More than 1,000 student-athletes will compete for six national championships when the NCAA, in conjunction with Bellarmine University and Greater Louisville Sports Commission, plays host to the 2012 NCAA Division II National Championships Festival on May 15-19 in Louisville, Ky.
By Brian Burnsed
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – When they’re not playing sports, student-athletes simply need a little playtime.
With that in mind, the NCAA has created two student-athlete lounges during the Division II National Championships Festival – in the Galt House Hotel and the Marriott – complete with pool tables, video games, ping pong tables and a massive flat-screen TV at every turn. The rooms, decorated with blue and green spotlights and plush couches, offer a needed respite during a week when national championships are at stake.
Early Tuesday afternoon, the melodramatic rhythms of the R.E.M. classic “Losing My Religion” blared from one of the 60-inch televisions in the Marriott’s lounge. But the band’s guitarist, Peter Buck, wasn’t driving the song forward. That task had been assumed by Kaylyn Bristol and Sophia Simmons, both juniors on the BYU-Hawaii tennis team, who were happily clicking the buttons on their faux-guitar video-game controllers.
“It’s nice to have this to come to for a little entertainment,” Bristol said.
Both women sat on the floor, enjoying the embrace of silver, crescent-shaped beanbag chairs. They’d already endured a 7 a.m. practice and were making the most of their opportunity to relax. They giggled and tapped their feet in rhythm as they tried to play the song in unison, and said they plan to return to the lounge regularly throughout the week.
“I’m usually not a video-game person,” Simmons said. “But we’ve got all day.”
The noise from the alternative rock song drowned out the music emanating from another television in the middle of the room. Their teammate, freshman Marietta Tuionetoa, was trying to keep pace with the beat of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.” She waved her arms and pumped her feet furiously as the Xbox Kinect motion capture device tracked her every move. After gyrating for half-an-hour, her forehead was glimmering with sweat.
“I wanted to get a workout in without having to go to the gym,” she said, breathing heavily. “This did the job.”
At the Galt House an hour earlier, senior Dane Ostilly and sophomore Daniele Piludu were at war – on the ping-pong table. The teammates on the Concordia men’s tennis team battled for nearly an hour. Though Piludu had never picked up a ping-pong paddle, his tennis skills were on full display as he routinely bested his more experienced teammate. As other Concordia players slept in rooms above, the two said they needed to blow off some steam. Their friendly, but competitive, relationship was evident when their coach, Neil Tarangioli, called to check up on them.
“I’m in the lounge playing – no, beating – Dane in ping pong,” Piludu said when he picked up the phone. Both men laughed, then went back to war.
Thirty feet across the room, four Armstrong Atlantic men’s tennis players occupied two pool tables. After good shots, they were quick to playfully gloat or toss a barb at a teammate. As they laughed through several games of pool, the pressures they’ll face this week trying to remain undefeated and earn a national championship weren’t evident.
“We don’t have lunch for an hour, so we just wanted to relax until then,” junior Dan Regan said. “We like to shoot a bit of pool (back at school), so this is great.”