Sports are ingrained within the Wheaton community and are a large part of the culture, partially due to the long history of organized sports at Wheaton. Even before the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) was established in 1998, Wheaton had been a member of the NEW six, which began play in 1985-86 as the New England Women’s six Conference, including members such as Babson, Brandeis, MIT, Smith and Wellesley. Up until now, Wheaton has joined the NEWMAC for 32 years, making it one of its oldest members. Undoubtedly, Wheaton views its athletic performance as an essential part of the campus culture and value.
To encourage more students to go to games and to raise awareness of Wheaton sports has become the mission of the Wire’s sports section. In response to the question of how to go about doing this, Professor of Biology Betsey Dyer, a big fan and supporter of Wheaton sports, said, “To answer [this] [question] is actually not just thinking how can we be more aware of the Wheaton sports. In fact, Wheaton might be one of the most athletic campuses in the U.S. in terms of athletes’ participation rate.”
According to the Wheaton Athletics webpage, overall, the Lyons have 19 teams, including eight men’s teams and 11 women’s teams. If you add the number of members on every team’s roster, you’ll find that there are 342 athletes on Wheaton sports teams, not even including the club sports athletes. Moreover, with the information Lyndsey Aguilar, the area coordinator from residence life, provided shows that there are approximately 1,544 residents living on campus, which means 22.6 percent of residents are on Wheaton sports teams. More than one-fifth of Wheaton students are athletes!
As for club sports, there are 14 that run on campus, such as archery, cheerleading, equestrian, fencing, men’s and women’s rugby, tennis, ultimate frisbee and more.
Besides club sports, the athletic center also holds recreation activities for students to get involved in sports. Judy Allen, the assistant director of club sports, said, “When I was hired here in November 2015, there was really no structured group exercise program. I wanted to mainstream the classes through my office and offer different and exciting ways for people to have a workout.” For instance, there are intramural sports like Wheaton World Cup, flag football and five vs. five basketball.
In terms of the participation rate, Allen said, “Currently, the [number of participants for] group exercise is going to skyrocket…from last year in the first few weeks of the fall semester. Last year, [participation] rates were very high and exceeded my expectations.”
The group exercise division conducts many classes, including H.I.I.T., martial arts, cardio dance fusion, zumba and yoga. Additionally, the fitness center opens every day.
After seeing these various sports clubs and activities, Professor Dyer reflected, “In just looking at the two months — September to October — we have four intramural activities already. It seems that everyone is involved in the sports somehow, so the question actually turned into who is left.” The easy access to sports or any kind of athletic activity shows that Wheaton’s sports culture is engaging and open.
However, the low participation rate at any game or sporting event still remains unsolved. Professor Dyer said, “I have tried to go to every sport at least once, [and] some of them are really hard to watch. For instance, when you go to rugby games, there are no actual seats available to [the] audience. So these tough conditions may defer people’s willingness to go.”
Professor Dyer shared her other observations: “Also, like track and field, they don’t have a setup which [allows] you [to] be a spectator easily. On the contrary, the basketball games in the winter can be all packed because of a better watching condition. This probably is the reason.”
Clearly, Wheaton is extremely aware of athletics in a diverse way. Most importantly, it is surprising to see how easily students can get involved on so many levels, whether they create their own club sports or join existing sports teams.
“This is already a sports campus,” Professor Dyer said. “If you are not participating in one of these things, consider it, otherwise you are missing out [on] one important part of Wheaton.”