Director's Desk • Where's the rah-rah?
By Michael Van Denend '78

Calvin is about to open a magnificent new athletic and wellness facility, the Spoelhof Fieldhouse Complex, thanks to the generous support of alumni and friends of the college.

The plans call for an inaugural double-header men’s and women’s basketball game on Wednesday evening, Jan. 7, 2009.

Who will be there?

On Homecoming weekend, Feb. 20-21, 2009, there will be an official dedication of the building (the 20th), followed by an open house and Calvin-Hope women’s basketball game (the 21st).

Who will be interested?

As the story in this issue describes, Calvin has revamped its Knight logo after many years, and there are new uniforms, clothing items and even a bright new design for the arena floor.

Who will care?

Calvin has a tremendous athletic tradition, with outstanding teams, coaches and players. National championship banners hang from the rafters. The MIAA titles are almost too numerous to catalog.

However, the Calvin community has always been careful about keeping athletics in perspective, too. The nickname “Knights” wasn’t even our idea; it came from the local press searching for something to call the athletic teams from Calvin since we hadn’t bothered with a name for our athletes. The media dubbed us “the Calvinites,” which grew into “the Calvin Knights.”

We’re in the NCAA Division III, the one category of national intercollegiate athletics in which all member schools do not give athletic scholarships.

There’s no football team (other than the annual Les Jacques de Chimes team playing touch football against the faculty). No cheerleaders, either.

Academics have always come first, and that’s true for not only Calvin’s athletic teams, but for everything co-curricular at the college—music ensembles, student organizations, residence hall activities and the like. We are a college after all. I think all alumni, parents and friends of the college are pleased that Calvin’s priorities are in good order.

But can anyone tell me where some rah-rah comes into this equation?

There isn’t any problem getting a full house of cheering fans raising the roof for the annual Calvin-Hope men’s basketball games. And there have been some ear-splitting moments at late night Calvin-Hope ice hockey contests as well.

But generally, we’ve taken our athletic contests far less seriously (and loudly) than other schools with less to cheer about than Calvin’s excellent teams.

Why is that?

Athletics has traditionally been one of those collegiate activities that rally students and alumni around a common experience and emotion. I know we’ve had that at Calvin before; I’ve witnessed last-second banked-in three-pointers and game-saving goalie stops. In all the busyness of our lives—in the classroom and out, for both students and grads—it seems a bit of the thrill of that common feeling, of school spirit, has drifted away.

Perhaps the new facilities will spark some curiosity in the student body and in alumni and friends to fill the comfortable seats. The new logo might prompt some Calvin fan to retire the old sweatshirt or cap to make way for a fresh Knight look.

I hope so. It would be a thrill to be part of a Calvinite renaissance in athletic team support at this school. The teams, coaches and athletes would welcome that response from us.


Michael J. Van Denend
Executive Editor, Spark