A Blaze(r) of Glory
May 16, 2018 | By Tim Pratt
If someone told Simone Louw (A18) five years ago her college career would be punctuated by an award in athletics, she wouldn’t have believed them.
The Great Barrington, Massachusetts, native never played organized sports before she arrived at St. John’s College. Life during her early years revolved around books.
That all changed in Annapolis, however, as Louw developed into a leader within the intramural sports community.
At commencement on May 13, Louw and fellow graduate Robin Lancaster of Fortuna, California, were awarded blazers—sports jackets customized with the St. John’s College seal—for their contributions to the athletic program at the college.
“Both Ms. Louw and Mr. Lancaster have been excellent contributors to the athletic program and have opened the door for many new folks to come out and experience the fun of participating in team sports at the college,” says Chris Krueger, athletics and recreation coordinator. “Everyone who has been active in the athletic program the past four years has been lucky that Mr. Lancaster and Ms. Louw chose to dedicate as much time and energy to the program as they did.”
Senior blazers are awarded every year to a male and female student who has had a positive effect on the athletic program and the broader college community. They must demonstrate commitment, engagement and excellence within the program.
Stefan Vasic and Grace Athanas-Linden earned blazers in 2017. Their names are now on a plaque in Iglehart Gymnasium. Louw’s and Lancaster’s names will soon go there, too.
Lancaster was a captain for the Guardians intramural team; Louw was a captain for the Druids and in the all-female Kunai league.
When Lancaster arrived at St. John’s, he brought with him years of soccer experience. He was drafted as a Druid, but was traded to the Guardians his sophomore year.
Lancaster excelled throughout his time in Annapolis, whether in traditional sports like soccer, basketball and volleyball, or more unique endeavors like Athenian reasonball, European handball and Ultimate Frisbee.
Lancaster’s strongest sport is soccer, yet he’s modest about his accomplishments on the pitch.
“I’m not a very good soccer player,” he says. “I’m a very enthusiastic soccer player.”
When Lancaster’s team wasn’t playing, he served as a referee. He also played croquet, which he describes jokingly as “half billiards-played-badly and half chess.”
Louw was more interested in reading before she came to St. John’s. She had already read many of the novels on the great books reading list before she arrived.
It wasn’t until Louw’s sophomore year when she decided to give intramural sports a try. She took to it quickly, and was driven to improve. Eventually, she was playing sports five days a week. Volleyball and soccer are two of her favorite activities. She also enjoys netball.
“I wasn’t very good to begin with, but I kept coming out,” she says. “I wouldn’t say I’m the greatest athlete at the school, but if you look at the start of sophomore year and compare it to where I am now, it’s a big change.”
This year, she helped lead the Druids to the intramural team championship, despite a badly sprained ankle that sidelined her for the latter half of the spring semester.
Louw and Lancaster see many benefits, physically and mentally, to student involvement in sports. Approximately 50 percent of St. John’s students participated in intramural athletic activities during the 2017-2018 academic year.
“First and most importantly, it’s fun,” Lancaster says. “I think that’s really essential because the Program can be difficult; it can be exhausting; it can be emotionally challenging. In all that time, we really need fun things to do.”
Louw says she is grateful for the experience.
“I don’t know if I could have gotten through the Program if I didn’t have that outlet,” she says. “A huge part of that is being able to be so physical and get out of your head, but a lot of it is having fun and meeting people and having something to share. I get a lot of meaning from my team.”
Louw says her experience on the field carried over to the classroom and everyday life.
“I wasn’t really shy, but the more I got into sports and became a captain and came into my own, I became much more confident speaking in the classroom,” she says.
Lessons learned on the athletic field also can be connected to readings in the Program, Lancaster says.
“We spend a lot of time learning about nebulous concepts: virtue, honor, rage, frustration,” he says. “What athletics is uniquely positioned to do is provide an experience of each one of those concepts. I think sport is a great medium to explore the underlying emotions of being human.”
Lancaster is weighing his options for the future. One of his dreams is to serve as an appellate court justice; another is to become a tutor at St. John’s.
Louw plans to take some time off to work and travel, with an eye toward graduate school. In addition to her athletic endeavors at St. John’s, she served on the waltz committee, was a resident assistant and senior prank archon. In the past, she was involved with the King William Players theater troupe.
“There are still so many things I care about and so many different directions I can go in,” Louw says. “Reading all these books, I have the voices of all these people in my head, so I kind of want to quiet down and find my own.”