Archive for February, 2012

The Conway Cup

February 28, 2012

By: Shana Levine
Associate Athletic Director

About a week ago I had the privilege of being a part of the first annual Conway Cup.  The tournament was the brainchild of Stephen Ross, current academic advisor and former men’s soccer coach at VMI.  The idea was a brilliant one.  All of us wanted to do something other than sit around and jumped at the call for help.  Stephen recruited and coached our friend Tony Conway at VMI in the late 1990’s.  Stephen brought Tony all the way from Scotland to VMI and then Tony met Amanda, who convinced him to stay in Lexington – and I am glad he did.  Tony now works in admissions at W&L and is a regular on the Lexington “soccer scene.”  Of course, since it’s Lexington, our “soccer scene” is not very large scene.  I have known Tony for about 5 years and he is one of my favorite people on that soccer scene – he’s very competitive, yet hilarious and sarcastic while playing.  Tony and Amanda have two adorable daughters – Cora and Louise.  Tony is such a great father – its so fun to watch him with his children.  So, now to the impetus for starting the tournament.

This past fall, Tony told those of us that play soccer with him that he had just been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS.  As you can imagine, the news was shocking, but then the weight of what he was saying fully set in.  There is so little known about ALS, and then for someone so young to be diagnosed, just means that even less is known.  Tony has taken the diagnosis in stride and is handling it with more strength and positivity than I could even imagine.  He is an inspiration just to be around.  One of Tony’s quotes that still makes me laugh – after a trip up to his ALS doctor at Hopkins, Tony noted, “how amazing is this – the top ALS specialist in the US is in-network! How lucky is that!”  It still amazes me that he is able to see the humor and good in the world.  I do not think that I would be able to see myself as “lucky” in the same circumstances as Tony.

So, organizing a soccer tournament to help Tony and his family was a no-brainer.  And naming it the Conway Cup was the easiest decision we made.  And we wanted to get the first one up and running quickly so we would have a great chance for Tony to be able to fully contribute and potentially participate on the field.  So, we set a date for February 18th and set to work of pulling a tournament together in less than 2 months.  We were hopeful that enough teams would register to create a viable tournament…and we were shocked…32 teams registered for the tournament.  The gift of the tournament was the weather – not sure who we need to thank for the 60 degree day, but it was amazing in the middle of February.

We hosted the event at Washington and Lee’s two turf fields.  It’s a great setup to run the tournament from the Wilson Field plaza and it was great timing in that both lacrosse teams were away and it was the first weekend of Feb break on campus.  So, most folks were down in New Orleans celebrating Mardi Gras…and the fields were available.  It was a 6v6 tournament, so we were able to run two games at a time on each turf field.

Tony in action

The best moment of the tournament was getting to see Tony play.  He took to the field with the adult premier team that Erin Hutchinson put together – it was a team comprised of admissions’ office staffers.  Tony jumped in with the team and scored a hat-trick (3 goals) in the span of about 15 minutes.  It was truly awesome to see.

There were so many people that came together and made the Conway Cup a success – we had great sponsors in the community, volunteers, folks that donated food and services.  There was a committee of folks that worked out the details, but the Conway Cup would not have been such a success without the leadership of the current VMI soccer players and, Richie Rose, current VMI men’s soccer coach.  The teams were like the rest of us, anxious to help in some way.  They did all the setup, ran errands, the concession stands, ran the clock, etc. – everything that a tournament needs to run well.  We also had a good number of VMI cadets working off penalty tours – and they were also amazing – they did their jobs with the same energy and spirit of those that know Tony.  All of this generosity allowed almost all of the money we brought in to go towards Tony’s medical expenses with any additional funds to go towards helping his family; specifically his girls go to college.   All in all, we were able to raise about $13,000 for Tony and his family.

Tony and the Conway Cups

While it was not the best reason to start a tournament, it was a wonderful to have a tournament.  Everyone gathering together for the tournament showed incredible support and love that we all have for Tony and his family – and that is a great reason to gather together around the passion of Tony’s life, soccer.

