The Benefits of Athletics
From personal experience, I can attest that participation in athletics gives lifelong value and pleasure.
The president on a recent skiing excursion
I am pleased to see today's Ithaca student-athletes highlighted in this edition of the ICQ and to contribute to the cover package by sharing some of my own experiences. I admire and respect the abilities and accomplishments of these young men and women and am a true fan of intercollegiate athletics.
Athletics played an important role in my own upbringing, and physical activity and fitness remain fun priorities in my life as a middle-aged adult. I feel fortunate to have been exposed to sports and physical activity at an early age -- which laid the foundation for subsequent years, recreationally and even professionally.
I entered the world of athletic competition at the age of 6, as a member of the swim team at an athletic club in Montreal. Our home meets were on Friday nights, and I can vividly recall the excitement in the air on those evenings. Freestyle was my stroke, but I occasionally swam medley relays as well.
In high school I played on the school basketball and softball teams -- on defense and as shortstop, respectively -- and continued to swim for recreation. By now I had also picked up skiing, water-skiing, camping, badminton, squash, and other activities, both indoor and outdoor.
As an undergraduate I attended the University of Toronto, where I swam in the intramurals program. Other physical activities remained part of my life.
Now, whenever possible, I carve out time to bike, hike, ski, swim, and sail. I firmly believe that participating in such activities benefits intellectual health as well as physical health and well-being.
Although I am a member of the pre-Title IX generation, I did not suffer personally from its absence. I grew up in Canada, attended all-girls' schools, belonged to an athletic club, and had numerous opportunities to participate in sports -- competitively and just for fun. I knew of no other model until I moved to the United States. When I joined the higher education community here in the early 1970s, I learned that my female contemporaries had grown up in a very different environment.
I know that the opportunity to participate in athletics from an early age contributed to who I am today. In addition to learning the skills and techniques associated with various sports, I also learned about hard work, discipline, teamwork, and how to deal with disappointment as well as with the spotlight. I also met interesting people along the way and expanded my horizons.
My athletic background does not match that of our current student-athletes. However, I do know that their participation teaches them a great deal, provides a wonderful and fun outlet, and gives the rest of the IC community enjoyment and excitement.
As a college president, I am honored to be a part of the important discussions taking place at the national level as a member of the President's Council of NCAA Division III. I am also pleased to know that so many of the IC community benefit from our athletics programs, both intercollegiate and intramural.
While I take pride in these programs, I also recognize that if they are to continue being a source of pride we need the proper facilities to support them. I am excited about our plans for an athletics and events center, which will help keep our programs at the forefront among institutions of higher education in the United States. I hope we will find, especially among our alumni and parents of student-athletes, strong support for this facility. Read more in the cover stories[LINK].
P.S. From ages 10 to 12 I was also the girls' yo-yo champion for the West Island of Montreal!
Editor's note: President Williams still tosses an impressive yo-yo.