Devin Gardner: A “CLASS” Act

If indeed a picture is worth a thousand words, the following image may sufficiently replace all of the positive descriptors and superlatives that come to mind when describing University of Michigan football player Devin Gardner. Words like gifted, dedicated, resilient, humble, and genuine to start with.

Devin Gardner consoling an injured J.T Barrett

When Buckeye quarterback J.T. Barrett suffered a fractured ankle during the 4th quarter of the November 29th Michigan/OSU game, Devin Gardner quickly came to the side of the injured rival. As a University of Michigan student and fan, I could not have been prouder to be represented by a student-athlete who shows such sportsmanship. Few who know anything about Gardner were surprised by his actions and even die-hard OSU fans praised his empathetic reaction. Dave Claborn, Director of Development and Community Relations for OSU sent this letter of gratitude.

Continue reading Devin Gardner: A “CLASS” Act

LSA Theme Semester Events

Sports are a pretty big part of my life. I have been watching them for as long as I can remember and frankly I plan on continuing to watch them for as long as I live. This type of intense commitment which millions across the globe share with me has always been somewhat puzzling. I ask myself how is it that I have always been a Yankees, Giants and Knicks fan yet my food or TV and movie preferences are always changing. Why do sports somehow transcend other human behaviors where people are invariably changing their opinions, views and ‘likes’. After attending two LSA Theme Semester events I believe I had formulated a sort of crude and shaky answer, but an answer nonetheless. Continue reading LSA Theme Semester Events

The Team, The Team, The… Coach?

As Michigan students, we all know coach Bo Schembechler’s legendary speech about ‘the team’ from 1983. “No man is more important than the team. No coach is more important than the team. The Team, The Team, The Team…” In fact, this quote is one of the most famous lines in sports history. But is the team actually more important than the coach, the catalyst and leader of that very team? In many instances yes, the team as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but what if I told you there are several circumstances in which the coach is in fact more important than the team?

Continue reading The Team, The Team, The… Coach?

Importance of Play for Female Athletes

This semester, I attended two LSA Theme Semester events that focused on female athletics. Firstly, I attended “Persistence Pays Off: How Women Athletes Changed the Game at the University of Michigan.” This event illustrated the similarities and differences between the experiences of current University of Michigan female athletes and those of the 1980s. The event was structured in a way in which current athletes interviewed former athletes of their respective sports. The pairs of current and former athletes consisted of gymnasts, track and field runners, field hockey players, and basketball players. Continue reading Importance of Play for Female Athletes

Let’s Try Something New

*Thanksgiving Power up

“Ref! Are you kidding me? This is a joke.” Tensions were high at the University of Michigan Men’s Club Soccer game against Grand Valley State University (GVSU). The game was deadlocked as both teams made a push in the final minutes to win the game. Several times, fouls were committed to prevent a quick scoring opportunity for the opposing team. During one particular counter-attack, a GVSU defender tripped a Michigan forward just outside of the eighteen yard box. The forward was just about to rip a shot after slipping past a seam in the back line before being fouled. Michigan players immediately circled the ref, pleading their case for a penalty shot. The ref, however, placed the free kick outside of the box. Players were enraged, criticizing the ref for his decision. In the United States, competitive amateur sports are prominent in the athletic development and recognition of the athlete. However, in countries such as Great Britain, a strong division has been created between amateur and “club” level athletes.

Over the summer, I attended the Manchester United – Real Madrid match at Michigan Stadium. “Michigan Stadium has claimed another attendance mark, setting a United States record with an announced crowd of 109,318 watching Manchester United beat Real Madrid, 3-1, in the International Champions Cup on Saturday.” The game was fantastic. There was a quiet intensity on the field throughout the entire match. In addition, the level of play was extraordinary. Every player’s touch on the ball was flawless as teams moved down the field in coordinated unison, using different strategies to link with the forward and break down the opposing team’s defense. After watching the game, I began to think about the skill the players exhibited on the field. Their technical skills on the ball were far and away the best I’ve ever seen. I knew soccer was more popular in Europe; however, I struggled to understand why there seems to be such a stark contrast in quality of play between U.S. soccer and European Fútbol.

Real Madrid HD wallpaper for Wide 16:10 5:3 Widescreen WHXGA WQXGA WUXGA WXGA WGA ; HD 16:9 High Definition WQHD QWXGA 1080p 900p 720p QHD nHD ; Other 3:2 DVGA HVGA HQVGA devices ( Apple PowerBook G4 iPhone 4 3G 3GS iPod Touch ) ; Mobile WVGA iPhone PSP - WVGA WQVGA Smartphone ( HTC Samsung Sony Ericsson LG Vertu MIO ) HVGA Smartphone ( Apple iPhone iPod BlackBerry HTC Samsung Nokia ) Sony PSP Zune HD Zen ;

Real Madrid .