For more information about Tony and his battle with ALS:  www.dontshrink.com

For more information on the Conway Cup www.conwaycup.com – and stay tuned for next year’s cup!

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The Season

February 25, 2012

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

It’s hard to believe how fast our indoor track & field season has gone. It seems like just a week ago we were beginning our fall training and now in a few days we have our indoor conference championship. Like they say, “time flies when you’re having fun”.

During this indoor season we’ve had our fair share of injuries that have kept me on my toes. I believe we had 4 or 5 individual training plans going for guys who were on the mend for various issues. The more I coach, the more I realize that keeping the athletes happy and healthy is more than half the battle.

As coaches we manage people, as much as we manage the techniques or strategies of the sport. That is what I personally enjoy about coaching. It’s definitely not monotonous whatsoever.  We spend a lot of time training throughout the year in the sport of track and field. We start practicing in October and go until end of April into May for some.

I give our men a lot of credit for making the sacrifices to be a college track and field student-athlete. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it all when you achieve your ultimate goals. This Friday will end one segment of the season for most and begin another in the outdoor season. We will get to have our one and only home meet of the year that will allow our men to have some home track& field advantage and their friends there to cheer them on. It always seems to bring out the best in them.

The season is like a roller coaster, with all the ups and downs and twists and turns. However, when the ride is over, you get off of it wanting more. The sport of track & field is a test of your individual drive and team spirit, along with the commitment to being your best, even if it’s not the best.

Speaking Syracuse

February 22, 2012

By: Brittani Sahm
Sports Information Assistant

With the ODAC Tournament beginning this week for basketball, and March Madness right around the corner, I feel like this would be a great opportunity to talk about my favorite collegiate sports team, Syracuse University. 🙂

The Dome!

Just in case you forgot, I grew up about 20 minutes outside the city of Syracuse. I didn’t travel to the city a lot, but I did make sure to take the occasional trip to the “Dome” as us natives call it. From what I remember that name is short for Carrier Dome, but I honestly have no idea what the full name is…

Anyway, the men’s basketball team is having their best season in the history of the program, losing just one lousy game to a deserving Notre Dame. I was disappointed and probably said a few too many profanities at the TV that night, but the team has bounced back and things are looking good once again.

Bounced back may not be appropriate, as they had to win Sunday’s game against Rutgers in the final minute. I also was not happy about that. I guess I’m taking the Jim Boeheim approach to coaching the team through the year: Tell them they suck after every game. It must be working, I mean SU is first in the Big East and second in the nation. My kicking and screaming at the TV and computer must really boost their morale, even while I’m 500 miles away.

The team may have the best record in all of Division I, but their performances on the court really aren’t supportive of this fact. First of all, any fan of basketball can see they cannot rebound to save their lives. The huge Brazilian, Fab Melo, can’t do everything on the defensive end. Melo is already one of the best blockers in the country and scares the life out of people. I firmly believe the major reason SU lost to Notre Dame was the fact that Melo was not there to grab the ball, or even swat it out of bounds. Give the guy some credit, you know you wouldn’t want to try to score on him.

Brandon Triche

Speaking of guys on the team, I’m telling everyone to watch junior guard Brandon Triche. Not only is he my favorite player, born and raised right in Central NY, he has a beautiful jump shot. I’m probably biased of course. Either way, keep an eye on him next time you decide to watch some good basketball.

And even though we may be having the best year record-wise, Syracuse has not been able to play well during March Madness in the last few years. Sports fans alike know the feeling of being highly disappointed in the postseason after your team had a phenomenal regular season. I am also a fan of the Green Bay Packers and the Miami Heat so I know what heartache that brings. I still shed a tear or two when someone mentions football. It’s just too painful.

