I have played sports since I was itty-bitty. If there was a sport, I at one time attempted it. At Oberlin, I did the same.
As a prospie, I recruited myself to Oberlin’s soccer team. When I stepped on campus after being accepted, I instantly fell in love (thanks in no small part to the members of the women’s soccer team who had lunch with me and my mom). I realized then that this was the school for me and I didn’t go on a tour.
Although I had always played soccer and loved my teammates, I have never been really close to anyone on my teams, and I assumed that Oberlin would be no exception. Carrying that expectation into pre-season produced the same result at first, but my team members eventually broke through my defensive barrier. With that barrier gone, I was able to be myself in a way that I suppressed growing up in Houston. I could be my goofy, blonde, clumsy, questioning self. One friend and teammate, Beth Sebian, even convinced me to play lacrosse.
Now, I would never say that I am a stereotypical Oberlin student. In fact I probably broke all the stereotypes as a straight, science major, athlete, meat eater Catholic from Texas who loved to dress sharply. But I fit in without fitting in and fitting in was something that had never occurred before. Sports at Oberlin were the door-opening feat that allowed me to do this.
At Oberlin, for the first time I was able to venture well outside-the-box without criticism. For Halloween, the soccer staff allowed the players to dress up for practice. One year I was a tree, complete with body paint, hay, and fake bird, to the utter amusement and delight of my whole team. They loved it so much that one person even took Hope home with her (Hope being the bird I had made out of a plastic cup). The next year I tried to out-do the tree costume and decided to be a TV. But soccer wasn’t the only reason to dress up - one year I was a lacrosse stick, where Lynn Gerbec and Callie Sadler helped me braid and spray-paint my hair yellow, for Valentine’s Day. The year I dove for the swim team, I got all snazzy for Swamp Rat, (basically bowling mixed with really tacky outfits). I ventured out with soccer people to swim in the Reservoir during Fall break, where I became a member of Oberlin’s own Polar Bear Club. Surprisingly, I’ve even gotten comfortable dressing up for the Preseason Soccer Variety Show (of very little talent).
The best gift of all was for my 20th birthday. One of my athlete friends, Carrie Noel-Nosbaum, gathered all my friends and surprised me at midnight for my birthday. Little did I know about the surprise: I was studying for an organic chem test and decided to take a shower when the clock struck midnight. Lucky for me, the gender neutral bathroom I was in allowed all my friends to stumbled in and make me blow out the candles on the birthday cake (while I was still in the shower). It will take a lot to top that birthday.
I had never been close to other athletes before, but at Oberlin I could depend on all of my teammates, whatever the situation. From giving me plenty of hugs and cards when my uncle died, to the solution to being bored on a Friday night, my teammates were there. My teammates and fellow athletes at Oberlin made college life an unforgettable experience with lifelong friends. Even though time has passed and the distance between us is no longer a walk across the quad, I know that each and everyone of them would be there for me in a heartbeat -- something I’ve already witnessed first hand.