Athletes value their goals and teams, regardless of their sport
Sam Tapper – Sports Writer
We have all heard the phrase, “‘There is no ‘I’ in ‘team’” before. Whether it was as kids learning the importance of togetherness and teamwork or in another moment of life, it is a phrase that has not been forgotten.
There are a variety of collegiate sports at Southern and a variety of diverse athletes who compete in them. Whether the sport is more individualized like swimming, track and field or gymnastics, or team oriented like basketball, baseball or football, athletes and coaches say there is not as much of a difference when it comes to the nuances of their teams, despite the vastly different sports.
“Togetherness,” said men’s basketball forward Greg Jones, a junior. “A unit, working towards the same goal and representing the same thing,, that’s what I think of when I think of a team.”
For Jones, a former DI athlete, he has plenty of experience playing for different types of teams over his career. Currently a big-time contributor on the basketball court, Jones played other “team” sports in high school like baseball and football. In addition to that, Jones got a glimpse of the other side of things, as he also played singles in tennis in high school.
“It was different; I started out losing a lot of games,” Jones said. “But we always talked about doing your part, make sure you’re getting extra work in, asking questions you don’t know, so [the coaches] were still teaching me even though we were all in separate matches.”
Jones may be the only basketball player at Southern with tennis experience under his belt, but he is not the only basketball player with experience in other sports. On the women’s side, senior forward Kiana Steinauer was a runner in track at her high school in Ontario, Canada, giving her experience with an individualized sport. Steinauer also said that besides the sport and besides the setting, a team “teaches a lot of leadership qualities” and “helps people come together.”
“Obviously with track, you’re still a part of the team because you want to get your team to win,” said Steinauer. “But running individually, I can definitely say I liked the relays more because of the team aspect. I personally get really nervous doing individual sports — I think it’s a lot of pressure on yourself. It’s nice to rely on your teammates for things that you lack.”
Flipping it around to gymnastics, it is easy for one to assume that the team part of the sport may not come into play as much. In the sport, there are four events: the vault, beam, uneven bars and floor, all of which the athletes compete individually. Despite that, it doesn’t quite work out that way.
Every gymnast on the team gets a score for their performance which adds up to the team’s total, like swimming and track and field. But for senior captain Bella Antonangeli, who has been a part of a gymnastics team since she was a child, she says the idea and structure of her gymnastics teams are much different in college compared to her days competing at a club gym.
“I feel like club before college was a lot more individualized,” Antonangeli said. “I didn’t really have a team to worry about, it was more like I was the only person at that level so I would compete by myself, and my coach, where it would be one-on-one, me trying to get better. But when I came to college, it was similar to all the other sports teams, you’re doing it for your team, trying to get better for your team, you care about everyone else involved. But that didn’t happen until college.”
In Antonangeli’s experience, she says that her time in the club helped get her to where she is now athletically, but it is having that “concrete” team in college which she prefers. She is an all-around competitor, meaning she competes in all four events, and she says that the support her teammates give her and everyone else on meet day is what drives her.
“Having the concrete team honestly made me better,” Antonangeli said. “They would support me in a different way, they could give me corrections, and then they could see how I got better, and I could see how they can get better.”
The sports are all vastly different in just about every way, shape and form. The experience each athlete has with their respective sport is unique to them.
Though all athletes form a relationship with their coaches, head swimming and diving coach Tim Quill noted that trust levels in his sport from athlete to coach are built up over time, creating a close relationship.
“There is a working relationship,” said Quill. “When you’re working with an athlete for three or four years, there’s a lot of time and effort invested in that, and we realize that over those years, a kid who stays with us for three or four years trusts us and believes in us.”