The Secret Life of Student-Athletes, Part 3

For Parts 1 and 2, click here and here.

Fall of my junior year turned out to be a terribly chaotic period, because our institution had been chosen to host one of the Presidential Debates.  At the crux of the chaos was the fact that our athletics and recreation building had been pegged as the site of the televised debate.  So while the university administration worked on problems like designing logos to advertise the event and implementing unbelievably complex security measures, all of the varsity teams housed in the building worked on completely emptying the locker rooms so that they could be occupied by the Secret Service.

For my team, the process took days: we lugged out picture frames, dry erase markers, trophies, plaques, plastic utensils, an electric guitar, clothes, shoes, kneepads, furniture, the TV, shampoo, razors, Post-It Big Pads, magnets, glittery scrunchies and leotards, craft supplies, a fake potted tree, laundry bags, magazines, foam rollers, powdered Gatorade mix, and food, all the time wondering how the HECK did some of this stuff get in here in the first place??  All of my volleyball clothes and equipment ended up in a pile on the middle of my bedroom floor for the month of October, and I would dive into it every morning hoping to emerge with the correct combination of shirt, spandex, socks, kneepads, and shoes I would need for practice that day.

But the inconvenience of losing locker room access paled in comparison to the loss of our gym space for those 2-3 weeks leading up to the debate while we were in the middle of our season and practicing 2-3 hours every day.  Our coaching staff worked tirelessly to find us adequate gym space off-campus (which happened to be about 30 minutes away) and also to obtain bus transportation for the 15 players.  On the rides to and from the off-campus facility we would entertain ourselves by watching Family Guy clips on YouTube and by telling each other horrific anti-jokes (i.e. “How do you get a clown to stop smiling? … You throw an axe at his face.”)

Playing a varsity sport often entails missing out on the big events on campus, and the Presidential Debate was no exception.  When the much-anticipated day finally came, my team was on a charter bus driving from San Francisco International Airport to San Jose State University for a pre-game-day practice.  Thus, we were unable to take part in the rollicking celebration dubbed “DebateFest” that was created for the 10,850 out of 11,000 students who did not win lottery tickets to attend the actual debate – although, after seeing the Facebook pictures of the Lumineers’ performance and the pop art paintings of the candidates and the feminist activist wandering through the crowd wearing a vagina costume, I almost feel like I was there.

We did, however, manage to participate in at least one of the university-sponsored events: the Moment in Time photo collection.  Someone in administration or perhaps the marketing department had the brilliant idea to ask students, alums, and employees to submit pictures of themselves at the moment the debate began; pictures deemed worthy for display would be included in a slideshow on the official university website dedicated to all things debate.

I was determined to secure our team’s involvement with the historic occasion in some capacity, so I factored in the time difference between the two states and whipped out my phone when the hour of the debate arrived.  Everyone on the team leaned out into the bus aisle, all sporting stylish grey practice t-shirts and grey sweats, and we snapped a few horrible quality pics as the late afternoon sun poured through the windows and the swaying of the bus made it difficult to hold my phone still.  I sent them off to the designated Moment in Time email address, and lo and behold a week later I found the final slideshow and was thrilled to discover that one of our glared and blurry photos had made the cut.


The selected photograph

This was to be the only successful debate experience our team had.  On our last pre-debate trip out of the locker room, one of my teammates had lagged behind to leave a heartfelt message on our whiteboard for whoever would be occupying the room in our absence.  It read: “Romney and/or Obama: please leave us autographs!! Love, The Volleyball Team.”  When we finally returned from our month-long exile, we looked at the board with high hopes.  There, underneath our request, a single word had been scrawled: “HAHA.”

Tune in next week for the fourth and final installment!