Graduating into NARP-hood
Senior athletes reflect on the end of their sports careers.
For any graduating senior, their waning time at Dartmouth can elicit a myriad of emotions. There’s pride for their accomplishments, regret for the things they wish they did, joy for the memories they shared and sadness for the things they will miss. As they attend final a cappella performances, classes, club meetings and parties, many of these students have one thing on their mind: Cherishing their ‘lasts.’ For athletes, the end of their time at Dartmouth also comes with a first — their first time not competing in a sport that has played an integral role in their lives.
One of the graduating members of the women’s lacrosse team, Becca Wade ’22, has been playing lacrosse since second grade. After hundreds of practices and games, early morning workouts and late-night film sessions, she said the end of her athletic career feels “terribly bittersweet.” For Wade, traditions like Senior Day — a game-day celebration of every senior on the team — serve as moments of happiness in an otherwise wistful ending.
“[Senior Day] was during lacrosse alumni weekend, so all the people we had played with our freshman year and throughout our time at Dartmouth were there,” Wade said. “Our parents also came and we got honored on the field; it just felt like the perfect day.”
For Maddie Nobili ’22, the end of this season marks the culmination of an eight-year commitment to competitive running. As a member of both the track and field and cross country teams, Nobili ran throughout fall, winter and spring seasons, and she described running as an “integral part of [her] identity.”
“Running is something that I have been doing sort of continuously for at least eight years, which is what makes adjusting to life post-competition so daunting,” Nobili said.
While this season marks the end of many athletes’ careers, some seniors plan on using their fifth year of eligibility to continue competing, as all NCAA players received an extra year of college eligibility as a result of missing a year due to COVID-19. One such athlete is tennis player Pierce Widdecombe ’22, who will continue playing tennis for the College of William and Mary while pursuing a master’s degree in accounting.
Like many athletes who are choosing to use their fifth year of eligibility, Widdecombe said that he decided to keep playing to make up for the tennis opportunities he lost out on due to the pandemic.
“With COVID, I did not get the tennis experience that I wanted in college,” Widdecombe said.
On Sunday, April 24, men’s tennis concluded its season after winning 6-1 against Brown University.
“I’m very sad to be done with this part of my tennis career because I really enjoy competing with my teammates, but it was a lot of fun to get a win and then end the season on a high note,” Widdecombe said.
Athletes spend countless hours training — out of love for the sport, but also because of the community they find in their teammates. Outside of retiring from lacrosse itself, Wade commented that leaving the team is going to be extra difficult because of the bonds that she has formed with her peers over the years.
“The atmosphere of the team is just so fun,” Wade said. “Lacrosse is such a ‘bleed green’ sport. We’re such a gritty team, and we’re super loyal to each other.”
Even though Widdecombe will continue competing, he also mentioned that his teammates are what make the sport so meaningful to him.
“The time we spent together off the court, getting meals, studying and even traveling were my favorite parts,” Widdecombe said. “I don’t always remember the match scores, but I remember the stuff that goes with it a lot more.”
Nobili said that she will not only miss her teammates, but also the intimacy of smaller trail runs in the area around Dartmouth, which she described as a combination of “getting to go out and explore the beauty of the Upper Valley and hanging out with my best friends.”
After so many years of training, athletes are bound to have a multitude of happy memories, both on and off the playing field. Most have a hard time choosing just one.
Reflecting on her time spent at Dartmouth, Nobili said that one of her favorite moments was watching the Ivy League Heptagonal Championship during her freshman year. Although she was not competing in the races, she and some of her fellow teammates stayed back at Dartmouth and were able to livestream the event.
“It was a beautiful day, and we were spending a lot of time outside on the Green together. Then, every time one of the races would come up, we would dash inside to watch it,” Nobili said. “It was a great bonding experience.”
For Wade, one of her most cherished memories occurred this season during a match against Columbia University, in which she saved multiple shots in quick succession.
“I just remember, my coach on the sideline was so excited, and after the game, everyone came running up to me,” Wade said. “So, I think part of it was just seeing my teammates be excited for me.”
For many student-athletes, a Dartmouth education and experience consists not only of what they learn in the classroom, but also what they absorb from their teammates, coaches and respective sports. These lessons will be ones they will take with them for the rest of their lives.
“One thing I learned to value was being able to find that work-life balance,” Nobili said. “It becomes really easy to get tied up in your sport and have it affect every aspect of your life. Over my four years I’ve found that I’m happiest and actually perform best when I act like a normal college student and get my social time in without letting running obscure every action I take.”
With athletes comprising approximately 25% of the student population, the graduation of senior athletes is not only felt by their teammates, but by the entire Dartmouth community. As spring sports come to a close, both teammates and fans of senior athletes alike are excited to see what else these players do after their time on the court, field and track.