fan of Twitter), but I always tweet during timeouts, play stoppage or intermissions. I don’t want to miss a minute of the action.

If you are one of those fans that are more concerned about your fantasy team than an actual game, please turn in your fan card and game ticket at the gate, I’m sure the team can find someone else who would be more than happy to fill the seat.

Lessons from Spain

September 6, 2011

By: Jane Beall
Assistant Field Hockey Coach

Top of Barcelona Cathedral

I have always been passionate about traveling.  Having taken only Latin in high school, the only place I can really use my second language is probably the Roman Forum, but I still get a kick out of making my way through new places.  Alone or in groups, abroad or domestically, I kind of love it.  When I made the drastic life left-turn into coaching, I thought that my passport would go into retirement, at least for the foreseeable future. However, this summer the opportunity arose to blend work and pleasure in the form of a field hockey camp. Bob Whitcher, the owner of EuroTour, offered me a coaching spot at the SportWays Camp of Excellence in Barcelona, and I seized it with no questions asked, except “when do we leave?”

So, off I went to Barcelona with two other coaches and 42 American teenagers.  We had a day or two to explore the city a little before joining the rest of the camp in Terrazza for eight intense days of hockey.  When we got to Barca, we all strolled down the Ramblas together.  Loosely translated, Las Ramblas means “a crapton of people walking down a street with lots of tourist shops on all sides.”  If you’ve never been, it’s kind of like going through one of those football drills where you try to get through a narrow alley lined with people shoving you with those big blue pads.  Only instead of a football, you’re trying to protect your purse while keeping track of a bunch of curious teens.

Barcelona's beach

Seriously though, Barcelona is fantastic, but to be honest, once we got to Terrazza, I kept forgetting that I was in Spain.  The large majority of the 45-person staff was Dutch, and the campers were from all over Europe.  When I had to take an American player to the hospital during the trip, I kept insisting to the director that I needed a Dutch speaker to go with me to translate before she reminded me that we were, in fact, not in Holland, but Spain, and that one of the Spanish coaches would probably be more helpful.

It’s hard to describe a SportWays experience.  It’s kind of a mix between a rave, a field hockey camp, and a cruise ship.  A rave because we had dance parties constantly (before each meal, including breakfast, and at most evening social events), a field hockey camp (obviously), and a cruise ship because the group is isolated from other humans most of the time, except for two half-day excursions into the city.  However you describe it, my time at SportWays was incredibly precious to me, and I learned so much.  To save you a plane ticket, here are some of the lessons I brought home with me:

1.  Your body doesn’t need as much sleep as you think.  Four hours of shut-eye was a solid night’s sleep at camp for the staff.  I don’t know what environmental factors exist in Holland that have helped the Dutch evolve to the point where they can thrive on nightly catnaps and 900 calories a day (mostly from bread and hagelslag), but their stamina and energy are stunning.  They brought enthusiasm and brio to everything they did, whether it was an 8 AM pre-breakfast dance party, a complicated hockey demo, or the nightly social program.  The lesson I learned here is that when you think you have exhausted all the energy in your body, your mind can tap into stores that you didn’t know you existed.  And when you think those are depleted, you can tap into the energy of those around you and rally.  It takes a little mental training (and maybe implantation of Dutch stem cells – I wonder if my W&L health insurance would cover that) but when your body and mind work together, you can do some pretty cool stuff.

2.  Always play up.  The remark I heard time and time again from the American campers was how much they enjoyed playing against the high level European players.  They liked the clinics and drills, too, but competing along side and against their Dutch, English, and Belgian counterparts is where many felt they improved the most.  Even though I wasn’t a camper, I think the concept of playing up applied to my experience too.  At first I was intimidated running drills beside the European coaches, who have much more playing and instructing experience than I do.  But by working with them, watching them, and asking them questions, I became a better coach.  The concept of “always play up” can really be extrapolated to any activity in which you want to improve.  Seek out someone who will challenge you, make you stand on the tips of your toes and stretch as far as you can – and you will grow as an athlete, student, employee, or person.

