Reflections, by Bobby Della Polla '13
As I was planning what I was going to say today, I thought to myself what does it mean to be a Division III student-athlete at a Jesuit university. The thing that kept ringing in my head was a quote from the prayer of generosity, attributed to St. Ignatius, the founder of the Society of Jesus. Ignatius said, “To give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to ask for any reward.” We, as student-athletes, do this day in and day out. We do not do it for a scholarship or to make it to the NBA; we do it because we love our sport and we love our team.
If you look around campus, there are no 100,000-seat stadiums. There are no statues of professional athletes that have graduated from here. To us, a good crowd is having our parents, friends and family there to cheer us on. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those people, especially parents. You spent countless hours driving us to games and practice our entire lives, often missing work or cutting out early to make our games. You are there for us, whether we fail or succeed. You support everything we do and you have taught us to be the people that we are today.
Our family has grown during our time at Scranton. Not only do we have the entire Scranton community to lean on, we have an even closer family in the athletics department. Like I said, we do not always have thousands of screaming fans at all of our games but our fellow student-athletes always know when we play. What is important to me and I think to all athletes here is when a member of another team sees you walking down the commons and says, “Hey, shake it off, you’ll get them next time,” or, “Great job against Catholic this weekend, Congrats on the win!” That is what it means to be a Scranton student-athlete.
To break this family down even smaller, we each have our team. I know that without my team I would be eating all of my meals by myself. I would lose a huge support system not just on the field but in all facets of life. Our teammates know everything about us. You spend hours upon hours with them at practice and games, on buses, eating meals, in hotel rooms. Eventually along the way you cross the line from freshman strangers who share a common interest to brothers and sisters. Each team is unique in its own way. For example, the swim team has the box, which I am almost positive that they would rather go through horrendous torture before revealing what it means. We all have inside jokes, things that only teammates would understand and memories that will last a lifetime.
Each one of these teams has people at the top who are with us every step of the way: our coaches. Whether full-time or part-time, paid or volunteer, these coaches are there for us, win or lose. From a baseball perspective, we have three assistant coaches that volunteer because they love the game and love our team. The coaches at the University are another support system for our student-athletes whether they are coaches of our own team or not. They put in so much time and effort with their own teams and still keep up with and cheer on the rest of the teams at the University. Their spouses, children and family become a part of the team, too. These people and their families care so much for us not just as students and athletes but as individuals. Your dedication to what you do is truly remarkable and does not go unnoticed, and I would like to thank every coach and their families for what you do for us.
I cannot speak about this athletics department, particularly the class of 2013, without speaking about the accomplishments both on and off the field. Every year, we win Landmark Conference championships, put people on the All-Landmark Conference teams, have athletes that are all-region and All-American, academic all-district and academic All-American. We have sent two teams to the Elite Eight in the past couple of years, and the list goes on and on. If you ask me, Scranton athletics are second to none in terms of students who compete at the highest level of pure athletics.
But not only are Scranton student-athletes second to none on the field and in the classroom, they are second to none as individuals. Scranton athletes spend hours volunteering and working in this community. Specifically, in the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, we do events such as National Sportsmanship Day where we go to a local grade school and teach them how to play with sportsmanship and respect. We do safe Halloween for local kids to come to the University and go trick-or-treating, a Thanksgiving food drive, a Christmas toy drive, a Zumba-thon to raise money for cancer research and many other things for this community. Scranton student-athletes embody so many ideals like self-discipline, leadership, and a strong moral character. We consistently strive for the Jesuit ideal of the magis, meaning “the more.” We have to balance a heavier load than your average student but you will never hear us complain. Scranton student-athletes are determined to be the best they can be on the field, on the court or in the pool, in the classroom, and in life.
Looking into this crowd, I am looking at some of the greatest people I know. The only message I can really give to all of you is to continue to be the incredible people that you already are. Although our college athletic careers have come to a close, keep that same spirit and sense of community everywhere you go. It is contagious. In life, we will still be a part of many teams and although they may not be sports teams, you can bring to them the same spirit, love and dedication you brought to your sport. Your family is your team. The people you work with are your team. They will support you and be there for you every step of the way just like your teammates at Scranton. I thought it would be appropriate to end with a quote from an athlete, Emil Zatopek, who was a Czech long distance runner in the '50s. He said, “An athlete cannot run with money in his pockets. An athlete must run with hope in his heart and dreams in his head." Dream big everyone, and like St. Ignatius challenges us, go forth and set the world on fire."