The Oberlin Experiment

The Smart Set From Drexel University
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The Oberlin Experiment
Why the failed revolution of Radical Athleticism may be the great unwritten chapter in American sports history.
By Anne Trubek


Oberlin College is a Division III school better known for incubating Ph.D.s than pro athletes. Athletic events attract a smattering of fans. The sports teams lose with astounding regularly. The last time the Yeomen made national news was when the football team ended a 44-game losing streak in 2001. Academically, athletes are, taken as a whole, the weakest group on campus, according to a study of athletics at selective schools. Many varsity athletes are outliers on campus; they are generally recruited from traditional jock cultures, and often feel alienated from the rest of a student body so clich├ęd as a bastion of queer, vegan, hipster progressivism that Gawker dubbed it the “most annoying liberal arts college in the country.”

I was a varsity athlete at Oberlin some 20 odd years ago. I can prove it to you by showing you the team photo on the walls of Philips Gymnasium. There I am, second row, third from left, varsity women’s soccer, 1984. I am a freshman, and my first year in college was also the first year there was women’s varsity soccer at Oberlin. I am proud of that fact, that bit of Title IX history. I am also proud that my teammates and I were not conventional jocks: We had somehow decided to play soccer, perhaps because we had lived in enclaves with lots of international residents or were just fast and coordinated and preferred kicking to spiking. Athletics were lower on the Oberlin ledger in those days; our coach was a philosophy professor. Some of us had never played the game before we joined the college team. We lived in co-ops and smoked pot and won more than we lost — we won, in fact, more than the .....Read more

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