During the fall season, you can find Andrew McElroy, Cade McNaughton, and Darien Townsend on the football field or in the weight room practicing. After football season ends and spring comes around, these same men can be found racing up and down the court chasing a title not associated with the Pioneer Football League. In the spring of 2019, ten football players joined forces and made a successful intramural basketball team.
“We just got a group of guys, like ten of us from the football team, we agreed to play and then just started playing,” said Townsend. “Personally, basketball was my first love, before football, and I always love the comradery. Compared to football, it’s a bit more individual so you are more focused on trying to score, wherein football you are more focused on just doing your job.”
For McElroy and McNaughton, their love of basketball has been present throughout their lives. “I always played three sports growing up,” said McElroy. “I love playing basketball. I haven’t played in a while and a bunch of guys wanted to get a team together.”
“Honestly, we all love basketball and have been playing since we were freshmen,” said McNaughton. “We always played pickup games together and we’ve been talking about doing it for a couple of years, so we decided last year to put a team together.”
The three football players agreed that the sport of basketball is great conditioning for the off-season. Intramurals don’t come with the same intensity as playing a Division I sport, but there’s no denying that basketball is a quality workout.
“Playing full-court games of basketball gets a little cardio in, and it’s a different type of conditioning that’s good for the body,” said Townsend. McElroy echoed his two-sport teammate and spoke to another aspect: a different kind of fun. “It’s just fun to go and play with the guys in a different setting,” he said. “I love to compete, and just in an aspect other than football, it makes it a lot of fun.”
McElroy, McNaughton, and Townsend aren’t positive that the football coaches know they play organized basketball, but they know they have seen them play pick-up games. They believe that if they don’t get injured playing, then there is no reason they shouldn’t be allowed to play.
“I think they might have an idea because we have talked to a couple of coaches before about playing here or there,” said McNaughton. “We all look at it like you could get hurt walking down the stairs so we are not going to live in a shell. We use it to be conditioned almost and get extra cardio in. The coaches have seen us play pick-up games, and they encourage it.”
When the starting five takes the court, everyone is just an intramural basketball player, even when some bring Division I training to the depth chart. Intramural basketball players, Ryan Ackert and Tyler Wagner don’t have a problem competing with or against Division I athletes; they’re all in it together. The camaraderie built from intramurals and the love of the game is more important than the athleticism of the players.
“I absolutely think it’s fair, I don’t see a problem with it,” said Ackert. “There might be physical differences, but I think it’s fair for athletes to play intramurals.”
Similarly, Wagner saw no issues with athletes playing intramurals because the whole purpose of intramurals is inclusivity. “It’s Marist intramurals, they are meant for everyone. The majority of kids wouldn’t play if other athletes didn’t, because we are all friends,” Wagner expressed.
On Tuesdays and Sundays, once the lights have gone out at Tenney and the weight room is closed, the love of the game is what fills the noisy gym in McCann. It’s not about the playing time or the stat sheet, it’s not even about football; it’s about enjoying the other game they love with their teammates.
Being in the off-season and playing basketball for McElroy, McNaughton, and Townsend is more about enjoying the game they love with their teammates. The games played on Tuesday and Sunday nights from 9 p.m. to 12 p.m. are a time when students can take a break from their studies and get in their exercise. If people question the ability of football players on the basketball court, they can likely go see a similar intramural team made up of football players on the court next semester in the spring of 2020.
Edited by Amelia Nick & Lily Caffrey-Levine