I’m hoping this year will be the year it all changes though, that SU can once again take home that precious trophy. They should do it before they leave the Big East anyway. Even better, they could win the Big East Tournament AND become National Champions. Now that would be the perfect way to leave their mark on one of the most talented basketball conferences in the country. Something has to keep these memories alive before I have to suffer through Duke and UNC games during the 2013-14 season…

A recent read

February 17, 2012

By: Jane Beall
Assistant Field Hockey Coach

The ability to pursue many interests is a hallmark of going to school at Washington and Lee. Fortunately, it’s also a hallmark of working here. As someone who has diagnosed herself with a form of life-ADD, I appreciate the opportunity to explore hobbies beyond the sidelines. One such hobby of mine is reading. I credit this love of books to my family – my parents were diligent about reading to my sister and me as children and allowing us to read to them when we got old enough. God bless them for sitting through night after night of listening to a six-year-old with a wicked speech impediment try to pronounce words from Dr. Seuss. My interest in reading grew as I did, mainly because my sister preferred books to my company, and I wanted to see what the fuss was about. I went on to major in English in college, where my professors fostered and expanded this interest, and I continued to develop my taste in books.

There is a line in the book I read on the way home from a recruiting showcase this weekend that seemed to apply well to the very book that featured it.  The quotation is from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and it is: “Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book. And then there are books…so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like betrayal.” For me, The Fault in Our Stars falls somewhere in between. Reading it, it felt precious like a secret, but it’s a secret too good not to whisper to a few trusted friends.

It’s not necessarily a recommendation, because I think you need to know a person to recommend something to him. The Fault in Our Stars is however a book that punched me in the gut, in a totally good way. It made me hold my breath and not realize I was doing it until the end of a page. Some of it is wry and funny, and some of it is sad, but the saddest part was running out of pages to read.  Technically classified a young adult book, there is very little that is juvenile about this one. The narrator, 16 year-old Hazel, is a precocious cancer patient who falls in love with Augustus, a survivor she meets in a cancer support group, over a fictitious novel, An Imperial AfflictionThe Fault in Our Stars deals with mature and timeless themes, like love, grief, and frustrated dreams, while chronicling their time together. You fall in love with Hazel and Augustus as they fall in love with each other, and even though by the end you can’t stop crying, you just don’t want the book to be over. The writing is fantastic and Green doesn’t pander with simplistic writing – each sentence feels like a craft, something thoughtfully built by hand.  Green expects a lot from his audience and in return, he rewards the reader – at least this one – with a very satisfying and moving experience.

The year that wasn’t

February 14, 2012

By: Brian Laubscher
Sports Information Director

Recently, as I was watching Villanova’s men’s basketball team get pounded by Louisville and Pittsburgh and nearly lose to a Providence team that carried a 2-9 Big East record into the game, I began to think about just how miserable my sporting year has been.

I don’t typically root for the teams that you would consider perennial National Championship or World Championship contenders (aka, Duke, North Carolina, NY Yankees, New England Patriots, you get the picture), but my teams are usually fair to a little better than fair and I’ve gotten accustomed to seeing them participate in top bowl games, the NCAA Tournament, NFL playoffs and MLB playoffs.

The joy of seeing this shot send Villanova to the Final Four seems so far away

Luckily Villanova came back from 19 points down in the second half to win on a layup with 24 seconds left.  As my wife excitedly asked “aren’t you glad you watched?”, I grunted yes and my thoughts turned to “how could they be this awful”.  With eight players ranked in the Top 150 of their respective recruiting classes and three McDonald’s All-Americans on the roster, Villanova is among the worst, good basketball teams I have ever seen.  It just got me thinking about how miserable this year in sports has been.

Things seemed great when the Phillies jumped out to a sizeable lead in the NL East by the mid-summer classic and, when the NFL lockout ended, the Eagles were seemingly signing every big free agent on the market and were the summer pick for the Super Bowl – so much so that my wife bought a 6-month sleeper for our unborn child with the intention that it would fit about the time we watched the Eagles in the Super Bowl.

