For much of the last year, student wellness has been on the agenda at Columbia—as it should be. There is no question that we are, generally, a pretty stressed-out group of overachievers, and often those qualities manifest themselves in incredibly unhealthy ways.
I think we’ve made progress in terms of talking about this problem on campus. But I also think there’s something very important that we haven’t been thinking about—how sports contribute to student wellness.
There are two primary ways that a deeper investment in athletics will make this a healthier campus. One is pretty simple—exercise on a personal level. I’m not a scientist, but I believe that the available science suggests that regular exercise releases lots of fun endorphins and makes you feel better.
Some of the happiest times I’ve had at Columbia have correlated with getting regular exercise. This semester, I used the East Campus gym several times a week after class—paradoxically, I’ve had way more energy than I had the previous semester. My freshman year, my floor spent almost every night playing some variety of ultimate frisbee on whichever lawn was not being “protected” by Public Safety.
(Yes, I think it’s safe to admit it now—it was Hartley Hall 3 that completely destroyed Lewisohn Lawn two years ago. Who would have thought scrambling around in a rainstorm would damage a grass field?)
So that’s one thing—we should all get outside more. Run around for a bit. Go to the gym and look at some weights. Go on an elliptical for five minutes.
You might think you’re too busy because you’re a Columbia student, and yes, work is hard here. But think of it as an investment. (I hear we have a pretty good econ department.) Carving out 20 minutes a day, three days a week to get your blood going and give yourself time to reflect a little bit will help keep your brain clear and your body happy, which will only make your schoolwork better.
The other way sports can relieve stress is by going to football and basketball games. Sports venues give us the opportunity to act in ways that might be frowned upon in, say, a discussion section. When the other team makes you mad, you can simply scream at them! And you certainly never have to justify yourself using the works of Søren Kierkegaard. It’s stress relief in its purest form—screaming your lungs out at those cheaters on the Harvard basketball team is a lot better than screaming at your friends or classmates.
Home games also are a chance to build some of that elusive “community” that is often decried as lacking at Columbia. Everyone in the student section at a basketball game, for example, has the same goal in mind: watching the Lions win. (Those people who don’t share the same goals can be easily identified by their differently colored shirts and can be shunned and/or yelled at appropriately.) Win or lose, going to the games builds a sense of unity and community as the team becomes something everyone can rally around and root for.
And when it comes to winning, fan support is actually important—a noisy gym makes a huge difference in college basketball. Levien Gymnasium gets really loud, as it is basically just a tiny little box. So going to the games will (generally) make the team play better, just as it will make you feel better.
Next semester, I urge you to try to get to a few Columbia basketball games. Go sit in the student section, close to the court or near the band. Cheer and yell until your voice is completely gone.
The teams need you. I need you—I’ll be in London next semester, and as much as I might try, I don’t believe I can yell quite that loud. And you might be surprised how much you need yourself to get out and cheer.
And please, for the love of God, don’t bring your reading. If you do, you’re doing it wrong.
Peter Andrews is a junior in Columbia College majoring in history. He is an associate copy editor for Spectator. For Pete’s Sake runs biweekly.