By DANA REYNOLDS – STAFF WRITER
Although success in sports is most often defined as defeating opponents or snatching first place in a competition, Centre athletic teams also place emphasis on creating and maintaining close relationships with teammates.
Successful teams are more than just a combination of gifted athletes. In order to perform at a high level, teams have to be able to rely on each other.
For Centre athletes, developing a close-knit team relationship has led to much of their success. Many of the teams at Centre spend a lot of time with each other outside of the classroom and difficult practices.
Senior volleyball player Kary Stivers emphasized the importance of spending time with her team outside of the gym. “We have a really great team dynamic,” Stivers said. “We eat all of our meals together and we like to hang out together a lot over the weekends.”
For several Centre athletes, their team has turned into a second family. After all, many teams that achieve success are not without setbacks, challenges, and obstacles that they have to overcome. Team members need to be able to rely on one another, even in difficult times.
Often, teams become closer off the field or the court than they do while playing their sport.
Senior swimmer Knox McConnell appreciates strong relationships with his team members. “I view the swim team more like a family than a bunch of teammates,” McConnell said.
“The team has a pretty cohesive relationship. The relationships I have with people on the team are the strongest ones I have had at Centre. I feel like I have a solid group of people to rely on.”
Senior pole-vaulter Michael Orr agreed that Track and Field maintains a family-like atmosphere. “We are all really close,” Orr said. “Track is an individual sport, but we work to be very supportive of each other. It is a competitive family. We strive to do our best and motivate one another.”
Maintaining close relationships with team members goes past the season. According to junior soccer player Zac Brown, the team is involved in many of the same programs throughout campus.
“All of us are in the same fraternity,” he said. “We hang out with each other and stick together even when we are not in season.”
Other teams on campus find ways to become closer while helping the community. Last Friday, the Centre baseball team hosted a cookout at Batewood Park in order to generate interest in the park by drawing residents of the community to the event.
This project served a dual purpose. Not only did it raise morale in the area, but it allowed players to build a build a sense of accomplishment as a team off the field.
“I thought the cookout helped bring the team together by working on a common goal outside our normal sports ideals. Not only were we able to be around each other in a different environment, but we were ably to collectively connect with the community,” senior pitcher Kyle Neu said.
It is not uncommon to see groups of athletes eating lunch together or studying in the library with one another. In fact, some teams will hold study tables during which players can bring problems in classes they are facing to teammates who have previously encountered them.
One of the challenges to maintaining team cohesiveness is that the previous years leaders graduate and a new and inexperienced group of first-years arrive on campus. Each team has a unique way of incoporating the new players into the team dynamic. Some teams have informal practices, preseason off campus dinners, and spend time together on the weekends.
While on road trips, athletes have found ways to make the most of their downtime together. These things may include playing cards in the hotel lobby or watching a movie as a team.
All of these activities create a family-like bond for Centre athletes that help facilitate their success during competition.