Sports, University News

Under the radar, small teams find success

Sports Editor
Monday, February 7, 2011

Correction appended.

Ice hockey, football, soccer — these are the sports that students are likely to spend their time watching on a Friday night. But some of Brown’s smallest athletic teams — particularly the women’s ski team, the men’s and women’s golf teams and the swimming and diving team — are proving that bigger is not always better.

“We are one of the most successful teams on campus,” said ski team captain Krista Consiglio ’11. “I don’t think many people realize.”

Last season, the ski team — which currently has nine members — came in third place in their division at nationals. But when Consiglio tells students she is a member of the ski team, the most common response is, “Oh, I didn’t know we have a ski team,” she said.

Men’s golf captain Michael Amato ’11 said many people were also unaware of his team’s existence. And divers Meghan Wenzel ’14 and Jonathan Feldman ’12 said though most students know of the swimming team, they are not aware of the diving component of the sport.

“Most people say, ‘Oh, you swim?’ I’m like, ‘No, I dive,'” Wenzel said. “Lots of people don’t understand. They’re like, ‘Oh, you jump off a board?’ I’m like, ‘No, we do flips and stuff.'”

Though the divers are part of the larger men’s and women’s swimming and diving team, Wenzel and Feldman said they often feel like their own team, since there are only five divers — two men and three women — and they all practice together. They also do not practice with the swimmers on the team, which they said increases the feeling of separation.

But when the swimmers and divers do meet up, Feldman said they are supportive of each other.

“Our points count for the whole meet,” he said. “They respect that we’re just as much a part of the team as they are.”


Not quite co-ed

Like the divers, both the men and women on the ski teams practice together. Though men’s skiing is a club team, Consiglio said it was fun for both teams to practice together.

But she did not always think that way, she said. When she first arrived at Brown, she said she could not believe the women’s varsity team would have to practice with the men’s club team.

“When I was a freshman, I was like, ‘Oh my God, is this for real?'” Consiglio said. However, now she said she realizes that “They’re all just there to have a good time.”

Alex Salter ’12, one of the seven male skiers, said the men enjoy practicing with the women’s team.

“It’s fun to practice with them — you get to see the next level up of skiing,” he said. “They provide helpful pointers to you.”

Unlike the skiers and divers, the men’s and women’s golf teams do not practice together. But women’s golf captain Susan Restrepo ’11 said that all nine of the women are close to each other, while Amato said the same of his seven squad members.

“We’re around each other all the time,” Amato said. “You kind of have to get along just because you’re with each other all the time. We’re lucky because everyone does get along.”


In a galaxy far, far away

For members of these smaller teams, “home” is often far away from campus, making it difficult for students to see the teams compete.

The outdoor facility where the golfers practice is in Barrington, R.I., about twenty minutes away, while their indoor practice facility — whose dome Restrepo said recently collapsed due to snow accumulation — is in Warwick.

For the skiers, the closest mountain ranges are in New Hampshire, more than an hour from campus.

Consiglio said she hope the ski team can set up a “ski weekend” with the Bears’ student fan club, BrowNation, where students could come and ski for the day and then watch the team compete.

“Sometimes we do get spectators,” Consiglio said. “Lots of parents come. It would be a lot more fun if we could have a race closer and more people could actually come.”

Because the new swim facility is still under construction, the divers practice at the Aquatics Bubble, but compete at Seekonk High School in Seekonk, Mass.

 “It’s horrible that the University can’t really come and support us,” Feldman said. “Part of athletics is people coming and cheering you on.”


Two faces of a teammate

For each of these sports, athletes compete against each other individually even though the team’s final score depends on the combined performances of its members.

“When you’re out there, you’re playing so your team will do well, but you are out there on your own,” Restrepo said. “The team aspect is more important off the golf course.”

The individuality of the sport also creates a certain dissonance — on one hand, team members are often close friends, but on the other, they must compete against one another for spots on the team, Restrepo said. “We compete against each other for spots to play when we travel,” she said. “At the same time, it makes us all better.”

For the skiers, the team aspect of the sport was a big change from their high school skiing days at ski academies, Consiglio said. She described high school skiing as highly individualized whereas college skiing is all about doing well as a team.

“If we do well individually, it’s not as satisfying as if your team does well,” she said.

Feldman said that between him and the only other male diver, Dylan Daniels ’14, there is a friendly spirit of competition.

“It’s not like other teams where if you’re tired or hurt, someone can replace you off the bench,” Feldman said. “You have to try hard, you have to be able to overcome what just happened and put it behind you.”

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the members of the swimming and diving team practice in Seekonk, Mass. The swimmers practice at the Aquatics Bubble on campus and compete at Seekonk High School. The Herald regrets the error.