By Adam Hallenbeck, Claire Crittendon & Taylor Viles – Sports Editor, Features Editor and 1851 Staff
For prospective students, a strong athletic department can be the reason for choosing a particular school. Lasell’s Athletic website reflects this idea, saying “Athletics are considered an integral part of sound educational experience with the goal to have each student-athlete strive to reach his or her potential, on and off the field.”
With an increasing number of smaller colleges closing each year, college administrations around the country are asking how they can keep their schools open —and vibrant—amid the decline. One of the issues that comes up is, can we increase athletic involvement across college campuses as a way to improve student life?
“Either you’re all in or you’re all out,” said Men’s basketball head coach Aaron Galletta. “There’s no gray area with commitment.”
This gray area for the men’s basketball team was tested over winter break, when six of the team’s 19 players left the team, including 1,000-point scorer and former captain senior Stefan Masciarelli, according to team manager Corina Lombardi.
“There was a lot of division amongst the team to begin with, with clashing between players,” said Masciarelli.
For the remaining players, the consensus was the same. “I feel like when you’re losing and you’re playing these tough teams, it’s easy to be like, ‘oh, it’s his fault, or it’s his fault,’” said sophomore point guard E.J. Day.
“Are we absolved? Are we perfect examples of teammates? Absolutely not. But it’s the pot calling the kettle black,” said Masciarelli, “and Galletta sat there and endorsed it.”
The team’s culture hasn’t always been this way, according to Masciarelli. “When I was getting recruited, the culture was different… The guys were welcoming, there wasn’t cliquiness, it was like one group,” said Masciarelli. “[Gal- letta] didn’t really have to sell it because the guys here sold it.”
This change in dynamic prompted Masciarelli’s decision to quit the team, accompanied by former teammates juniors Vic Collazo and Dylan Murray.
The group approached Galletta to inform him of their intentions, but “he just looked at us,” said Masciarelli. “He shrugged his shoulders and made a little sarcastic face. So I go, ‘well, I guess we’re done here.’ And he goes, ‘I guess we are,’ and he got up and walked out of the room.”
When asked about his former players, Galletta said, “we want…guys [that] want to be all in. If you don’t want to be all in then, unfortunately, we gotta move on.”
Even though the team lost some valuable assets, Galletta’s main interest was getting them back on track and not letting the personnel change ruin their season. “That day in practice we came down, we went to work and credit to these guys, they were…completely bought into everything we’ve said,” said Galletta.
Galletta’s team philosophy may be off-putting for some, but others view his mindset as effective and motivating. Junior captain Kevin Nunez said, “I don’t think I’d be in school [if it wasn’t] for the game of basketball. [The situation] was shocking, but we knew we had to go to work.”
Galletta’s players believe it’s his mentality following a loss that has contributed to the team staying competitive. “Every single day, [Galletta will] come to practice, we could’ve lost the last game by 30, and he’s in there with the same energy he [would have] if we won a game,” said Nunez. “He never gave up on us and it’s showing now.”
Since losing their former players, the team is 6-4 in Greater Northeast Athletic Conference play, stepping into fifth place. Although their record shows recent success, it isn’t a cohesive effort. Outside of the consistent starting five roster, no bench player sees more than ten minutes a game on the court, according to the team statistics on LaserPride.lasell.edu.
With students leaving the athletic program at such a high rate, the future of their population may be at risk. According to Athletic Director Kristy Walter, about 20 percent of the student body plays a varsity sport. On top of that, sports management, health sciences and sports communication students are involved in athletics, representing most of the game day staff.
Galletta has noticed changes in athletic interest on campus since he was hired 16 years ago. “When I was first here…the games were really well-attended,” said the Head Coach. “I think there’s a lack of athletic culture here… that’s sad to see at times.”
Even Walter acknowledges there’s definitely a change from how attendance used to be and says she and her staff use social media to promote games. “It is true, I do feel like we have had a decline, in which basketball would be one of our biggest attendees,” said Walter. “It’s not like we are doing anything different… so I’m not sure what I would attribute it to.”
“I wish there was more that I could do to help with [game] attendance on campus,” said Galletta. “We’re such a small community and such a small…department that I think games should be really well-attended, but there’s just not that culture…within the student body.”
“It’s a tough sell for students. You know, do you want to come to a basketball game and stand for two hours? Do you want to sit on a metal bleacher outside…and freeze or sit on a wall for a lacrosse game?” said Galletta. “I just feel bad for our student-athletes because they’re the ones that are getting hurt by it.”
Although Walter has created a diverse and successful athletic program from the ground up, there is still more work needed to improve it, according to some. “There is not enough marketing for the events,” said junior track captain Ben Biello. “The administration behind the university’s athletic social media accounts are doing a bad job, in my opinion, and don’t promote enough [and only] show love to only one or two sports.”
Former men’s volleyball captain Jordan Aprea (‘19) was brought on as an athletic graduate assistant to help with these issues. “[Our game staff ] do a lot of social media work, which is a main source of our promotion I would say,” said Aprea. Aprea heads the publicity campaign for athletics and manages the student workers assigned to each game’s social media.
Social media isn’t the only avenue athletics uses to raise awareness. Teams like men’s volleyball have begun their own publicity efforts, printing and spreading fliers around campus to promote themselves.
Publicity has been a major issue since the Laser Lunatics club was discontinued. “[The Laser Lunatics] helped create a buzz, they would do some white-out nights…and that was their job to promote it,” said Walter. The Laser Lunatics embodied a school spirit club. Without their support, the spirit has seemingly evaporated with it.
Although Masciarelli has lost his spirit for men’s basketball, he feels like he is happier than ever without it. “The relationships I have, the networking I have made, I couldn’t be happier to be exactly where I am right now… but I can’t tell you others agree,” said Masciarelli. “Some people see this school as nothing without their sports…they aren’t preparing for the real world. Without basketball, what are we?” Masciarelli said.