Ability to Unite

Dan Avington

Ability+to+Unite

Photo by Jordan Johnson

“Sports give you hope.”

It’s at least what Marquette women’s volleyball head coach Ryan Theis says. “It’s entertainment, it’s something to root for. It gives people something to look forward to.”

At Marquette, there are hundreds of student-athletes, thousands of fans who watch games from Fiserv Forum and the Al McGuire Center all the way to Valley Fields, and millions of dollars invested into the athletics department all to adhere to one thing: unity.

“We have people from all over the world here, and they all come together speaking Marquette,” men’s soccer head coach Louis Bennett says. “You can peel back the layers of race, religion and more and see that there is a lot of commonality in people. We can come together to be a strong, powerful force.”

Bennett describes the importance of moments in soccer where people unite, like when five prisoners set up a soccer club in Africa to protest the apartheid and to keep a community together when Nelson Mandela was in prison. It gave the prisoners something to look forward to, or better yet, hope.

Bennett also notes the time when Iceland, which he says is a “country smaller than Milwaukee,” became the smallest country ever to qualify for the World Cup in 2018. The entire nation root together for their team and their country.

BIG EAST Conference Commissioner Val Ackerman echoes the sentiments of sports’ ability to bring different kinds of people together.

“Sports can result in bridges between people of different faiths, ethnicities and nationalities,” she says. “It’s a great unifying force for our culture, and they can become a very effective platform for positive social change.”

The impact of that unifying force has been felt by players, including former Marquette University men’s basketball player, Luke Fischer. He now plays basketball in Würzburg, Germany, and says that sports can, in a way, be a universal language.

“I’ve played with guys from all over the world and it’s crazy how basketball brings us together,” he says. “People who don’t speak the same language as I do have cheered for me in games.”

Fischer says big games at Marquette make him realize how big of a community and fanbase Marquette has and that it’s a big deal to have the community come together to celebrate and cheer on a team.

Kevin Choe, a sophomore in the College of Education and a fan of Marquette sports, also says that sports at Marquette have a big impact in terms of bringing people together.

“Basketball games and other sports are big events here on campus and they are really important for a lot of students,” he says. “The games bring together current students, former students, fans and everyone in the community and are a great way to spend our time together.”

For Nathan Organ, a junior in the College of Engineering, he says National Marquette Day means more to the Marquette community than just a basketball game.

“National Marquette Day is important because it allows us to come together in solidarity with the alumni that were in the same position we were,” he says. “That day has the ability to bring Marquette together in celebration of our culture.”

Organ says that his family, who has a line of family members as alums, always try to meet up at halftime on National Marquette Day to catch up and talk about the game and their family — which is something he looks forward to every year.

Sean Dole, a sophomore in the College of Business, says that he considers National Marquette Day about family and that it is one of the most important days for Marquette.

“It’s special because it’s all about the community and everyone involved with Marquette, past or present,” he says. “It’s a day that’s all about celebrating us and that’s not something everyone has.”

For this year’s National Marquette Day game against Butler, there were 50 registered watch parties around the world including in Hawaii, London, Paris, and Puerto Rico. As Marquette athletic director Bill Scholl says, that is what makes the day what it is for Marquette nation.

“There’s something to be said for Marquette fans around the world deciding that we’re all thinking about Marquette at the same time on the same day,” Scholl says. “Everyone decides that this is the game that we’re all gonna watch and it creates those magical moments where everyone is celebrating together.”

With sports having that ability to bring people together, there is something to be said for its ability to provide people with an escape from hardships by providing a window of distraction.

“Regardless of what’s going on in people’s lives, sports allow people to come together for a common goal, cheering for your team to win,” Organ says. “For a few hours we all forget about our responsibilities and we aim our focus on watching and cheering our team on to victory.”

The idea of having a common goal resonates with Fischer, as he says sports can bring people together no matter how different everyone may be.

“Whether you’re a fan or a player, you’re all united for the sake of a common goal,” Fischer says. “I think that speaks to the power of sports.”