Sports teams at NYU Shanghai have endured their fair share of hardships. Despite problems like funding, finding coaches, and participating in leagues, enthusiasm for athletics is still evident in the dedicated student athletes and those who attend games. However, a recent article published Oct. 31 on NYU New York’s student newspaper, Washington Square News (WSN), headlined “Athletics take Backseat in NYU Shanghai,” claimed that interest in sports is weak or nonexistent at NYU Shanghai. Student athletes spoke out to defend NYU Shanghai athletics.
“Historically NYU Shanghai has had terrific interest in sports,” senior Jacko Walz said. Captain of the football team, Walz has had positive experiences with NYU Shanghai athletics, and references the hundreds of other NYU Shanghai students who have taken advantage of the sports opportunities offered. “New York doesn’t realize the fact that there are fifty countries represented here, so there just isn’t enough interest for every country’s sports,” Walz said.
Sports that may be represented at NYU New York simply do not make it to NYU Shanghai due to a simple factor–lack of interest and exposure. “It’s naturally going to be more challenging to get Azerbaijani students into an American football team or American students into a cricket team,” Walz said. “Despite these challenges, we’re doing an amazing job.”
However, obstacles facing student enthusiasm and participation still exist. The soccer team at NYU Shanghai is not officially in a league and do not officially participate in any matches. “We just play with each other once in awhile,” sophomore student Michael Bekson explained. “We don’t have a structured competition here in China that we can take part in throughout the year.” The continuation of the soccer team, then, largely depends on the efforts of interested students rather than a concentrated organized effort from the university. “Even if we have matches once in awhile,” Bekson said, “it’s just a matter of winning or losing. It does not have any extra purpose that could connect all of us.”
Bekson attributes the lack of attention for sports at NYU Shanghai to a different culture surrounding athletics. “College competition is a culture in America, but not here,” Bekson said. “Students do not have enough chances to see us playing.” While U.S. universities have various options in terms of leagues to join and teams to compete against, NYU Shanghai is the only university of its kind in Shanghai. “Aside from the students who are on the soccer team, I would not say a lot of people care…When we used to have our games, not a lot of fans would come to give us support,” Bekson said.
Walz agrees that sports at NYU Shanghai face some unique challenges. “Something that hurts us is that the games are in an inconvenient location; they’re never nearby,” Walz explained. “But this is because we don’t have any facilities, which is unavoidable.” NYU Shanghai’s small size and location in Shanghai’s business district mean that building sports facilities is out of the question, a necessary sacrifice for being located in the center of China’s largest city. In addition, NYU Shanghai’s study away requirement means that most junior students are not on campus. “If a core of a sports team all goes on study abroad, the backbone of the team vanishes and it can be dissolved very easily,” Walz said.
Among NYU Shanghai athletes, however, sports are an integral and meaningful part of university life. While measures on the school’s part, like selling sports jerseys in the campus store and printing posters, can be used to increase awareness for athletics, overall sports culture still exists and thrives. “We have hundreds of students involved in sports, some of whom are getting their first exposure to these sports in college,” Walz said. “That’s amazing to me, that we have an infrastructure that encourages that. We’re still able to draw support for all sorts of sports, even from students who haven’t played them before.”