When I’m not writing for this fine publication I also am one of the captains of the men’s swimming and diving team. This weekend we traveled to Ithaca College for a three-day invitational (page 16). We left campus at 9 a.m. Friday morning and returned at 9:30 p.m. Sunday night. This means three days, four sessions, eight races, several thousand yards of warming up and cooling down in each of these four sessions and two, five-hour bus rides. That’s a lot of time and a lot of very physical activity. And for all three days the Athletic Department decided to give us $50 of food money. For three days.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m thankful we got any money. The school also provided two buses and hotel rooms for the team. With the state of the economy, I understand that times are tough. We did not have to travel to Ithaca. But we did. And we were essentially told to feed ourselves for three days on $50.
In general this is not an impossible feat. But under the circumstances it was very difficult. I wasn’t able to just go buy groceries for a week and cook my own meals. I was in a hotel and most of my time was spent at the pool. With access to a grocery store, time and a kitchen I certainly could live for three days on $50. But when I’m focused on swimming and the meet I do not want to have to deal with and think about food, which in any case would have been impossible in the Ithaca Ramada Inn.
It strikes me as odd that we have the money to plant 400 trees on campus, but our athletic teams are forced to dig into their own pockets to feed themselves. I thankfully had brought money with me and coincidentally I won $20 on a scratch ticket on the bus ride to Ithaca. If this had not happened, I may have had some serious trouble feeding myself. Indeed on the trip home I bought dinner for a teammate who had used all of his food money in the previous two days.
With a jar of peanut butter, a sleeve of bagels, and a bunch of bananas from my mother for breakfast, I was able to adequately feed myself for lunch and dinner. But as any athlete can tell you, it takes a lot of food to fuel a competitive athlete, no matter what the sport. Being forced to think carefully about how much money you can spend on dinner is not a fun prospect at 10:30 at night after swimming all day.
There is also the prospect of healthy eating. I try to eat fairly healthy. I am by no means a health nut, but I want to avoid fast food and anything too terrible, particularly at a meet. And unfortunately the healthier you eat the more money it costs. It sometimes feels that Springfield College is more interested in keeping the grass green than making sure its athletes are well fed. And to be honest I do understand keeping the grass green and the grounds looking nice. It helps draw students and the appearance of campus is the first representation of the school to prospective students.
But the athletic teams also represent Springfield College, and trust me the swimming and diving teams did an excellent job representing this institution this past weekend. It would have been nice to not have to worry about money and food and focus completely on swimming. I understand the economic difficulties, and that there are other things on campus that require money. I think the school does an excellent job feeding students on campus. Cheney is far better than any other college’s food I’ve ever had. I would just love to represent this school without having to worry about keeping food in my stomach.
Josh Ernst may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org