College athletes return to the classroom



French teacher Catherine Beck, Dean of Student Support Systems Brian Poon and French teacher Alexander Craven all played college sports and said it shaped them into who they are today.

Although the personal lives of educators remain a mystery, their past is even more mysterious. Unbeknownst to some, multiple teachers were collegiate athletes in their past. Here see inside the lives of three staff members’ experience in college sports and how it shaped them into who they are today.

Catherine Beck, Division III Women’s Volleyball, Outside Hitter at Loras College

French teacher Catherine Beck started playing volleyball in 6th grade. When it came time for college applications, Beck dedicated herself to the sport and got recruited to Loras College. She was an outside hitter for the team, and after her freshman year, she transferred to the University of Wisconsin and continued to play through club volleyball.

Beck said that playing a college sport increased her motivation to balance practice and school work.

“Volleyball helped me realize: ‘Okay, Catherine, you need to get it together and figure out a way to study appropriately.’ You always hear about students in college staying up till 2 a.m. to study. I could never do that because of practice and being so exhausted. I would go to bed at 10 p.m. and set my alarm for 5 a.m. to study,” Beck said. “That was definitely a learning experience for me. It wasn’t always perfect.”

Not only did she learn new skills on and off the court, but she explored herself and her values, Beck said. As a high school student, Beck said she didn’t have high self-confidence, but as she entered college, volleyball boosted her image of herself and it has carried into her present day life.

“The freshman year experience, there were just so many different types of emotions. I was nervous and scared and asking myself if I was good enough. But then I was able to know that I was good enough,” Beck said.

According to Beck, playing a sport in college provided a sense of support and gave her healthy relationships.

“The community, the friends, the love of my teammates was extremely important for me in my development as a person,” Beck said.

Brian Poon, Division III Men’s Lacrosse, Midfielder at Haverford College

Dean of Student Support Systems Brian Poon played lacrosse for four years at Haverford College, where he graduated in 1993.

Poon, having never played lacrosse before other than occasionally passing around a ball with his brother, approached the men’s Division III coach at Haverford and demanded a spot on the team. Poon said that was the first step in a big journey, filled with commitment and exploration.

According to Poon, although it took massive effort and often left him exhausted, lacrosse was worth it.

“Any activity that you are committed to teaches you a significant amount about discipline, being a part of a team and working with others,” Poon said.

Poon said there were times when his team would be losing by five or six goals in the first half of a game, but when halftime came, Poon’s team flipped their mindset and exploded into the second half of the game, dominating for the next two quarters and winning by 10 goals. It was experiences like these that made playing lacrosse worth it for Poon, but that didn’t mean that the commitment wasn’t enervating.

“In the winter, you had 6 a.m. practices for two or three hours, and then in the afternoons you would go from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. every day. And then there’s travel to away games and so it’s just a massive commitment,” Poon said.

Poon said an important detail in his college experience was that his world didn’t revolve around lacrosse and it didn’t determine who he was. Alongside lacrosse, Poon was involved in theater and student government at Haverford College.

“In college you are figuring out who you want to be and where you’re gonna put your energy, and playing a sport can absolutely help define you,” Poon said. “But it also doesn’t need to define you.”

Alexander Craven, Division III Men’s Lacrosse, Midfielder at Clark University and UMass Boston

French teacher Alexander Craven’s lacrosse journey started in 6th grade in his town’s Little League program and throughout his middle and high school years.

For his four years of college, Craven attended two universities: Clark University and UMass Boston.

“I didn’t love my two years at Clark and that’s why I transferred and came back to Boston. When I was at UMass Boston, it was so nice to have sports as this consistent thing during this big change and to have this group of people I [could] go to,” Craven said.

Craven said his favorite thing about lacrosse is that it gave him constant support both on and off the field.
“You’d play a game, and then you come back and you’re with your teammates and usually have food, and it was like the social hour after a game,” Craven said. “Obviously you want to go back on a win, but it’s the little things like socializing which I miss most.”

Craven remembers that when he was a new student at UMass Boston, he felt lost in the school until he found his lacrosse teammates.

“I’d think, ‘Oh, thank God, they’re here so I’ll talk to them.’ When I was there in the cafeteria, right away I had this crew of people I could hang out with and rely on,” Craven said.

Craven said although competition and intensity often took over all else, he wishes that he had more fully appreciated his lacrosse journey.

“You should just enjoy it. I definitely took playing lacrosse too seriously at some moments. I should have just ridden the wave and enjoyed the ride,” Craven said.