While watching a Richmond athletic competition, student fans can typically look forward to cheering on a friend. Perhaps you live next door to one of the players or worked on a group project with one for your psychology class freshman year.
Strong connections between athletes and non-athletes at Richmond are more common than at bigger schools because of the close-knit community this campus creates. For those involved in Greek life, those connections are getting stronger, as it will soon be common practice to cheer on a fraternity brother or sorority sister.
In a requested statement, Director of Athletics Jim Miller said there was no particular rule regarding athletes joining Greek life, or any other club for that matter. But it appears that this year, more than others, Richmond athletes are taking advantage of that freedom.
The men's soccer team in particular is making a giant leap into the world of "brotherhood." Currently, there are six players pledging fraternities from the team (three sophomores and one freshman with KA, one freshman with SAE, and one freshman with Sig Ep).
In an e-mail, head soccer coach Clint Peay wrote: "For many student-athletes, their team is like being involved in a fraternity or sorority. For others, there is [an] urge to be a part of something more while in school.Greek life is often that something more that gives a student-athlete a greater feeling of community.
"My belief is to allow student-athletes to have as many experiences that they can while at university without sacrificing their ability to meet the demands of playing Division I athletics and doing well in the classroom. Our players have been informed of what our expectations are as a program.
They understand that hard work and sacrifice are all a part of being a Division I athlete. This is no different from students that are involved in the performing arts, music, work to support themselves, etc. College is about self discovery in the context of balance and prioritizing things."
Sophomore defender Chase Johnston is one of four players pledging KA this semester.
"Obviously, the athletic part comes first, but it's good to have two different social groups to go to," he said. "The other half of it is, I need some other people to look to, besides just the soccer guys."
With practice and events taking up the majority of an athlete's time while in season, there's reason to believe that athletes competing in fall sports would be the only ones able to join Greek life, as rushing and pledging (two events with large time commitments of their own) overlap with winter and spring sports seasons. This assumption holds true for men's sports for the most part, but many spring sport women's athletes can still be found sporting the letter shirts that represent the various sororities on campus. For example, a majority of the Richmond women's tennis team either pledged or is currently pledging a sorority on campus.
Even winter sport athletes, who are fully entrenched in competition when Greek life hits its stride, are allowed to participate in such extracurriculars.
"We have a general policy, not a rule, that we will allow our players to pledge a sorority after a full semester of residency on campus and having above a 2.5 GPA," women's basketball coach Michael Shafer said. "We feel it is important, with all that school and sports entail, that the student get adjusted to college life before trying to take on too much."
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The biggest concern coaches seem to have when players get involved in other activities is time commitment, which is why pledging is so uncommon at larger sports schools.
Johnston said: "I'm not sure if [our coach] can say no, but it's his right to make sure we're doing what we should be doing and not doing what we shouldn't be doing, so his mindset is, if soccer's not first, then you're gonna be off the team."
Johnston also realized that, while he had two social groups to look to for help, he also had two social groups to keep happy.
"There's always conflict and soccer's first and I know the guys in the fraternity don't get pissed off when we miss things, but it is in the back of our minds that they will get pissed off and we should be there for things that we aren't there for," he said. "We're gonna make sure everything for soccer is done, we're gonna make sure all our academic stuff is done, and the time we have left, we're gonna give to the fraternity. If it happens to be that we don't have much time, then it is what it is, but we're gonna do everything we can and [the fraternity brothers] know that."
Also interesting to note is that, for men's soccer players at least, there is little precedent that those pledging have to look toward. Johnston said: "The only other soccer player that I know of who has been in a fraternity is [former goalkeeper] Alex Thorup and he's also in KA. He's a senior now and he quit [the soccer team] just because he didn't like it anymore because of the injuries he had and the terrible coaching back then."
For Johnston and his fellow athletes in Greek life, only one thing seems certain at this point: they won't suffer from boredom any time soon.
Contact guest columnist David Weissman at firstname.lastname@example.org
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