Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Importance of alumni in sports

<om athletic teams play a significant role in the lives of current athletes at Carleton, as coaches, donors and of course, spectators. For some teams, like water polo, the alumni form part of a lasting community.

After joining the Water Polo team her freshman year, Renay Friendshuh ’19 entered a world of temporary tattoos where Roxanne the unicorn reigns and found niche she is happy to be a part of. It’s a community—“my family,” said Friendshuh—that she’ll continue to be part of after graduation.

The team’s alumni network is particularly strong given the team’s size. “We actually just had an alum randomly pop by the other day,” said Friendshuh. “She was in town and came and played lap tag with us.”

For other teams, alumni are an integral part of the program’s success. For example, the coaches for the Carleton Ultimate Team (CUT), Carleton’s winningest men’s Ultimate team, are almost always alumni according to Sol Yanuck ’18. As Yanuck explained, this can present challenges as times.

 “When Nick [Stuart ’13] started coaching us, he was still very much thinking about coaching the team the way they handled things when he was on the team,” said Yanuck. “The way we teach things in 2017 is super different from the way they were taught in 2012. So there was a bit of reconciling those contrasting philosophies.”

For CUT, as with Water Polo, the biggest focus on alumni comes during their annual alumni weekend. For CUT, it’s not uncommon to see alumni from decades ago.

“Like last year, we had a guy show up who was on the team in the 90s or late 80s,” said Yanuck. “This was his first alumni weekend in a long time. He came because his daughter was a freshman on Syzygy. No one knew her father played for CUT until he showed up for alumni weekend.”

During the weekend, CUT alumni watch a practice, cookout with the team and bid on team-themed items-created specifically to sell to alumni-in a yearly auction. Proceeds from the auction fund tournament fees, travel costs, and at times go towards financial support for team members.

The biggest benefits that alumni provide, however, are intangible. “The longevity of the program … it’s a non-insignificant part of our identity,” said Yanuck. “When you’re running in the rec in the middle of winter and are miserable, as much as you’re pushed by your teammates … you’ve got banners in the rec from before you were in high school. There’s a certain amount of history that you are participating in and motivated by.”

Other alumni networks are more separated from the current team. Ernesto Polania-Gonzalez ’17, formerly a runner on the cross country and track teams, is now part of an email list that combines men’s and women’s alumni. “Here we communicate,” said Polania-Gonzalez. “I don’t know a bunch [of members] because they were before my time, but we share the same connection. We were all runners, and I think that’s pretty special.”

The cross country team is, however, hoping to deepen its connection with alumni. Polania-Gonzalez mentioned that he’d spoken with current team members about this. “They were trying to get a race organized where … they get alums to come and help out with the meet, but then they can also compete,” he said. “So I think that’s in the planning stages.”

Alumni also live on in the cross country team in the form of traditions that they started. The team does “kallouts” every Tuesday where runners can commend teammates for doing something special or keep them on track during the season. “It’s something that brings the men’s and women’s teams together,” said Polania Gonzalez. “That was started by Thor and Noah Lack-Veeder [’15], officially.”

But Polania-Gonzalez stressed the importance of maintaining some separation between the team and its alumni. “I think the the team dynamic is always changing,” he said. “Seeing [alumni] now and then may have reminded us of some of the traditions, but ultimately it’s up to the current students to keep those traditions going, or to create new ones.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *