Athletics ready for growth

by Beacon Staff • March 19, 2008

A number of intramural tournaments have been held this year, including basketball, dodgeball, volleyball and soccer.,In the past few years, Emerson athletics have benefitted from a new gym, fresh staff members and overall success by a number of teams. With more changes in the works, Lion sports are continuing to grow.

A number of intramural tournaments have been held this year, including basketball, dodgeball, volleyball and soccer. Those events are part of an expanding athletics program at Emerson that is also set to add men's volleyball as a varsity sport in the spring of 2009.

Athletic Director Kristin Parnell said the department plans to host more intramural events in the future due to the popularity of each event held earlier this year.

"We plan to continue to create an atmosphere of unity and to foster school spirit by establishing more intramural events," Parnell said in an email interview. "The breadth of our offerings continues to expand, and with the inclusion of our club and intramural offerings you don't have to be 'an athlete' to participate in an activity you might find enjoyable."

This year marked the first time intramural sports were held on campus at Emerson. Coordinator of Athletic Operations Roger Crosley said that the school previously held events at other local colleges such as the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, but that the opening of the Piano Row Gymnasium ultimately allowed the school to move the activities to the campus.

First-year women's volleyball Head Coach Craig LeTourneau will be heading the men's volleyball team as well next year. LeTourneau said he came here with the intention of implementing the men's program.

LeTourneau said the new team will compete immediately on the varsity level in the Northeast Collegiate Volleyball Association. Already about 14 students from Emerson and Berklee College, which will be partnering with Emerson to form the team, have expressed interest in joining the program.

"We're trying to get it out there," LeTourneau said. "Men's volleyball is a great sport and it's huge in New England. Almost every [New England} high school has a team."

The volleyball team will not be the only time Berklee students have been included in Emerson sports; until this season, Berklee students were invited to join Emerson's club hockey team, but that changed this season due to an increased number of Emersonians joining the team. The baseball team is also open to Berklee students.

Many of the schools from the Great Northeast Athletic Conference, such as Rivier College and Emmanuel College, also have men's volleyball teams. LeTourneau said he could foresee the possibility of the GNAC forming a men's volleyball division further down the road.

LeTourneau has also played a part in organizing the intramural tournaments that have been taking place during the year.

Despite the recent success, Parnell said the department could improve in some areas. Namely, she acknowledged a desire for greater visibility of the teams to fellow students, alumni and the public in general; the wish to be associated with institutions of similar academic standing and providing a consistent level of challenging play for each team to compete in.

Other changes in the department within the last year has included the addition of new staff members. Parnell is in her first year at Emerson after taking over for departed Athletic Director Rudy Keeling, who became the commissioner of the Eastern College Athletic Conference. Other new staff additions in the past year included LeTourneau and women's basketball Head Coach William Gould.

Parnell is the first woman ever to hold the position at Emerson, and said she has enjoyed becoming a part of the school's community. However, she said her ultimate goal is to continue to generate interest in the school's teams while helping to create a positive atmosphere for competition.

"[Becoming an athletic director] is the culmination of what I have worked for over the past 10 years," Parnell said. "The most important thing I can do is come in here, support the 15 sports and all those head coaches and student-athletes with a high level of enthusiasm and energy."