Attending two theme semester events – The Boxing Girls of Kabul, and Women in University Sports – left me disappointed with my athletic prowess and hungry for No Thai. Being the broke college student I am, I settled for boxed macaroni, hoping to find a blog topic in my SpongeBob shaped noodles. Instead, all I found was that, according to Kraft, I am a family of 4. And I was still really salty that student athletes got free clothes and mopeds….
There have historically been, and still are, a lot of barriers to current women entering sports at U of M which begs the question: why play? Yes, there are practices every day, not as many scholarships as male athletics, games every weekend and lower funding and support, but women sports teams still draw a fair amount of dedicated players. But why, when the work is so great and the benefits so small? This actually was the focus of my once a week existential crisis. (last week’s was about the social conventions of hair and hairstyles) And, in an attempt to anticipate the questions running through your head, no, I am not a student athlete. Far from it actually: I avoid healthy food like the plague and the only “running” I participate in is of the “late” variety. However, I participate in a demanding university team: the Forensics Speech and Debate team, which receives very little funding, is completely student ran, travels almost every weekend by way of team members’ cars, and practices quite a bit each week (granted most is self directed practice). We receive no scholarships of any kind for this, so many of our members work an additional 15 – 20+ hours a week in addition to full course loads and other student orgs. We do, however, consistently send members to the national collegiate championship, receiving 8th overall in our division last year. So I feel like I can (very slightly) empathize with student athletes who are trying to balance school, social life, their team, and enough to sleep to stave off death by exhaustion. So why are student athletes so willing to sacrifice sleep, sanity, and precious Netflix time to play a sport that, in the case of women athletes, often unappreciated? Furthering the significance of this question was the documentary, Boxing Girls of Kabul, which follows Afghan women as they train for the 2012 Olympics, overcoming adversity and even risking their own lives for a sport they love.
BAZINGA, Huizinga might have my answer. In Homo Ludens, he writes that play isn’t just fun and games. “You can deny seriousness, but not play,” he says, arguing that play grants intrinsic value and creates important rituals and culture within our society. Basically we need play for the intrinsic satisfaction it gives us. Athletes play sports, perhaps partially for the monetary and moped benefits, but also because they love the game. Something with very little effect or impact on the rest of their life (College education, future career, etc) becomes something so important and vital because it’s how they play, and play is necessary. That’s why athletes bust butt everyday- the same reason I endure the twice-monthly breakdown that comes with devoting myself to forensics. It’s fun, it’s a game, it’s play. And play is necessary…
But a free moped doesn’t hurt either!
Not Pictured: The cut-throat competitiveness and sheer athleticism required to deliver a speech at 7:30am.