Penn State Athletics For Everyone
"No problem" he said.
And with that I was let back into the Penn State Intramural building.
Over the past two years Penn State has attempted to implement a card swipe system, attempting to limit the users of the Intramural Building, Rec Hall and similar facilities.
All my life State College and Penn State athletes have come to play at these various rec centers. While there are a multitude of games one could play at these centers, mine has always been basketball. The reasons for this were pretty simple. Basketball is a team sport that rewards athleticism, teamwork, and skill. You could go by yourself or with friends but you could usually count on being able to get a pick-up game on any day of the week after 4:30 or so.
But there was something else that made these pick-up games unique. The fact that anyone could be on the court. I know this because I started playing pick up games on these courts by probably age 10 or 12 with others around my age. We would challenge either ourselves or maybe a group of players that were just shooting around and were bored. Sometimes our youth teams would practice since there's limited gyms in the area holding basketball courts.
While playing with College kids could be intimidating at first, especially for a socially awkward grade school student, it was playing these more developed students that built my confidence up. By eighth grade I was already almost full grown at roughly 6' and weighed probably close to 210 pounds, so physically, I fit in. The summer before I entered into high school, I was at rec hall where I played one on one against someone who happened to just want to play a game. As the game progressed, I ended up winning and the guy asked what year I was.
"I'm going to be a freshman" I told him. "Oh do you know where your classes are yet?" he asked me. "No, I mean I'm going into high school"
This experience is probably the singular moment where I began to feel confidence in who I was as an athlete. From that point on, I no longer just competed against only my peers, I was competing against everyone. While I enjoyed the respect of people I knew, what I really wanted was to gain the respect of total strangers. Competing against older competition was more challenging on the whole than playing against my age group. This played a large role in my development as an athlete, and a minor role as a person.
I believe that competition plays a big part in the development of people. How will they respond when their abilities are put into question? How will they respond when they're tired? What kind of people are they when they're on top?
The intramural building and rec hall have long been training arenas for State College's best athletes, many of which also become some of Penn State's best athletes.
I believe that the inability for local athletes to compete at a place such as rec hall or the IM building will further limit the surrounding area and Penn State's recruiting base in the Centre County region.
To not foster athletic competition limits State College and the surrounding area's ability to train for competitive athletics at a varsity level. While this immediately only hurts the area and not Penn State, over time, as the high schools in the Centre region can't gain access to competitive environments they will fall behind areas that do. Penn State will have to travel further to recruit in order to compete with schools that recruit well, not only nationally, but can maintain a competitive region in athletics.
Secondly, I believe it limits who current students could participate with or against. I'll always remember the time I played a game where one of Penn State's former student athlete's played a game. Maybe it was against a wrestler, or a volleyball player, or a football player, but chances are if you played enough games, you would run into someone recognizable who would play in a pickup game or two. With the current status, it blocks out an athlete alumni base that may want to come back and shoot or go for a run. Obviously the hypocrisy of that situation shouldn't be lost, as essentially the buildings that players essentially helped to build, are. The increased competition makes the individual either try harder to become a better athlete/player, or gives up and puts their concentrations into something else such as (hopefully) their studies.
Over the past week I've been fortunate to only have the one experience of being locked out. Thankfully, Penn State has been rather slow on enforcing its recent change to a card swipe. However, if in the future they become more stringent I'm hoping that they may offer a pass for those whom might be alumni or a student athlete at the high school level.
To me Penn State athletics goes beyond that of just the undergraduate experience. That I was in actuality a Penn State athlete from roughly the age of 10, and will always BE a Penn State athlete. For this reason I stand in open defiance of the current rules. I will continue to go to the Penn State rec centers and continue to compete amongst the future alumni proudly.