Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 8
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Pick-Up Sports Attract Range of Skills, Passions

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Photo by Anna Von Clemm

Whitman College prides itself on its extremely active student body, and for good reason. With 30 percent of the student body involved in varsity athletics, and a large majority of the remaining population involved in everything from popular intramural sports to kayaking in the Harvey Pool, the Whitman campus is indeed quite active.

One resource that active students often get involved in is the pick-up sports community on campus. Though pick-up is not a formally organized outlet on campus, various pick-up groups regularly schedule games that anyone interested is welcome to join.

“Pick-up soccer exists because people love soccer. It’s as simple as that. When you love soccer, you want to play it often, and you need people to play it,” said John Fleming ’11, a former varsity soccer player.

While varsity, club and even intramural sports have organized leadership like the athletic department or the intramural committee, pick-up sports groups are run entirely by students volunteering their time to organize outings. In general, though, getting a group together is fairly easy.

“Someone sends out an email to the listserv, and if there’s enough interest, then we all show up and play. During the week it’s more difficult, but most weekends there’s a pretty consistent group of guys,” said sophomore Jesse Hazzard, one of the coordinators of his pick-up basketball group.

One thing that sets pick-up apart from other organized athletics is the range of passion and love for the game that players bring. Though club, varsity and intermural athletes all love the game, pick-up is generally much less competitive, and that typically attracts a wide range of skill level and passion.

“There’s definitely a mix of skill and experience; some guys have played since they were young, and others are just getting started,” said Hazzard.

Out on Ankeny Field, the range of soccer experience is arguably even vaster.

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Photo by Anna Von Clemm

“There are people who played in high school, college, on rec teams, club teams. People who are soccer nuts, who watch every Premier League game, who follow their clubs closely, or people who were first introduced to soccer when they watched the World Cup,” said Fleming.

Unlike Fleming, fellow pick-up enthusiast Thabo Liphoto hadn’t played soccer until coming to Whitman, but he, along with other players of comparable caliber, has benefited from playing with varsity players.

“It’s amazing how much most [less experienced players], who have continued to show [up] at least, including myself, have improved since they first started coming out,” said Liphoto.

There is quite a bit that more experienced players can offer in a setting where there is less emphasis on competition. Conversely, there are also things the less experienced players can teach.

“The different levels of experience at pick-up has been really good because I think it is part of the fabric of what makes pick-up great; less experienced players learning from the more experienced or skilled, and the more experienced and skilled players learning from the less skilled as well as imparting some soccer ‘wisdom’ on them,” said Liphoto.

This variation in talent is what really sets pick-up sports apart from the rest. Each game of pick-up is unique. There is rarely the exact same group of players, and thus a different team dynamic each time a pick-up game is organized.

“Every game of pick-up depends on the make up of the players and what each of them desires and then expresses in the game. In a sense, it only is as competitive as there are players who make it such [and only] as fun as there are players who treat it that way,” said Fleming. 

With no try-outs and no cuts, there is a spot for anyone. Regardless of talent, anyone interested can jump in at any time and play for as long as they wish. There may not be T-shirts awarded or banners to be won for display in the gym, but what can be gained from pick-up is valuable in its own right. 

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Photo by Anna Von Clemm
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