The Phils still looked like a near sure thing for their second World Series title in four seasons in early September, but once the NFL season began, it was apparent right from the start that things were horribly wrong with the Eagles’ “Dream Team”.  I contend it all started to go bad when they signed Vince Young and he proclaimed them as such.  Freakin’ idiot.  Let’s just not even go there.

Alas, I still held hope for the Birds after a mediocre 31-13 win over the St. Louis Rams (who finished 2-14) to start the season.  The next Sunday everything changed.  My son Parker was born, but it marked the beginning of the end for the Eagles and just about everything sports related for me.  Not only did W&L suffer its first football loss that weekend, but the Eagles dropped a 35-31 decision to Atlanta, a game that I watched despite bleary vision associated with 30+ hours of sleep deprivation while my wife labored.  That night was the first of four straight losses by the Eagles that left me so beleaguered that I refused to let my son wear his Eagles jersey that I had only dreamed of being able to buy him for so many years.  I believe it was a 24-23 loss to San Francisco after leading 23-3 in the second half that sealed the deal.  I refused to let him wear his DJax jersey again until a Christmas Eve win over the Cowboys.

Not only did the Phils lose to the Cards in the NLDS, but slugger Ryan Howard blew his achillies making the final out

In the same weekend when then Eagles were completing the four-game losing streak with a putrid 31-24 loss in Buffalo, the Phillies crumbled to the St. Louis Cardinals in game five of the NLDS.  Though most experts thought the Phils were unbeatable with the bevvy of Hall of Fame-caliber arms, the Cards won a 1-0 pitching dual to advance to the NLCS en route to winning the World Series.  It was an epic blow to what appeared to be a great season.

As October drew to a close, the Eagles were still struggling at 3-4, but a dominating 34-7 win over the Cowboys left me hopeful for the future.  My beloved Penn State Nittany Lions defeated Illinois that same weekend to improve to 8-1 and give legendary Coach Joe Paterno his 409th career win as he passed Eddie Robinson for the most wins in Division I history.  Less than a week later, he would be fired amidst a scandal and PSU would limp home with a 1-3 record that included a humiliating 30-14 loss to Houston in the TicketCity Bowl.  As if this wasn’t enough, the very week that Paterno was fired, the Generals’ football team fell to Hampden-Sydney in the ODAC title game and the W&L volleyball team dropped a 5-set match to Randolph-Macon for the ODAC crown.  It marked my first fall at W&L without an ODAC title.

In December, the Eagles fell one game short of the playoffs after blowing five games where they led in the fourth quarter.  If only they had held on in one of those games, the Eagles and not the Super Bowl Champion Giants, would have been in the playoffs as NFC East Champions.

I stil can't believe he went so quickly

Just about the time it was looking like Villanova was going to miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time in seven years, Paterno succumbed to cancer a mere 74 days after being fired.  It was a sad day and I will admit shedding a tear or two upon learning of his death.  Just a tragic situation in a valley that was once known for happiness.

If not for the birth of my son, this may have been the year that killed me.  Fortunately, I’ve been less focused on my favorite teams and all the things that mean so much more to me now.  I still follow my teams, but fortunately I don’t live or die with the results as I once did.  There’s also good news to report.  On Sunday the W&L women’s swimming team claimed the Generals’ first conference title of the year and three sports are picked to win the ODAC crown this spring.  It’s time to put this year back on the calendar!

Footnote
(I despise the NBA and have no interest in the NHL so that is why pro basketball and hockey are omitted from this piece).

Looking Back

February 10, 2012

By: Rich Campbell ’03
Former Sports Information Student Assistant
Guest Blogger

I recently reviewed my resume while helping a friend update hers, and it hit me how influential my experiences with Washington and Lee athletics continue to be almost nine years after I graduated. (Nine years? Ugh.)

Most fall Sundays are spent with a view like this one from New York

Every step on the path to my current job – I’m the Washington Times’ Redskins beat writer – has been possible because of evenings I spent at the Warner Center and afternoons in the old Wilson Field press box or at the Liberty Hall Fields.

