Profile: Whitman College athletics

Pamela London

Whitties will inevitably find something to bond over. Section mates often find themselves taking over entire tables in the dining hall. Running into the same person every day at the Reid coffee cart or sharing a study table in the library slaving over that Encounters essay you forgot about can bring a group of first-years together in an instant.

For those athletic––and sometimes not-so-athletic––types, sports can be the way to go. Whether you are joining your section’s intramural football team, pulling on a Whitman jersey for a varsity soccer game, or watching your friends from the sidelines, you will find yourself drawn into the ever-growing Whitman sports community.

“Missionaries, Missionaries, we’re on top”

On paper, Whitman is a small liberal arts college competing athletically at the Division III level. On the court, field or diamond, however, Whitman’s fans are DI quality.

Instead of large stadiums or massive arenas, Whitman’s athletic complexes contribute to providing an intimate atmosphere where Missionary fans are literally inches away from the field of competition. Let’s face it, neither Whitman nor Walla Walla are large enough to pack a venue with thousands of fans on any given game day. However, we have proven we can create a big-time sports atmosphere.

Two sets of bleachers line George Ball Court in Sherwood Athletic Center, home of varsity basketball and volleyball games. One side seats members of the Whitman staff and faculty, players’ families and the Walla Walla community. The other side, however, is the student section. Whitties do not take up just one section of the bleachers, but rather the entire side. Many of us stand and cheer throughout the game and, in some cases, heckle the opposing team (always in good fun, of course).

The same goes at soccer games, where fans line one side of the field and sit so close to the touchline that referees often have to push the fans back so the referees can run. Fans surround the outdoor courts at tennis matches and cluster in the bleachers behind home plate at baseball games. Cheers from the viewing decks echo around the pool at swim meets.

Going to varsity athletic events brings the campus together, creating an atmosphere unlike any other in Walla Walla. The energy is palpable and the spirit undeniable. The iconic chant, “Missionaries, Missionaries, we’re on top” resonates across campus at athletic events.

Whitties are passionate and know how to have a good time, the perfect combination for Whitman fandom. Emotions ride high and the student-athletes feed off of it, making Whitman a tough place for an opponent to try to steal a win.

How can you get involved?

Whitman is a very tight-knit campus and word travels quickly. When it comes to getting involved with activities like sports, the best way to get information is to talk to your fellow Whitties.

Sign up for club and intramural sports’ listservs at the Activities Fair tables. Even if you are not positive you want to join club volleyball or participate in intramural football, sign up anyway. Later, you may find out that your section mates or friends from classes have signed up on the same lists as you.

Watch for signs around campus or notices in the college’s publications, including The Pioneer. Check the student listserv, which is constantly updated daily by students. Talk to your resident adviser and student academic advisor; they will have at least a year at Whitman under their belts and can direct you to the right people to contact.

Finally, talk to people who you see doing your sport. It’s easy to see what is going on around campus just by walking from the Reid Campus Center to Jewett Hall. For example, starting early in the school year, the club soccer team plays pick-up on Ankeny Field. The volleyball teams play at the courts by the Hall of Science and behind Anderson Hall.

Bottom line: Whitman is rigorously academic and enthusiastically athletic. We are students, but we are also fans and athletes, equally dedicated to our schoolwork as we are to our sports. Going to athletic events can be like a release valve, a place where Whitties can let go and scream at the top of their lungs in support of their classmates.

Participating in and watching sports––varsity, club or IM––emphasizes the community feel that the campus seeks to present. Just because we don’t go to a big DI school doesn’t mean we can’t get that big-time atmosphere.