by Logan Traynor ‘16
For most of Bennington College’s history athletics has been something of a running joke. While this joke is still often told by many members of Bennington’s community, it is becoming increasingly irrelevant. Since the advent of Bennington Athletic Department (BAD) in 2012, sports events and practices have seen an unprecedented amount of participation, and teams and clubs now have funding for activities. In addition, over the last couple of years Bennington has created an athletic partnership with Southern Vermont College and NCAA that provides much more opportunity for Bennington students to participate in athletics.
This partnership allows for students from both colleges to play on each others’ sports teams. These include soccer, volleyball, basketball, women’s lacrosse, baseball, softball, as well as cross-country and track. This relationship extends beyond formal sports teams, as students can participate in more casual athletic events such as such as dodgeball and croquet.The athletic partnership is part of a larger consortium that allows for students from each school to attend courses at the other college.
This partnership was created for two primary reasons. One, it gives more options for students on both campuses to participate in fitness and sports, and two, it aims to further integrate Bennington College with the larger Bennington community. This relationship was inspired by similar ones such as Five College Consortium in Western Massachusetts.
The biannual dodgeball league at Bennington was seen as a good entry point for SVC students, as it is a casual sport that a good portion of the Bennington community participates in. However, things fell apart quickly. In fact they fell so much apart that the SVC dodgeball team didn’t even show up to the winner-takes-all tournament. Michiel Considine recounted that it may have been their strong competitiveness that got Bennington students riled, or maybe differences in campus culture. Either way Bennington students – and even a referee– were hostile towards the visitors, which led to them not wanting to be a part of Bennington’s league.
“Pitting people against each other is probably not the best way to introduce them,” said Michiel Considine the director of BAD.
However, this has not halted the partnership. In the 2015-16 school year 9 Bennington students have played for SVC teams, and a handful of SVC students have joined Bennington's clubs. This spring Noah Froh, Alexander Ging and Annika Kristiansen are participating in Track and Field, and Caroline Adams is on SVC's softball team.
The Fall term is often more popular for students to play on SVC's teams, and last fall five athletes from Bennington played on three teams at SVC. While Bennington has its own soccer team, most of the students playing for SVC in the fall have joined their soccer team. Some students Bennington students expressed a desire to be on a more serious team.
“I was always a little bit frustrated with the level of the Bennington soccer team because it wasn't consistent nor serious,” said Martin Carillo. “So when it was an actual possibility to do it in a more serious way I didn't hesitated because it was something closer to what I used to do in high school.”
Despite a high interest in the partnership from both colleges, this program has its limitations and challenges. According to Michiel Considine and Pablo Aguirre, captain of SVC's soccer team, there have been integration issues between schedules.
Most college level sports have required practices more than a few times each week, but because practices are scheduled around the hosting school’s schedule, having a player from the other school has been difficult. Not only this, but practices are intensely time consuming, making it even more difficult to commit to a time. Pablo also said that there is often a lack of communication both ways and that neither party knows what to expect from the other. The example he gave was if a player could be depended on to make it to every game. For some students, like Martin, the switch to playing every day on the SVC campus was too intense with his schedule.
Not everyone shares this outlook however. “ My experience with SVC athletics has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Caroline Adams. She also said the time constraints have been positive for her, saying that it has improved her time management skills.
Looking towards the future of the partnership, Michiel Considine says he hopes to increase the number of participants from both schools. Having a greater diversity of events and sports was also cited as a goal. By strengthening this partnership, he hopes to be able to send the message to prospective Bennington students that they don’t have to give up playing sports when they come to Bennington.