3.  Dance!  I’m a pretty shy person and I like to observe a group for a while before joining in.  Not only am I shy, I am an indisputably dorky dancer.  Napoleon Dynamite would clean my clock in a dance-off.  So going to a camp where you were never more than an hour or two away from your next disco with a bunch of strangers brought on waves of heart palpitations.  After a little while though, I realized something.  If everyone else is dancing and having a great time, you look way more stupid just standing there than if you were to break into your best running man or bust out your cabbage patch.  I hope to remember this next time I am in any new, intimidating situation.  Even if literal dancing isn’t appropriate under the circumstances, I won’t be afraid to jump right in with a positive, can-do attitude.

Well, there you have them.  Deep thoughts by Jane Beall.  Now go forth and Roger Rabbit.

Time for another go-round!

September 2, 2011

By: Brian Laubscher
Sports Information Director

So here we are, another athletic season is upon us.  The year opened up with a bang as men’s soccer defeated Bluefield, 4-0, women’s soccer defeated North Carolina Wesleyan, 7-0, field hockey beat Stevenson, 3-2, and women’s cross country won the Hornet Cross Country Challenge.

I hope that many of our followers watched the women’s soccer game online, taking advantage of our new video provider First Team Broadcasting.  If you didn’t, you can always catch tomorrow’s football game against F&M at 1:00 pm.  Hey, it’s free and it’s pretty darn good quality so check it out!

So with the advent of another season upon us, I started to get a little sentimental (contrary to my post from May 27) about each of the last 13 years at W&L.  I think about all those other years that began with so much promise and ended with so many unbelievable accomplishments by our athletes.  Along those lines I had a conversation with Coach Miriello the other day about what an all-star team made up of the football players from his tenure would look like.  Then I started thinking about what mine would look like.  So, in honor of tomorrow’s football opener, I’m going to give you the Brian Laubscher all-time (meaning from my 13 years) football team from W&L.  I hope you enjoy!  Go Generals!

QB – Christian Batcheller ‘00
When I think of the five best athletes from my time at W&L, Christian is the first to come to mind.  He had prototypical size (6-3, 220) and arm strength that will likely never be seen again at W&L.  He also played both pro baseball (draft pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates) and pro football (Cincinnati Arena League team) following his time at W&L.  He still holds the W&L record for career passing yards (6,146), passing touchdowns (42) and total offense (6,383).  Christian was named the W&L Outstanding Senior Male Athlete in 2000 and is a sure bet for induction in the W&L Athletic Hall of Fame soon.

Chris Sullivan

RB – Chris Sullivan ‘03
As a senior, Chris was a finalist for the Gagliardi Award, better known as the Division III equivalent of the Heisman.  He was also named the Virginia State Player of the Year as a senior after leading the country in all-purpose yards (a then-school-record 2,024 – now second) as a junior in 2001. Chris was a “do it all” back who finished his career with a W&L record 5,931 all-purpose yards.  It was later surpassed by Stuart Sitterson in 2008, but Sullivan’s greatness as a running back is why he makes the list.  He still holds the school’s career rushing record with 3,140 career yards and his 204 career points rank third all-time.  Sullivan was named the W&L Outstanding Senior Male Athlete in 2003 and will undoubtedly also find his way into the W&L Athletic Hall of Fame.

Marc Watson

RB – Marc Watson ‘02
Marc was the speediest player I’ve seen on an ODAC football field (reportedly clocked at 4.3 in the 40).  Once he hit the open field, no one was going to catch him.  His 1,325 rushing yards in 2000 are still the most in school history, while his 3,112 career rushing yards are eclipsed only by Sullivan, who was in the same backfield for most of his career!  Watson was named the ODAC Player of the Year in 2000 and he is still W&L’s all-time leading scorer (220) and his 36 touchdowns are also still a record.  I most remember back-to-back games against Hampden-Sydney and Sewanee from his junior season.  He rushed for 281 yards and tallied 382 all-purpose yards against H-SC, then posted 262 rushing yards the next week against Sewanee.  Unreal! Watson shared the W&L Outstanding Senior Male Athlete Award in 2002 and is also a likely W&L Athletic Hall of Famer.

