How college sports can build a strong community

By Branwyn Wilkinson
Opinion Contributor

I have never been a sports fan. Which division the school competed in and in which sports teams didn’t factor into my college decision. Or so I thought.
Like many other students, I was looking for a college with a strong community. After my first semester at Canisius, I have realized that the strength of our community is, in part, due to our sports teams.
Of course there are other factors that contribute to our strong community. There’s our small campus, small class sizes, and professors who are open to and encourage student participation and interaction, just to name a few. But the Griffin spirit is evident right from the start.
One of the biggest events of Welcome Week is the bonfire when we send our rival’s color up in flames. A big reason many of the freshmen joined in was because we were still desperate to socialize and make friends. However, the bonfire also showed new freshmen that sports are an important part of what makes us Canisius. That night we all realized that we would be attending at least a few games during our years here.
What we didn’t realize then is that going to those games would keep the spirit of socializing and making new friends alive.
Going to a college sports game is a social event. Students always go in groups of friends, and half the time these groups meet up and merge on the way to or at the game itself. Since you don’t always know who you’re sitting near, it’s a great way to meet new people.
You’re also bound to see someone you recognize from class or your floor at any game, but a basketball game on a Friday evening is a new context. Sometimes seeing these people in a different context is all it takes to start a conversation. It helps that you’re all there to cheer on the same team. Maybe you didn’t think that you had anything in common, but going to the same game to root for your school becomes a shared experience.
For example, after a weekend hockey game, almost everyone rides back on the same subway train, and what does everyone talk about? The game we just watched, of course! It’s not unusual to mention how exciting the last winning goal was to your friend and end up in a conversation with everyone around you about how well the team played.
And it doesn’t end when you get back to campus. You’ll always know who was at the game based on what shows up on their Snapchat stories. This gives you something to talk about when you run into them the next day.
Many colleges are able to build strong communities even if the sports there aren’t a big deal. But being able to support our athletes during a home game is a unique aspect of Canisius’ community. Even those of us who never before considered ourselves sports fans turn out to cheer on fellow students, and show off our school spirit. As dorky as that may sound, there aren’t many students here who haven’t found themselves on their feet yelling during an exciting game.
Sports aren’t the only thing Canisius has to offer. But we can all agree that part of attending Canisius College is becoming a Golden Griffin.

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