For the second time since the team’s birth in 1988, Union College won't have a women's basketball team. The decision for the 2016-17 season was announced on Sept. 8.
Many factors contribute to this outcome. Tryouts didn’t bring more than six girls, partly due to lack of advertisement and communication. A second week of tryouts was added, but even then there weren’t enough girls for a team.
This isn’t a standalone occurrence.
In the last three years, tryouts have been low and allowances have been made for various players, all in the name of having enough bodies on the team. Unfortunately, in permitting girls who couldn’t play at the level necessary to join, the overall skill and ability of the team declined.
Coupling that with a severely low ratio of wins to losses, disrespect was often aimed towards the team.
“You hear people all the time saying, ‘Why go to the games since we already know they’re going to lose,’” comments former co-captain Camille Darrell, a junior business major. She had hoped to add a third year to her collegiate sports career.
Ryan Millsap, a junior theology major, also voiced his frustration. “A big part of it’s from the lack of support from other students. Girls don’t have a huge turnout of spectators. Because it’s not a big deal to [other students], it’s not a big deal to those playing.”
Many students unaffected directly see the logic in the decision. “I’m a little disappointed but it doesn’t really affect me,” says Joseph Murray, a senior business student.
With a lack of support for the team among students and players alike, encouraging more students to make the commitment proves difficult.
Ric Spaulding, athletic director for Union, comments, “It’s a generational issue. Society is changing and not for the better. Kids used to be begging for [new teams] and now all they need are their phones.”
This isn’t a problem limited to Adventist schools. In the last three years, three of Union’s competitor schools have canceled their seasons due to lack of numbers.
During his interview, Spaulding received a call saying two of the teams on the Warriors’ schedule had six or fewer players but were attempting a season anyway.
Head coach of the Lady Warriors team, Richard Paradise, plainly adds, “College-level play requires a love for the game. It’s a five month commitment during the school year, and a willingness to improve your craft in the off-season.”
Although students don’t come to Union for an athletic program, it could hurt the school to not have a women’s team representing at the invitational basketball tournament, hosted on campus every February. Millsap also warns of how the lack of a team could affect recruitment. “If they don’t see a team this year, incoming students won’t think it’s a possibility,” he states.
One commonly mentioned idea is scholarships for the athletics program.
“I hope our school and faculty see we need some sort of incentive for students to want to play basketball on the team,” says Jessica Abrahamson, a senior elementary education major and former captain. “If Union offered even a small scholarship, we would probably have more players.”
Whether or not a team will begin next season is unclear. Paradise has optimism. “I will continue to do all I can to develop and recruit basketball players for the Union Warriors team,” he says.
Brittney (Needs) Origas, a Union graduate and Warriors alum shares the same optimism. “It’s unfortunate to see something I loved so much at Union College come to an end,” she says. “Hopefully in the next couple years we’ll be able to get back to a position that we can have a team.”
Katie Morrison is a senior studying business administration.