Jack Martin

WR – Jack Martin ‘08
Jack sort of burst on the scene in 2005 with the best season ever by a W&L wide receiver.  He snared 10 passes for 159 yards and three touchdowns in a season-opening win over Alfred and finished the season ranked third in Division III in receiving with 70 catches for a school-record 1,353 yards and 15 touchdowns.  That season, he posted four of the school’s top five single-game receiving efforts in being named a finalist for the Dudley Award, which is presented to the State Player of the Year.  Jack never got close to the numbers he posted as a sophomore in his final two seasons, but he was still a pretty darn good receiver with a combination of size (6-4, 190) and speed.  Jack finished his career with the most receptions (164), receiving yards (2,953) and receiving touchdowns (32) in school history.  He doubled the record for receiving touchdowns (previous record was 16).  Sadly, Jack played at a time when many of the ODAC’s best receivers of all-time were also playing and never earned First Team All-ODAC honors in his career.

Colton Ward

WR – Colton Ward ‘06
Colton was almost like a hybrid back since our offense at the time utilized him as a slot receiver and wingback.  Make no mistake though, he put up numbers, and though diminutive (5-10, 190), he was effective.  Colton twice earned First Team All-ODAC honors, finishing second only to Martin in the W&L records for career receptions (161).  He also had 1,494 receiving yards and 660 yards rushing, and he was a nasty return man, racking up 1,586 kickoff return yards (third all-time).  Colton’s 3,740 all-purpose yards rank fourth all-time.  The lasting image I have of Colton was the 29-yard touchdown reception he posted on a fourth down play with 34 seconds remaining to beat Hampden-Sydney in 2005.  Aside from the fake spike play in 2002, it is the most exciting moment I can recall for the Generals since I arrived in 1998.

TE – Davis White ‘03
The Generals haven’t had a plethora of talented pass-catching tight ends over the years, but had he stayed healthy, Davis White would have put up monster numbers.  White snared 39 passes for 626 yards and six touchdowns as a rookie in 1999 and followed that with 32 catches for 363 yards and four scores in just eight games in 2000.  He only played eight because an absolute cheap shot of a play by a Bridgewater player ended his career two years short.  Quarterback Bobby Littlehale was cheap-shotted out of the same game and never played again either.  It was a dark day and it was a long time before I respected the BC football program again after that afternoon.  But, enough on that, it was 11 years ago!  In four years, I suspect that Davis will move off this list to make room for one of the crazy-talented tight ends that currently dot the Generals’ roster in 2011.

OL – Justin Holton ‘01
Justin had great size (6-4, 280) and he was downright talented.  He blocked for the two-best running backs in school history (Watson & Sullivan) and twice earned First Team All-ODAC honors at tackle.  He was also a pretty good guy and that’s got to count for something too.  I wish there was room on this list for his good buddy Colin Fitzgibbons, but I just can’t make it work for both of them.  They were a great combo, but Holton has the edge.

OL – Greg Kurkis ‘11
What could I possibly say about Greg that I haven’t already said.  The guy started every game during his four years, he was a four-time all-conference selection and he was all-world in the classroom, earning the ODAC Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award twice, along with claiming the Doc Jopson Award as the top scholar-athlete in the ODAC.  He also received an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship.  Aside from the academic honors, Greg was also pretty much a beast on the football field.  Again, he had the prototypical size for a lineman (6-4, 275) and did a great job at whatever position he played (and he played a few before settling on center).  Greg finished his career by being named the W&L Outstanding Senior Male Athlete Award.

Mat Rapoza

OL – Mat Rapoza ‘03
Mat wasn’t your typical Washington and Lee football player.  He had the pleasure of having played against the Generals before having played for them.  Mat played his first two years at Swarthmore, helping lead the Garnet to a 16-6 win over the Generals in 2000, the last football game at the school.  After Swarthmore dropped their program, Rapoza chose to transfer to W&L and earned First Team All-America honors in 2001 and Third Team All-America honors in 2002.  Mat also had good size (6-2, 270) and was a tremendous tackle for his two seasons.  Mat returned to Lexington and currently is an assistant coach at Rockbridge County High School.

