In August of 2005, I walked into a classroom at Philips Gym with 25-odd guys staring at me. As far as I was concerned, they were all strangers to me, and I was to them. Being an international student with very little information of what to expect being a college athlete, I was extremely intimidated.
Within two weeks, they were my friends for life.
This was the Oberlin College Men’s Soccer Team.
From those two grueling weeks of preseason to the heartbreaking loss of a NCAC conference playoff game in November, these 25-odd guys became my brothers, and before I knew it, it the 2005 season was over.
Fast forward to February 2006, my second semester of college. I was rather unsure of what to do with my extracurricular life without soccer. I had done some drama in high school and wanted to continue to act at Oberlin, so I decided to take Theater 100. When I walked into Studio 2 of the Warner Center for my first day of class, I had the same apprehensive unfamiliarity as I did when I first met my teammates just 5 months earlier. About a dozen men and women were sitting in a circle, talking excitedly, clearly all friends or familiar with each other. I did not know any of these people, as I did not take the theater course offered the previous semester. On top of that, the fact that I was a “jock” made me little ambivalent about how I would integrate with the theater department.
It was easier than you’d think, though, and since then my career as a goalkeeper on the OC Men’s Soccer Team and the Oberlin Theater scene has flourished. I started half the season of my junior year, and played several games my senior year, all the while developing my athleticism, team building, and leadership skills. On stage, I progressed from performing in small shows in Wilder Main and the Cat in the Cream to major productions in Hall Auditorium with an audience of 300 people a night.
While it’s not surprising that Oberlin has theater and athletics, I am amazed that I’ve been able to pursue both -- and maintain a normal course-load. I can study archeology, work out to pass the next fitness test, and rehearse my scene for Shakespeare class, all the while hanging out with people from all social circles with diverse interests. I have never had any difficulty intermingling in these two worlds, and I constantly encourage others to pursue multiple interests. I know that I am not a “jock,” or a “drama kid.” In fact, I’ve found that being an athlete and an actor are rather complimentary to one another.
Most people seem to associate sports as purely a combination of athleticism and effective team tactics, but they also requires creativity and passion. Like acting on stage, I have a set of directions and objectives to fulfill, and creative energy drives me to fulfill these directives and goals. On the field, my teammates use their creativity and energy for intricate passing combinations, fancy footwork, and good vision. On stage, I use the same creativity and energy to convey my emotions and needs to the audience as well as my fellow actors. Essentially, sports and the theater are both performances. Whether it is for die-hard soccer fans enduring the bitter October cold, or the audience enduring a heart-wrenching 3-hour play, my efforts are a part of a spectacle that I believe has a significant impact on people.
What really drives me to continue both of these pursuits is not the creative aspects, the credentials, or even the audience. For me, it’s all about the camaraderie and relationships that emerge out of it. The soccer team is my family -- we sweat and struggle through preseason, and keep each other going through tough times, whether personal or athletic. I can always count on my team being there for me. The same is true for my cast members throughout the production of a play. In a setting where emotional energy is very high, moral support within the cast is essential. I am a member of so many teams, whether as an actor or an athlete, in which I am pushed to perform at my best.
I am now in my final season at Oberlin. To make an already amazing experience border on unbelievable, in August the team spent ten days in Brazil, traveling through Rio de Janeiro and Búzios playing against various club teams. We explored Rio and saw the sights, stuffed our faces at Brazilian barbecues, screamed with Flamengo and Botafogo fans, played some exhausting beach soccer, and beat a semi-pro Brazilian team on their home turf. Don’t worry though -- all this activity didn’t prevent us from finding time to kick back on the beach and relax. The trip left us with our individual memories, but also with that undeniable feeling of truly belonging to something.
Thinking back on my memorable moments, I find myself steeped in nostalgia. I will miss our pre-game team chants and crazy traditions, our wins and losses, and how we all got here together. These specific moments mark the friendships and bonds that I have established, and have defined my Oberlin experience.