Before I even arrived in Lexington in the fall of 1999, I contacted Brian Laubscher in the sports information office to inquire about opportunities to gain work experience. I knew I wanted to pursue a career in sports, and W&L offered several ways to pursue that. That W&L competes in Division III didn’t matter; in fact, I believe that makes the opportunities for students more accessible.

Brian welcomed my help, and I’ll always be grateful for that. I came to school with some high school experience in William & Mary’s sports info department, and Brian put me to work in ways that nurtured professionalism, responsibility and media skills. I helped his interns and him keep stats, write and edit news releases and with other elements of hectic life in the sports info department.

As a result, I knew the Generals sports landscape when joined The Trident as a sports reporter during my junior year. I began working the women’s tennis beat knowing that team was a national contender. And when I became sports editor the following year, my foundation of knowledge was such that I could produce quality work I was confident in presenting to employers.

When I reflect on how W&L athletics have shaped my life – to say nothing of the fulfilling friendships that endure to this day – I would encourage any student to take the initiative to get involved on campus.

It doesn’t have to be sports-related, of course. There’s music, science, drama, business, etc. A relatively small college community such as W&L provides students accessible opportunities to build lasting work and life experiences. Sometimes there’s a sacrifice involved – I never attended a football tailgate during my four years – but the benefits are immeasurable.

The view from Jerry World, the Cowboys $1.3 billion stadium

And I’d challenge all faculty and staff to emulate how Brian welcomed me and pushed me. W&L is overflowing with talented young men and women who possess potential for great things. Help draw it out of them.

I was in Dallas last September to cover the Redskins’ Monday night game against the Cowboys. Cowboys Stadium, all $1.3 billion of it, was the center of the American sports universe that night. As I walked up to the stadium, I marveled at my place there. I thought: “This is a long way from Bridgewater-W&L at Wilson Field.” But I wouldn’t have been there without that.

You can follow Rich on Twitter at @Rich_Campbell or read his Redskins Blog at http://www.washingtontimes.com/blog/redskins-watch/

Traveling

February 7, 2012

By: Rachel Wheeler
Assistant Athletic Trainer

My view of the Grand Canyon from the plane

I have to say this really is one of my favorite parts about my job. The ability to travel to different places, whether in state, out of state, or abroad, is fantastic.  The opportunity to see and experience new places and cultures has always been a passion of mine.  I would love to be able to work overseas as an athletic trainer, or “physio” as other countries call them, but there’s a lot of planning to be done before that can happen.  In the meantime I am perfectly happy settling for excursions with my teams, and this winter gave me a great opportunity to do just that.

Well I’m going to throw this out there first; I’ve never been west of Minnesota. And by west of Minnesota I mean the only “western” states I’ve been to are Ohio, Michigan, and Minnesota. I’ve been to Europe twice and Africa once but haven’t managed to get to the Midwest or West Coast of my native country!

The strip was everything i expected

Our wrestling team set its sights on Las Vegas this year for the Desert Duals hosted at the Flamingo Hotel.  We flew out of DC on a redeye Saturday morning which was great considering by the time we got to west coast time it was still 9:30am.  The bad part of this was my decision to pull my first all nighter since college then leave for DC at midnight (by car) and get to the airport by 3:30am to fly out at 5:30am.  In my head I was going to sleep on the plane ride and be rested and ready to go once we landed in Nevada…that didn’t work out so well. I ended up sleeping for about 45 minutes total and had to consume an absurd amount of caffeine to keep my eyes open come mid afternoon. I think I finally adjusted to the time change the morning we came back! Regardless of my internal clock being off, it was my first trip to Sin City so I was excited to see the strip in person. The hotels were just as gaudy and fantastic as I’d hoped, and the people-watching was phenomenal! I even tried my hand at gambling and found out fast that 3 card Poker is NOT my game. I did a bit better at blackjack but still ended up in the red for the weekend. Maybe I’ll have better luck next time! All in all it was a wonderful experience and I am still so happy that I am finally able to say I’ve been out west.

