For student athletes, there is life after Dartmouth

by Elliot Olshansky | 6/9/02 5:00am

Some of them played in front of thousands of fans, while others toiled in relative obscurity. Some won league and conference championships and represented Dartmouth on the national stage, while others played on teams that struggled to succeed. But competition has shaped the college career of every Dartmouth athlete.

For many Dartmouth athletes, sports play an important role in the Dartmouth experience right from the beginning, as one's teammates often play an important role in his or her social life.

"Fencing gave me a group of people that I knew right off the bat," said Chris Bowen '02, a four-year member of Dartmouth's fencing club.

"As soon as you go to a meet," Bowen said, "you're one of 'the people,' as opposed to other organizations, like a Rockefeller Center organization, for example, where it seems you have to be there for a year before you're taken seriously."

For Eric Lerch '02, a linebacker on the Big Green football team, the football experience itself creates an instant bond among teammates.

"We have similar schedules," Lerch said, "and need to blow off steam or celebrate at the exact same times."

In between blowing off steam, celebrating and of course practicing and competing, there's the academic side of Dartmouth life to attend to, and the influence of athletics can be felt there, too.

For Kim McCullough '02, a biology major and co-captain of Dartmouth's women's ice hockey team, athletics made scheduling difficult, since she was often faced with conflicts between lab sessions and team practices.

"Every athlete has some kind of work," McCullough said, "whether it's six books to read in a weekend or a lab to write up."

The combination of work and athletics requires Dartmouth athletes to manage their time efficiently and create a balance between class work, athletics and other activities. For some athletes, including McCullough, the presence of athletic commitments requires discipline.

"I knew coming in that time management was one of my better skills, and that was helpful," she said.

For others, like swimmer Peter Augello '02, athletic commitments provide discipline, since "having a fixed schedule focuses you on getting things done during the day," he said.

When it came to getting things done in competition, the graduating Dartmouth athletes have mixed feelings about the support they received from the College. Vedad Osmanovic '02, a co-captain of the men's basketball team this past season, said, "the coaches did a good job getting sponsors [for the team], especially this year with Nike. Before that, we played in Converse, and those were good shoes too. We've always had nice gear, though."

Other athletes contacted by the Dartmouth expressed varying degrees of happiness with their support from the College. Augello said ers pursuing diverse careers off the ice and lack the unity of a college team. McCullough described women's hockey as a sport growing by leaps and bounds -- a change she wants to remain in the sport long enough to experience.

For those who will not continue their sports in a professional or semi-pro career, athletics has helped build confidence and character, they said.

For Augello, "swimming is really great, because you practice day in and day out towards a goal, and the whole point is to keep pushing and make yourself better. Hopefully, I'll be able to apply that outside of the sport."

Bowen believes that fencing has kept him focused on his goal of going on to law school, since he might have pursued a different career path had he devoted more time to other extra-curricular activities.

For Lerch, playing football during a troubled period for the team has provided confidence.

"I think that in the particular case of the graduating senior football players, the rough seasons have helped us to realize that we can withstand almost any hardship in life thanks to our experiences," he said.

So if they had their four years at Dartmouth to do over again, would the athletes of the class of 2002 still choose to play their sports? From the athletes contacted by The Dartmouth, the answer is a resounding "yes."

"When you love football and think your teammates are great, how could you not do it over again?" asked Matt DeLellis '02, one of the most prolific receivers in Dartmouth history with 100 catches for 1,250 yards.

"If I had to do it all over again -- the running tests, the lifting tests, the marathon practices and long road trips -- I would do it in a heartbeat," Cuneo said.

Athletes are often more than willing to pay the price their sports exact.

"I have one kneecap missing 30 percent of its cartilage, two bum ankles that twist constantly, and a shoulder jolted out of the socket, but it was a fair price," Lerch said. "I could not imagine my life without the friends and experiences I had because of football."