Winter Athletes Embrace Different Thanksgiving Break

While most students return to their hometowns over break, many student-athletes must remain on campus with their teams. Staff writer Maya Reiner ’25 gains insight into this unique experience.

Winter Athletes Embrace Different Thanksgiving Break
Ryker Vance ’25 (above) relied on his team to keep traditions alive on campus. Photo courtesy of Clarus Studios.

During the third week of November, many students find themselves in Frost Library nightly, walking back to their dorms anxiously while awaiting the week-long break they get to enjoy for Thanksgiving amid the chaos of the end of the semester. With that time off, many students travel to their respective hometowns, excited to spend some much-needed time with their families and catch their breath.

However, that isn’t the reality for everyone. Several Amherst winter sports teams are required to stay on campus for at least a portion, if not all, of Thanksgiving break. These athletes don’t get the luxury of spending as much time — or, in some cases, any time at all — relaxing with their families.

Nonetheless, their Thanksgiving break is still just as beneficial and positive of an experience. With Amherst’s campus vacant and no classes being held, those teams staying on campus were able to spend more time together, both on and off the playing surface.

The men’s basketball team, for instance, played four games over the break, resulting in most of their team remaining on campus for the majority of their 10 days off from classes.

Ryker Vance ’25, a member of the team, spoke about his experience being on campus during break.

“Campus was beyond dead,” Vance said. “Walking from the gym all the way to Val and not seeing a single other student is definitely eerie. However, being able to spend quality time with your team and only your team allows you to truly appreciate the people around you.”

Sabrina Comess ’24, a member of the women’s swim and dive team, echoed Vance’s sentiments, while also expressing her gratitude for what her team gained while staying on campus for a few extra days. With no classes or assigned homework, the team’s stress levels were low, which allowed them to focus more on training and keeping their bodies healthy.

Everyone was able to give 100 percent at every practice, and we raced really well at our two meets,” Comess said. “We also were able to catch up on sleep and recovery, which made us all feel a little better when we were swimming or diving throughout the week.”

The men’s basketball team only had Thursday off last week, as they had a game on Wednesday and practice on Friday. This meant that many team members, including Vance, were not able to make it home for the holiday. However, Vance was still able to celebrate, as his coach, Marlon Sears, kindly invited him into his home for Thanksgiving dinner.

“Since I’m from Florida, booking a flight on a Wednesday and returning by Friday didn’t make much sense,” Vance said. “My teammates Will Scherer [’25] and Bo [Beluolisah] Oranye [’23] had similar circumstances and [Sears] immediately and graciously invited us into his home. We, and both our assistant coaches, spent Thanksgiving analyzing college basketball, watching NFL football, and, of course, eating delicious food.”

Despite not being with his family, Vance enjoyed his time on campus, and was able to celebrate the holiday similarly to how he would have at home in Florida.

“For me, the holiday tradition consists of watching football, eating way too much food, and spending time with the people you’re thankful for,” Vance said. “Thanks to Coach Sears and the guys, I was able to keep the tradition alive this year.”