(Written January 11th)
Now that I am back on the campus of Guilford College, this blog can now retake its original theme of discussing the life of an NCAA student athlete. Ironically, with all the winter weather the southeast has seen this past week there has been very little “student” or “athlete” activities taking place on campus. However, at the time of this writing tonight is the final night before practice begins on Saturday. The field is still covered in ice, but we are going to attempt some drills on Guilford’s thawed-out, artificial turf-covered football field. The anticipation of on-the-field competition coming in the Spring reminded me of one of the bigger off-the-field issues our team dealt with in the Fall.
Every Fall, our baseball team always gets brand new practice hats that will last throughout our non-competition period of the season. This year, our team broke away from the standard Guilford colors of cardinal and black and went with a new design: Digital Camouflage. The team was really receptive to the idea not only for the new look but also the underlying meaning of wearing the colors of a U.S. Soldier. Not only did the hats promote a sense of unity between my teammates but they also served as what our coach called “a constant reminder.” We wore these hats to remind all of us of the thousands of men and women, including the brother of one my teammates, who put their lives on the line each day to allow all of us to play baseball in college instead of being forced to fight a war. Despite the fact that we wore these hats out of respect, there were some students at Guilford who weren’t too pleased with our attire.
Guilford’s student body is not your typical college population. Most schools tend to have factions of students made up of student athletes, non-student athletes who have interest in sports, and non-student athletes who have zero interest in sports. Guilford is different in the fact that the non-student athletes who appreciate sports make up maybe 1% of our student population. This lack of a middle ground has created somewhat of a divide between athletes and non-athletes on campus in that there is very little common ground for the two sides to agree on. With that said, any interaction between the two sides is usually based around some kind of conflict and that was something our hats unknowingly created.
Students began speaking out on social networks, with signs around campus, and even straight to my face against our camo hats. They made claims that we were supporting an unjust war and going against the Quaker core value of Peace (Guilford is a Quaker School). Once word got out of our true intentions for wearing the camo, the traditional students became much more understanding. While all this was going on, our players all remained resolute and explained the reasoning behind why we were wearing the hats. With political climates on college campuses becoming more and more volatile each year, a situation could have arisen where one side of this issue turned to violence. Luckily for both my team and the student population, the issue never grew large enough for anything like that to take place.