OL – Scott Kucinski ‘04
Scott was a little smaller at 6-3, 245, but he was the best lineman on one of the best lines in school history.  Kucinski earned First Team All-ODAC laurels three times and was named the team’s offensive MVP in 2003.  In 2002, the line allowed just 12 sacks in 292 pass attempts.

Hunter Whitfield

OL – Hunter Whitfield ‘07
Hunter played tight end for his first season and a half before converting to guard and earning First Team All-ODAC honors after each of his last two seasons.  He was also the anchor of a tremendous offensive line that allowed just 10 sacks in 358 pass attempts in 2005 and helped lead the Generals to an ODAC title in 2006.  At 6-3, 255, Hunter also had good size for the position.

DE – Liam Murray ‘06
It was a shame that Liam graduated just prior to winning an ODAC Championship with a pretty sick defense in 2006 because he was as talented as anyone across the front for the Generals.  As a senior, he received the Virginia Division II-III Defensive Lineman of the Year Award from the Richmond Touchdown Club.  Despite missing two games with an injury in 2005, he still ranked second on the team with 55 tackles and 3.0 sacks.  A two-time First Team All-ODAC pick, Murray also had 60 tackles and 3.0 sacks as a junior when the Generals’ defense limited opponents to just 67.5 yards rushing per game and allowed just 15.7 points per game.

Brian Becker

DL – Brian Becker ‘04
Becker never really had an eye-popping year, but he was consistent and held down his D-line position for four solid years.  He finished with 168 tackles, including 38.5 tackles for a loss, and 10.0 sacks for his career.  Brian earned All-ODAC honors all four years, three times as a second-teamer and once as an honorable mention selection.  He also received the team’s Falcon Award as a senior.

DE – Matt Cassilly ‘10
Matt’s senior year was probably as good a year as any defensive lineman has ever had with the exception of Robert Hull’s brilliance in the mid-90’s.  He was a finalist for the Dudley Award, which is given to the Division II-III State Player of the Year, in 2009 when he tallied 65 tackles, 20.5 tackles for a loss and 10.0 sacks in posting First Team All-ODAC honors.  That followed a junior season when he posted second team laurels with 62 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions.

OLB – Jeff Bahl ‘02
Hurricane Jigga aka Sewanee’s Poison (because he just killed them) is still one of my favorite players and there are few former players who still continue to support the program the way Jeff has.  Those things aside, he was pretty nasty on the field.  Jeff created chaos and was always around the ball as noted by his uncanny ability to recover fumbles, something he did 15 times over his career.  Bahl played the hybrid DE/LB position and did just about everything, finishing with 291 tackles, 33.5 tackles for a loss, 16.5 sacks and those 15 fumble recoveries.  He was a Second Team All-ODAC pick as a sophomore and was a first team selection each of his final two seasons.

Bryant Fulk

OLB – Bryant Fulk ‘08
For as versatile as Bahl was at the hybrid LB/DE position, Bryant was the best pass rush threat from that spot.  Bryant was arguably the best defensive player on some of the best defenses of my time at W&L.  He was a four-year starter and two-time First Team All-ODAC selection, who finished with 203 tackles, 39.5 tackles for a loss and 21.5 sacks.  His sack total is second all-time behind only Robert Hull.  Fulk was twice named the Richmond Touchdown Club’s Virginia Division II-III Defensive Lineman of the Year.

ILB – Lloyd Wilson ‘05
Lloyd Wilson was a tackling machine in the middle and perhaps the single-best run-stopper that W&L has had in the middle in my time.  I also remember him as the guy who almost single-handedly willed the Generals to their first six-win season in 18 years with an 83-tackle season in 2004.  Wilson finished his career with 280 tackles, 35.5 tackles for a loss and 9.0 sacks.  Despite putting up tremendous numbers throughout, he was only honored on the all-conference team once, garnering first team recognition as a senior.

ILB – Jayson Lipsey ‘01
Some people may debate this choice because he was far from the most talented and athletic linebacker W&L has had, but he made up for it with sheer will and desire.  Jayson earned all-conference honors just once (second team in 1999), but he was a bulldog that I just couldn’t ignore on this team.  His 1999 season was as good as you will find in the W&L archives, totaling 105 tackles in 10 games.  Included in that total is a 25-tackle game in which the Generals defeated Bridgewater 44-38 in an overtime shootout.

