• Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


Math Geek Mom: 'Practice, Practice, Practice'

Go Arrows!

March 2, 2017

The economic structure of a “tournament” seeks to bring the best effort out of participants by offering a discrepancy between the reward from winning and the penalty of losing. The outcome of such a tournament thus depends on a relative ranking among participants. I found myself thinking of this throughout this past week as Ursuline College prepares to host the GMAC Conference tournament for women’s Division II basketball this weekend.

When we were accepted into the Division II of the NCAA a few years ago, I don’t know if anyone knew what to expect of our sports teams. After all, we would be competing at a level of skill that we had never before faced, and just as our sports teams set out to meet that challenge, disaster struck as our gym and pool were destroyed by a tornado. Still, despite having to find practice time and space at neighboring facilities for several years, our teams did surprisingly well, even earning conference championships on several occasions in a variety of sports. And now they are at it again, hoping to, once again, progress into the NCAA Division II playoffs for women’s basketball.

When sports were first added at our college, a contest was held to decide on a team’s name. After several suggestions were offered, it was decided that Ursuline’s teams should be called “The Arrows.” This name was chosen in reference to the way that St. Ursula, a popular saint in the 1500s, after whom Angela Merici named her new order, was martyred. Lest you think that is somewhat grisly, I know of at least one other Ursuline-sponsored school that uses an arrow to define itself. However, that school uses it as part of its school logo.

After an amazing season of losing only a few games, our basketball team is once again hosting the conference play-offs on our campus this weekend. Unlike the often invisible basketball team from my Division I college, the players on this team are well known on campus, and several of them are my students. I see how hard they work, setting up a study schedule that allows them to travel to games in the midst of taking exams and doing school work. This weekend, however, the other schools come to us, because Ursuline had such an excellent record during regular season play. Indeed, I told several of them about my own memory of being at the Division I men’s basketball finals when I was about their age, and of seeing the debut of a young player that no one had really much about before that game; Michael Jordan. I told them that going to that game was really the only somewhat “cool” thing I did in college, as I was basically a studious nerd.

Alas, should they progress in the tournament, a scheduling conflict means that this year I will not be able to take my daughter and her friends to the final game, as I did last year. Instead, I will watch it on my computer, where it will be broadcast on Ursuline’s home page. I am disappointed that I can’t actually be there with my daughter, as I remember the words of one of the mothers whose daughter I took last year. “It is so good for them to see women succeeding in sports.” Yes, it is, and I know that my daughter has dreams of playing sports in college someday. When I think of what it will take to make that happened, I remember the joke about someone asking for directions in New York City, “how do you get to Carnegie Hall?” the answer, “practice, practice, practice.” I know that my students have been doing a lot of that this year. This could be their moment to shine

And so, to the other colleges that will be visiting our campus this weekend, I hope that you have a great visit and enjoy your time at Ursuline. And to my students who work so hard at both sports and schoolwork, please know that we are incredibly proud of all that you do.

Now, “Go Arrows!”


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