Recently, my questions were answered. In the semester-themed lecture, Positive Psychology and Sports, a student from the U.K. explained the differences between U.S. and European sports culture. In the lecture, I leaned that the U.S has many “grassroots’ sports programs. These programs allow children to develop in order to compete at the high school level. Success at the high school level has proven to be a gateway to recruitment opportunities by college coaches. In this case, sports gives student-athletes the ability to continue their careers at the collegiate level while providing these students with sports-related scholarships to make college more affordable. Sports, thus, have been wrongfully associated with success because of its link to educational opportunity. Instead, sports in the U.S. only encourages young adults to only focus on their athletic abilities, allowing sports commercialization to flourish.  “One characteristic of creeping sports commercialization among young athletes is that it distorts, or even destroys, people and institutions it touches. College admission programs select poorly educated athletes who stay in college for 1-2 years, instead of highly qualified students who could help us overcome our global competitiveness gaps in science, business, and education.”
“As a result, according to another N.C.A.A. report, the graduation rate (given six years to complete the degree) for football players is 16 percent below the college average, and the rate for men’s basketball players is 25 percent below.”

High school football.

 

On the other hand, the European system truly upholds the “amateur” aspect of school sponsored athletics. Amateur sports in Europe are viewed as a positive way to keep young people healthy and social. Many high school teams find themselves scrambling, minutes before the starting time, to find someone to fill the roster. However, the U.K. also has many “club” sports teams. These “clubs” or organizations serve as direct feeders to the professional level. For example, talented fútbolers are often recruited by academies by the age of fifteen where they are trained while receiving an education.

The privatization of sports in the U.K. could be a possible explanation for their superior skills in sports such as soccer. Division of amateur and “club” sport is also a fascinating trait unique to Europe. Not only are players provided a better opportunity to pursue a career in professional athletics, but the boundary between amateur and private allows for a truer appreciation for amateur athletics. This boundary could also help revive the American educational system, in turn, increasing graduation rates and the number of citizens with college degrees.

The Team, The Team, The…NBA?

I have never played basketball. Throughout my life I have chosen to participate in the sports of softball and soccer which are more in line with the reality of my vertical limitations. But I LOVE basketball. I love the pace, the dunks, the comebacks and the buzzer-beaters.  I stand and cheer (sometimes several times a week) in support of the Michigan men’s basketball team as a loyal member of the “Maize Rage” student fan section. For the past two seasons, during Michigan’s March Madness appearances in the NCAA tournament, everything else virtually ceased to exist as I followed each and every play. I love basketball, so you may be surprised to know that until last month, I had never attended a women’s college basketball game.

The Game, The Game, The Game

To gain some perspective on similarities and differences, let’s compare some elements of the Michigan women’s basketball game played on November 16th and the Michigan men’s basketball game played the very next day. Each game pitted the Wolverines against the Bison of central Pennsylvania’s Bucknell University.

Both Wolverine teams displayed incredible athleticism with their speed, agility, strength and endurance. The women demonstrated their physical talents with 4 crowd-pleasing blocked shots and 7 three-pointers that contributed to the 68-61 win. In the men’s game, senior Max Bielfeldt came off the bench consistently muscling his way inside to tally an impressive 18 points allowing the Wolverines to outscore the Bison 77-53.


Players from both teams also displayed a high-degree of skill which, in the game of basketball, can   only be gained through a great deal of practice. The women were led by the smart play of senior Cyesha Goree who achieved a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Evidenced by the high number of assists and the low number of turnovers, the men showed excellent ball-handling and strategic skills.

While the athleticism and skill levels emphasized similarities between the men’s and women’s teams, the disparity in the tenure of the starting teams highlighted the differences. The women’s team boasted 4 returning starters (Goree, Shannon Smith, Nicole Elmblad and sophomore Siera Thompson), the men’s team had only two (junior Caris LeVert and sophomore Derrick Walton).

Continue reading The Team, The Team, The…NBA?

NBA vs. College Basketball

Over the course of the semester, I have attended multiple University of Michigan basketball games along with a New York Knicks game here in Michigan. As a huge New York Knicks fan, there was no way I was missing an opportunity to watch them while they were in town. However, I was extremely disappointed with the effort they displayed on the court. I have noticed a big difference that is evident between college basketball players and NBA players. It seems that college athletes put so much more effort into the game while they play, while NBA players tend to take plays off and play in a complacent manner. The idea of play popped into my head while comparing the college and professional game.

Johan Huizinga’s Homo Ludens defines the nature of play and its characteristics. There are 5 key rules that define what play truly is, which includes that play cannot be defined, it is distinct from ordinary life and at a certain moment is over, it has its rules and no profit is gained by it.

NY Knicks players discuss their defense during a timeout, after giving up 10 straight points.

The NBA completely goes against Huizinga’s definition of play. Today, many NBA players have taken the entertainment out of the game, transforming the game into a business. First off, NBA players do receive profit from playing, usually a hefty check in the millions. Not only that, but there are numerous players who search for the highest contract on the market, instead of just being happy with playing the game. They have taken the excitement and fun out of the game. This behavior is evident by their play on the court. I cannot begin to tell how many times the Knicks have simply given up in a game. The effort is poor, and the players are simply going through the motions just to get through the game.

As a fan, this makes me belligerent, and sometimes raises questions as to why I support such a team. On the other hand, I see the Michigan Wolverines as a perfect example of Huizinga’s definition of play. While watching their games this year, I have never seen a player on the court take a play off. The level of effort and competitiveness in these college players is incomparable to the professionals. They do it solely for enjoyment and their passion for competitiveness. While most college athletes receive scholarships to play sports, they do not receive any monetary reward for their efforts. All of this is part of the reason why college basketball has become one of the more popular sports in the U.S. At times, I wish the NBA players would play as hard as college players, so every game would be entertaining to watch.