Babson Magazine

Winter 2015

A Celebration of Sport

On the court, in the pool, and on the pitch, three Babson teams celebrate anniversaries this academic year. Today, as in the past, these teams work hard, forge friendships, and chase glory.

A Celebration of Sport
Rugby photos: Billie Weiss; Swim and basketball photos: Michael Quiet

Men’s Rugby: 35

Men's Rugby, Babsonian 1980

Babsonian 1980

When the men’s rugby team held its first practice 35 years ago, most of the members had never played the sport. “We didn’t know what it was. The school really didn’t know what it was,” says Ken Jasper ’82, who was part of the original team. “But it caught on like wildfire.”

Years after his Babson days, Jasper still returns to campus to watch matches. He says a strong bond forms among those who play the physical game. “It’s a fraternal sport,” says Jasper, president of the team’s alumni association. “The culture gets under your skin.” Malcolm Bybee ’14 also likes to watch his former team play. A Marine Corps veteran, Bybee found in rugby the camaraderie he missed from the service. “There is so much support,” Bybee says. “It filled a hole in me. You’re really counting on the other guys to support you.”

Rugby is a bruising sport. On the sidelines, athletic trainer Sara Collins stands ready with a bag of medical supplies, what she calls her “blood and guts kit,” in case she’s needed on the field. “It’s full contact,” Collins says. “It tends to have more blood than other sports.”

But to play rugby well requires a mix of speed, endurance, strength, and smarts. “It’s 90 percent mental,” says Brian Lawler ’15, a current member of the team. “You use your body, but you must constantly be thinking, what’s next, what’s next.”

Bybee agrees. “It’s a complex sport,” he says. “It’s not just a bunch of idiots running and smashing into each other.”

Women’s Basketball: 40

Women's Basketball, Babsonian 1975

Babsonian 1975

Laughs and good times came easily during the inaugural season of women’s basketball 40 years ago. Baskets, however, not so much. Only a few players had prior experience on the court. “Anyone who wanted to be on the team could be on the team. There were no tryouts,” says Maria Serpentino ’78, P’05. “You could say our games were, well, comical.”

The team lost all five of its games, including a 56-3 drubbing by Bryant College. When Babson scored those three points in the final minutes, “we got a standing ovation,” says Sue (Jackson) Fitzgerald ’78.

But those inexperienced basketball players were trailblazers, being among Babson’s first female athletes. (Four women swimmers also competed that year with the men’s swimming and diving team.) Today, the basketball team is a powerhouse in the NEWMAC conference and is led by longtime coach Judy Blinstrub. “I love the student athletes I get to work with every day,” says Blinstrub, who’s in her 31st year as Babson’s coach. “They are a group of motivated, talented athletes who are fun to be with.”

While Blinstrub is a fixture on the sidelines, her 90-year-old mother, Helen Blinstrub, and sister, Sue Sullivan, are a constant presence in the stands. “I wouldn’t miss the games, as long as I’m able,” Helen says. Sullivan, a program manager at the Babson Skating Center, loves getting to know the players. “You see how the athletes grow each year, how they improve,” she says.

That improvement takes hard work and perseverance. Not that the players would have it any other way. Says Lindsey Roche ’15, “I couldn’t imagine my college experience any differently.”

Men’s Swimming and Diving: 55

Men's Swimming and Diving, Babsonian 1960

Babsonian 1960

Tomas Fernandez and Manuel Navarro, both ’62, initially swam together for their high school varsity team. Then, 55 years ago, they were part of the first men’s swimming and diving squad at Babson. It was a time when swimmers didn’t wear goggles, so their eyes were left blurry long after exiting the pool. It was also a time of friendship. “We have been close friends, almost like brothers, for almost 60 years,” Fernandez says. “He is godfather to one of my kids; I am to one of his.”

Students don’t need to be expert swimmers to join this community. Some on the team can swim only 25 yards at first. “I take everybody,” says Rick Echlov, who’s in his 31st year as coach. “If they’re willing to work, they’re going to get better.” Current team member Purin Waranimman ’15 enjoys witnessing these hard-earned gains. “You see people beating their old times—it’s satisfying,” he says. “The whole team progresses together.”

A Babson swim meet is noisy, with much yelling and clapping. But all grows quiet as the divers take their place. To hurl oneself off a springboard into space requires a certain mindset. “You have to have a little bit of a screw loose,” says Jim Brainerd, who coaches the divers. When Dominick Tocci ’15 stands on the board, he flips a mental switch. “It’s about turning off your mind,” he says, “and trusting you can do it.”

The Babson team, past and present, remains a tight-knit group today. Echlov holds a well-attended get-together of alumni swimmers and divers at his house every year. “We stay in touch,” he says. “It’s nice to see them.”