The double ‘A:’ athletics and the arts

Understanding the relationship between sports and different artistic activities across campus.

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The outside view of the LSC and the CA. Maddie Ciliento ‘25

Muhlenberg offers students a wide variety of possibilities within their liberal arts degree. While some of these forms of exploration might be from the General Academic Requirements (GARs), some student-athletes go beyond the requirements to pursue their artistic interests. These athletes are just as active on the field as they are off.

Katie Raab ‘24 played on the field hockey team for her four years at Muhlenberg and decided to pursue the arts for more than just one GAR. Raab mentioned, “I have always loved the arts, and so I knew that I wanted to pursue an art major in college and that is what I am doing– I have a studio art major! I am a drawing concentration and currently working on my senior thesis project.”

Raab mentioned how the beauty of the liberal arts education and Muhlenberg being a Division III school allows for the flexibility to pursue her education and athletic endeavors. “[DIII] athletics allows my primary focus to be my education followed by athletics, not vice versa, and so I am able to devote the time and effort towards my art mainly through classes.” Raab also went on to mention the wonderful support from her teammates and coach with her pursuit of the arts. “Additionally, my coaches and teammates have always encouraged my academic and artistic pursuits which is extremely helpful and validating.”

Grace Hoffman ‘25 is a media & communication and studio art double major who is also a goalkeeper on the soccer team. Hoffman stated, “I’ve definitely found it easy and natural to pursue my passion for the arts. I am focusing on painting as my main arts interest, however, I have found it very beneficial to be well-rounded in all art areas. I came into school as just a media & communication major and then declared my art major in the spring since I realized I had lots of time to fill those requirements. I have found it super interesting to connect my media & communication major course with my studio art major courses in terms of finding my career path. Art and painting was more of a talent/hobby but I am very grateful that I could easily make it a part of my degree.”

Hoffman mentions how the double major and her position on the soccer team allow for her to be well-balanced in multiple areas, with the opportunity to go abroad in the spring. “I am even able to go abroad to Dublin in the spring while working towards my double major. I don’t think I would be able to do that at other schools so Muhlenberg makes it really easy to pursue all my interests.”

Head Women’s Soccer Coach Kathy Prescott mentioned, “One of the biggest benefits of a Division III athletic experience is that student-athletes are able to explore multiple aspects of their identities, including the arts, while also participating in athletics and in the classroom.”

The world of the arts on campus also expands to performance, especially through music and vocals. Head Football Coach Nate Milne stated, “We have had a few athletes in music performance. As of late, Gavin Baker [‘24] has been in the Jazz Ensemble and Max Allanson-Dundon [‘21] was a music major with a focus on performance. These two did a wonderful job and many members on our team were supportive and able to see their performances.”  

Alex Garrido ‘23, a kicker on the football team, mentioned how his history with vocal performance helped prepare him to play on a varsity team. Garrido stated, “I think my experience performing on stage is minimal but has aided in my athletics…It allowed me to simply focus on my performance which translated directly to athletics.”

The time component of being on the football team limited Garrido from exploring performing vocally on campus. “I think for me football always took up so much of my time that I never considered doing anything vocally for the school. Singing for me has also never been something I intended to pursue professionally, so it was never at the forefront of my mind.”

Coach Milne highlighted how the time aspect of these two fields is the main struggle for athletes who wish to focus on both. Milne expressed, “The relationship between the two is rare. As someone who sang in college and played football, the time management aspect is what prevents many from being able to accomplish both. For those on campus who have pursued both, the relationship is wonderful; it just takes a very special person. I believe there is mutual respect for all as well, knowing the time and commitment to perfect something you are extremely passionate about. There are more similarities than one might think on the surface.”

Director of Operations and Production Jessica Bien stated how this time commitment element is the major issue that limits the number of athletes who perform on stage. “There just aren’t enough hours in the day to do both (and take classes! and do homework!) at the same time.” When an athlete’s schedule is more flexible during the off-season, there is the option to audition. “There would be nothing to prevent an athlete from participating in a show when their sport isn’t practicing and competing. We hold open auditions for all productions, and all students are welcome to participate.” 

Another major component is athletes and artists at Muhlenberg are exceptional and devote whatever limited time they may have to perfecting what they want to do. Bien continued, “It takes a great deal of commitment and time to become excellent at any endeavor, and the students who compete in Muhlenberg’s varsity athletic teams and who perform on our stages are all excellent at and committed to what they do. It’s not an issue of what students are allowed to do, it’s a matter of balancing your commitment to your sport or your art with the demands of academic work, while staying healthy.”

There is still some involvement in the theatrical side of campus as some student-athletes do participate in the scene shop and other factors backstage. The support is there regardless. “That said, we often have student-athletes in the audience of theatre and dance productions, and theatre and dance students often attend athletic competitions. They support their roommates and friends and participate in the diverse student life on campus,” concluded Bien.

The arts and athletics on campus continue to be two amazing areas for students to explore at Muhlenberg. While the intersection may not be common, it does allow students to hone in on the areas that they love and are passionate about. 

Raab concluded, “I would wholeheartedly encourage other athletes to pursue the arts, creative expression is extremely important to personal identity and I think oftentimes team athletic environments tend to favor group identity over individual and so the arts can be a great outlet for that. Additionally, athletics is very very structured and so the arts can provide environments that are more flexible and freeing. They are both sources of happiness in my life and provide a great balance with having both!”

Johnny '24 is a Theatre and Media and Communication double major at 'Berg. He loves to highlight the voices of artists across campus and to showcase the wide variety of events at Muhlenberg. He likes to think he is funny, but that is up for debate.

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