Mark Snoddy

CB – Mark Snoddy ‘08
Mark was the Deion Sanders or Darrelle Revis of the ODAC for the better part of four years.  By the end of his career, quarterbacks just stopped throwing in his direction because when they did, he usually picked them off.  Mark was a three-time First Team All-ODAC selection, the 2006 Virginia Player of the Year (Roanoke Times) and the runner-up for the 2006 Dudley Award.  He was the lynchpin of a W&L defense that ranked ninth nationally in pass defense in 2006, intercepting at least one pass in seven of the team’s 11 games.  Snoddy finished that season with nine interceptions and 11 pass breakups as the Generals won the ODAC title.  He finished his career with a school-record 19 interceptions.

Jimmy Gift

CB – Jimmy Gift ‘08
It says a lot when both cornerbacks on this list played all four seasons together, but they were pretty darn good.  When teams avoided throwing at Snoddy, they were forced to throw at Jimmy and he was up to the task.  Gift was a two-time all-conference selection (second team in 2006 and honorable mention in 2007) who tallied 98 tackles, four interceptions and 15 pass breakups over his final two years.  His 67 tackles, three interceptions and 3.5 sacks in 2006 were pretty impressive.

S – Kyle Luby ‘08

Kyle played in the same secondary with Snoddy and Gift for four years and even started all 10 games at cornerback as a rookie in 2004, earning Second Team All-ODAC honors.  He moved to safety as a sophomore, posting honorable mention accolades in 2005 and Second Team All-ODAC honors in 2006.  As a senior in 2007, Kyle recorded a team-best 84 tackles in being named the ODAC Defensive Player of the Year.  Kyle finished his career with 251 tackles, 14.0 tackles for a loss, 4.0 sacks, four interceptions and 18 pass breakups.

S – Will Baker ‘01
The Generals have had some pretty good safeties of late and while I could have gone with Donovan Sawyer or even Jake Pelton in this spot, I went with the sentimental pick and chose Will.  One-third of the fabulous Baker Boys (brothers Brad and Mike also played for the Generals), Will was an active safety who did a little bit of everything for some pretty bad defenses in the late 90’s.  Frankly, they needed him to.  Baker was a three-time all-conference selection who finished his career with 251 tackles, 11 interceptions and 18 pass breakups.

PK – Brad Wiginton ‘02
This was a tough choice between Brad and Ben Long, but I went with Brad because his career percentages were just a bit better than Ben’s.  Plus Wiginton’s first field goal attempt as a rookie was a 42-yarder as time expired to defeat Sewanee, 23-21, in the only home game I have ever missed.  Wiginton was a First Team All-ODAC and Third Team All-America selection as a senior when he hit 12-of-18 field goals and all 26 PAT’s to finish with 62 points (second on the team).  For his career, Brad his 98-of-103 PAT’s (.951) and 23-of-24 (.676) field goals, both of which rank among the top five accuracy totals in W&L history.

P – Vacant
No offense to any of the punters we have had, but we haven’t had a single punter make the all-conference list since I’ve been here.  Might as well just lineup and go for it on fourth down.  If you want a name, I’ll tell you Donnie Banks ‘06 was probably the best we’ve had in my time.

Stuart Sitterson

All-Purpose Back – Stuart Sitterson ‘09
I really couldn’t do this list without finding a way to get Stuart on it.  His numbers are pretty darn good in every area, but he just doesn’t make it at running back.  However, he’s the best return man and his numbers are pretty nasty all the way around.  Stuart ranks first all-time at W&L in career kickoff return yards (1,981) and career kickoff return average (31.4), and he’s tied with Colton Ward for kickoff return touchdowns (3).  His 782 punt return yards are third all-time and he was the First Team All-America return man following his rookie season.  Stuart finished with a school-record 5,931 all-purpose yards and he had a school-record 2,096 all-purpose yards as a senior.  His 2,243 rushing yards are fifth all-time, while his 212 career points and 34 career touchdowns are second all-time to Marc Watson.  Stuart is a likely candidate for the W&L Athletic Hall of Fame.