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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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Feven Getachew
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Lights, Camera … Serve! Grinnell athletes in the arts

While many may consider the arts and athletics very disparate interests, some Grinnell students passionately embrace both, bridging the great physical distance between Bucksbaum and the Bear. Varsity athletes practice daily and attend competitions and many forms of the arts require large time commitments as well. For example, being in a theater production entails daily rehearsals and, eventually, numerous performances. 

Maddy Smith ’20 is both a varsity volleyball player and a theater and dance/English double major. Because of the intense time commitments involved in both volleyball and theater, she must work hard to find ways to split her time between both.

“These two things are just so important to me, so I have to do whatever I can to keep everything else afloat,” said Smith. 

Fitting both theater and volleyball into her schedule requres Smith to make some sacrifices. She typically splits her schedule by the season. In the fall, she focuses on volleyball, opting out of the two mainstage plays for the semester. In the spring, she opts out of volleyball captains’ practices and coach contact hours to focus on theater, participating in the mainstage play. 

This year, she added a musical, “Spring Awakening,” to her fall semester schedule. She was able to make an agreement with the director, Nolan Boggess ’19, that she would only be called twice a week until the volleyball season ends at the beginning of November. 

“For the auditions and callbacks process, I went to practice, and I immediately showered, stayed in the locker room to do makeup and warm up, and then grabbed a to-go box really quickly and went to the callback,” Smith said.

Sam Stickels ’19, a member of the varsity tennis team, is also cast in Spring Awakening. During his second year, he acted in the musical “Godspell” while playing tennis in season. Stickels manages his schedule by keeping his classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays so that he can devote Tuesdays and Thursdays to homework. 

For Stickels, both tennis and theater rely on connecting with the audience.

“In tennis, I think I play the best when I have a big crowd watching and people to perform for, [that] makes it a lot more fun,” said Stickels. “And same with theater, the audience and the connection you have with them is crucial.”

Theater is not the only form of arts that athletes participate in. Hannah Taylor ’21 lives in Art House, intends to major in studio art and plays on the volleyball team. She says that volleyball often does not affect her ability to do art. Sometimes, though, there are conflicts, such as a pop-up art show at her house on a recent Saturday, when she traveled for a tournament. 

Taylor appreciates having athletics as a daily activity, while being able to go home to people who enjoy making art. She said that while many people may not think that studio art and athletics share any similarities, in some ways they do. 

“I think really investing time towards a common goal might be a common thread,” Taylor said. “Sometimes it seems like they don’t overlap as much but … it seems like my team is very supportive when I have work up, they go and see it if I let them know, so that’s kind of cool.”

However, Smith says that she has noticed that her friends who are athletes often support non-athletic extracurricular activities, such as theater performances, while her friends who are not athletes less frequently attend her volleyball games. 

Smith also sees connections between the arts, theater specifically, and volleyball. 

“They’re both team sports,” she said. “If I’m not on my A-game [playing volleyball] and I let a few balls hit the floor, then we lose some points and that’s not good for my team. If I’m not on my A-game on the stage and I’m paying attention to the other academic things that I have in my life, then I’m not gonna be fully present with my scene partner and they won’t be able to give me their 100 percent.”

For these students, another connection between sports and the arts is that they can become integral to students’ social experiences at the College. Taylor lives with other artists in Art House. Stickels and Smith enjoy spending time with their fellow cast and crew members. All three say that they value the community aspect of getting to know their teammates. 

“It’s been nice being able to be a part of theater at Grinnell,” Stickels said. “I do most social things with the tennis team and we go out and do a lot of things together, but it’s nice to also meet the people in the theater department, … so it’s been a great way to meet those people who I otherwise wouldn’t have.”

Hannah Taylor ’21 bumps the ball during a volleyball practice on Thursday, Oct. 11.


Sam Stickels ’19 acting at rehearsal on Thursday, Oct. 11.
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