Senior student-athletes reflect on their Dartmouth careers

by Jonathan Katzman | 6/10/17 12:05am

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Ben Kepley ’17 started on the football team for four years, collecting two second team All-Ivy awards.

Source: Courtesy of Ben Kepley

This article is featured in the 2017 Commencement & Reunions Issue.

Some say that college is a time to study passions, grow as an individual, goof off with friends and party. Ask a Dartmouth student-athlete about that statement, and you might get a different answer. Yes, they must immerse themselves in the rigorous curriculum of an Ivy League institution. There might also be some time to have a social life. In short, they are full-time students and a whole lot more.

Many Dartmouth student-athletes wake up at the crack of dawn each term for workouts when most people have been asleep for only a few hours. They routinely hustle between class and review sessions as well as practice and team commitments. There is also little time to begin homework until late in the evening following practice, dinner and film sessions.

But if you were to ask the average student-athlete if his or her experience was worth the toil and pain, you would be greeted with a resounding, “Absolutely.” Student-athletes rarely measure their careers in wins and losses or even individual records. Instead, careers are measured by the experiences they have shared with their teammates and how much they have grown off the field.

Just ask two-time second team All-Ivy punter Ben Kepley ’17, a four-year starter for Dartmouth’s football program.

“Being a student-athlete at Dartmouth has been an incredible experience for me,” Kepley said. “It has taught me the value of hard work and dedication as well as how to budget my time effectively. More importantly, perhaps, is that playing football here allowed me to meet some amazing people with whom I know I will be lifelong friends.”

Baseball player Ben Socher ’17 shares a similar view. Being a student-athlete at Dartmouth, according to Socher, is an experience that requires effort and dedication. Embracing the grind, however, is the gateway to a collegiate experience that is sure to be rewarding in many ways. It is also an experience and something that numerous Dartmouth student-athletes insist non-varsity athletes cannot comprehend nor sympathize with.

“Although having to balance schoolwork and baseball has been difficult, I wouldn’t change a thing,” Socher said. “Most students don’t understand what it’s like to have running at 5:45 a.m. or have practice in Leverone [Field House] until 10 p.m. and then need to go to class or finish a problem set afterwards, but the teammates are what make every second of it worthwhile.”

An engineering major modified with economics Socher is no stranger to academic rigor. Add multiple 5:30 a.m. alarms each week and four hours of athletic commitments after class to your daily schedule, and you will only understand part of what Socher commits to each term. While some student-athletes are known to hang up their cleats because the daily workouts and practices are too much to handle with an Ivy League workload, Socher insists that such a thought has never come close to entering his mind. The student-athlete experience just means too much.

For women’s tennis co-captain Jacqueline Crawford ’17, college tennis was all about embracing team culture. Having entered Dartmouth with experience in international competition and a professional ranking, Crawford insists that tennis before college was always about her individual performance. It was a foreign yet refreshing change.

“I came from an environment in which you needed to win your match, but in college, you can lose your match yet still be part of a winning effort,” Crawford said. “My coaches really fostered my development as a team player and playing for the better of my teammates. Being a part of a such close team comes with both fun and memorable moments.”

Members of Dartmouth’s Class of 2017 will leave Hanover with their share of memories and opinions about what makes the College so special. Considering how much time and effort student-athletes dedicate to their craft, it is likely that some of their finest memories include a buzzer beater for the win or a walk-off in the bottom of the ninth. You will also hear stories about teammates and the people who made the journey memorable.

“My teammates have become some of my closest friends on this campus and will continue to be some of my closest friends for the rest of my life,” Socher said. “Being a student-athlete at Dartmouth has taught me that not everything in life is going to go your way and life is not going to be perfect, but as long as you surround yourself with good friends, you’ll end up just fine.”