Walking to class at 7:30 a.m. can be a pretty solitary experience. It's often cold (especially this winter), and usually the only other humans we see are a few class-goers. Oh, and a lot of athletes, many of whom started their days between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m., before the sun got up.
There are hundreds of student-athletes at the University of Richmond, and 19 Division I teams, many of which have exceptional records. The football team might be the only team to have won a national championship, but it's certainly not the only team that's brought trophies and recognition home to Richmond.
In addition to football's 2009 conference co-championship and NCAA run, the field hockey team won the Atlantic 10 title and appeared in the NCAA championship tournament, the swimming team has won eight of the last nine A-10 titles and this year may send as many as four swimmers to the NCAAs and the men's basketball team is waiting to learn whether its future also brings an A-10 title or NCAA tournament appearance.
None of these things come easy, and Richmond's athletes are putting in the work. Year-round, 20 to 30 hours a week, athletes are running, lifting, practicing and watching videos. I would never claim every Spider athlete is an upstanding citizen, but every Spider athlete is committed to a sport that undoubtedly demands the majority of his or her time and energy.
And, like it or not, when Richmond's athletes compete, they wear Spider uniforms that represent the entire school. Many Richmond students use their academic pursuits and their extracurricular activities to make a difference throughout the country and around the world, but when it comes down to it, in many circumstances, the traveling faces of the university are those of athletes.
Coming from an athlete, here are some tips for improving your etiquette when you find yourself near, on or in athletic fields and facilities.
No. 1 - Don't use the fields or turf as a party site (and don't leave your beer cans).
After countless parties spent cooped up in apartments or dorm rooms, there's something appealing about a wide-open space - especially an Astroturf field that won't muddy our party shoes - but let's take it somewhere else.
At least one team spends its sweat and blood on that turf, rain and shine. As a field hockey player, I sometimes spent more hours on Crenshaw Field in a day than I spent sleeping that night. Although we athletes respect the right to party where you please, there is something maddening about spending time clearing beer cans and broken rusty chairs from a field at 6 a.m., and then running miles of sprints.
No. 2 - Don't vandalize, deface or steal equipment, signs or property.
Aside from all the above being illegal, it's just not considerate. It's frustrating to have your car scratched or your license plates thieved. It's frustrating to have our golf carts stolen and our signs spray painted.
No. 3 - Don't walk across fields during practices or games.
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As much as we'd love a moment to recover during workouts, please don't walk across the fields while they're in use unless you're bringing snow cones (on a hot day) or hot chocolate (on a cold day). In addition to the disrespect of walking through practice, you may be walking into a firing zone. I've heard that teams at some universities (including coaches) stop practice to throw things at trespassers.
Division I sports aren't casual - such that athletes don't mind a Frisbee or two floating through practice - they're hardcore. The Richmond Spiders are hardcore. Please don't desecrate our sacred playing fields.
No. 4 - DO go to watch competitions!
Although students sometimes complain about athletes taking up the center section of the dining hall, wearing sweats to every class and unnecessarily driving across campus, we put on a pretty good show. Richmond's athletic teams compete with and rank among the best in the nation. Such high-level athletics will never be as easily accessible to you as they are now. Whether you know all the rules or still don't know that field hockey is played with a ball and not a puck, college sports are a spectacle worth watching.
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