Jack Melville | Contributing Writer
One might not think that the small gym located in Shafer hall at Eastern Connecticut State University opens up that much potential for excitement. After all, it seems like a quiet, lesser known area on campus. However, a small group of Eastern students would be quick to disagree. Every day without fail, these students cut time out of their busy schedules to go take part in pickup basketball games. While Shafer might not boast the biggest and best gymnasium on campus, it allows for students to take part in the sports they enjoy in a much more relaxed environment. Many of the participants in these games do play intramurals, but they also agree that only playing once or twice a week does not always satisfy them. Even those who do not participate in campus organized athletics, can fully immerse themselves in these games. The less structured nature of pickup basketball seems like the perfect outlet for them to escape from the stress of being a college student. “It’s a nice break from work and other commitments,” says Sam Jordan, a sophomore at Eastern.
Sam and his friends, who are also Eastern Students, will all jump at the chance to go get a quick game in during the day. The students who take part are all at very different points in their college experience, but they will always find the time to get together at Shafer. It does not matter if they’re a freshman or a senior; anyone can play as long as they can show up. Eastern Senior Drew Zenick says, “If I need to get some exercise in or I just want an excuse to hang out with some friends, I’ll send a text”. This group that plays daily goes at varying times, and one might see them there anytime from three to eleven p.m. . It seems that as soon as one of them picks a time, the rest will get to Shafer without delay. “I’ll text the group and ask if they want to hoop at 4, and most of them will get there 5 minutes early,” Zenick continues.
The games might be scheduled in a casual manner, but the actual game play is anything but. Everybody who takes part in these pickup games gives it their all, never breaking a hustle and only stopping for water breaks. Watching these games would lead one to think that a championship title is on the line, when in reality it is just a group of guys who all share the same love for the game. Disputes arise occasionally about fouls or if the ball actually went out of bounds, but things like that are to be expected in any competition. The players put the full extent of their athleticism on display, and even pull off some pretty impressive feats. There is always a significant amount of 3-pointers, fade aways and crossovers involved in these games. “I give 110 percent on the court no matter what,” says Ethan Naumann, a freshman. “Doesn’t matter who I’m up against or what the stakes are. If I’m on the court I want to win. Not only are these games a break from the monotony of day to day life, there are also plenty of health benefits that come with playing a little bit of basketball. Thirty minutes of intense physical activity every day has been proven to increase physical, mental, and cardiovascular health. Everyone can benefit from a quick game, and when New England weather is so unpredictable, a place like the Shafer gym provides a very accessible way for students to get a workout in rain or shine. It’s difficult not to break a sweat when playing a fast-paced and intense game. Mike Wallace, a junior at Eastern, says that it keeps him active and that these games motivate him to start maintaining a more healthy lifestyle. “Basketball is an easy way for me to get a workout in, but since I’m having fun playing, it makes the whole cardio aspect of it feel like nothing”. For these men, Shafer hall has provided them hours of ethical, and even beneficial, fun. Doing nothing but work all week can lead to burnout, and unwanted stress. Sometimes a place where someone can find any type of reprieve is very valuable. In a culture where more and more college students are feeling stressed with grades, current events, and the future, places like this are proving to be more essential than ever. A safe environment where people can get together for the sake of fun should never go overlooked. Any Eastern student can play at Shafer gym, and can fully utilize it as the fun and exciting place that it has proven to be. While the men there do not always play on the same team, they have certainly bonded and made worthwhile memories that any Eastern student has the potential to create for themselves.