My second trip this year was down to Miami, Florida with the men’s and women’s swimming teams. I was fortunate enough to go with them on last year’s training trip to Jacksonville, but I have to say Miami in late December/early January sounds much more appealing! No offense to the city of Jacksonville, but the difference between 30-50 degrees and rainy versus 80 degrees and sunny when you’re at an outdoor pool most of the day is exponential! Needless to say I had high expectations for Miami’s weather and fun potential.

Ahhhh Miami. How I love thee.

Our hotel was in Bal Harbour in northern Miami Beach and right on the ocean. I really think there is nothing better than waking up and falling asleep to the sound of the waves crashing on the beach. It immediately makes me think of vacations, relaxation, paradise, and warm weather! We spent a lot of our days at the pool back on the mainland, but we had a few hours in between practices each day for free time. So basically it was get off the bus, shove some food in your mouth for lunch quickly, and book it out to the beach to catch some early afternoon sun. I even ventured in the ocean most days which was chilly but refreshing.  We took a trip as a team down to South Beach on New Years Eve day to spend some time shopping, exploring and eating great food. We also found a way to get tickets to a Miami Heat game on New Year’s Day.  Both evenings were a ton of fun and a wonderful chance to see some of what Miami had to offer away from our hotel. I know I definitely could have stayed a few more days down there basking in the sun!

It’s these kinds of opportunities that make working in athletics such an enjoyable aspect of life. Both trips exposed me to something new and different that I wouldn’t have gotten to experience back home!

P.s. The next team going on a trip anywhere tropical, warm or on a beach, I’m calling first dibs on being the athletic trainer to travel with you!!!

Women in Sport Conference

February 1, 2012

By: Shana Levine
Associate Athletic Director

This past fall I had the privilege to attend the Girls and Women in Sport Conference hosted by the University of Minnesota’s Tucker Center (http://www.cehd.umn.edu/tuckercenter/).  I had never been to the University of Minnesota, so it was a really cool (literally – in November) experience.

This conference was a celebration of the progress women have made in the fields of sport and activity, as well as identifying issues on the horizon and how we can work for change in those areas – very inspiring.  I was hoping to learn about the new and upcoming research in the field to help me in my Women in Sport spring term course.  And the conference did not disappoint.  It was basically a who’s who of scholars in the field – including Don Sabo, Judy Sweet, Michael Messier and Mary Jo Kane.

The hospitality area at TCF Bank Stadium

One of the coolest pieces of the conference was the location as we were set up in the hospitality area of the University of Minnesota football stadium, TCF Bank Stadium.  We all had a great appreciation of the irony of the physical space we were in – we were hosting a women in sport conference in a space traditionally only used by males for sport, a football stadium.

I met great folks and learned a ton.  Among one of the more entertaining facts that we learned – first known use of a protective cup 1874 (cricket) was more than 50 years before the first known use of a hard helmet. Hmmmm…  It really makes you realize what body part was perceived as more valuable and worth protecting!

So, I am reflecting on this conference as we are starting spring term registration today and I am working on my syllabus for this year.  I hope to bring in two fantastic guest speakers – one who was coming of age in high school and college at the time of title IX and received one of the first women’s athletics scholarships at Old Dominion.  She is now an athletic director at a school in our conference and she is great.  The other is a fellow W&L alum, Austin Calhoun.  She is actually very close to getting her Ph.D. from the Tucker Center and she is going to come and talk about media portrayal of female athletes.  It’s official, I am a huge nerd, because I am getting really excited just thinking about all the fun stuff we are going to do and learn this spring.

It’s amazing how surrounding yourself with people who share the same passions can be so energizing and invigorating!  Always a great reminder when you are in need of a little energy to get to work on updating that syllabus. 🙂