Through participation on an intramural volleyball team, young Catholics at Newman House are strengthening their teamwork in the church and on the court.
As a Catholic church community, Newman House dedicates itself to nurturing spiritual connections between students. But with the addition of team sports to church activities, many members are finding a connection between a healthy body and a healthy soul.
Sister Rose Casaleno has been the director of campus ministry for the Newman House for seven years. Since the church started hosting intramurals team in 2018, she has seen the students’ enthusiasm returning year after year. “They can rejuvenate and let out some endorphins,” she said. “For kids who like physical activity, it lets them function in a different lane.”
Since the team formed, Casaleno has seen a difference in the way the players connect with each other. It’s carried over from volleyball to church activities. “They formed a bond; they do things together more. It helps them build a deeper friendship, because they have a common goal in mind,” she said.
Caroline Hargrove, a sophomore studying mechanical engineering, shared a similar feeling. As a member of the team, she’s seen how volleyball has brought a different form of teamwork to her community.
“It was nice to connect with everyone in a different way, outside of Newman House. We get to encourage each other on the volleyball team, and it builds more trust and moral support between friends,” she said.
Another team member, Domenic Ferrante, had such a positive experience last year that he signed up for another season. A sophomore studying computer engineering, he found that evening games worked perfectly with his class schedule.
“The late-night games gave me something to look forward to while I worked during the day,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
Both Hargrove and Ferrante agree that the volleyball team is a form of relaxation, and allows them to unwind from the stresses of their academic lives.
Though the team is more focused on enjoyment than competitive success, this year’s team has already seen remarkable improvements in performance. Graciela Andrada, a junior studying biological sciences, saw a change in the team’s cohesion over the course of one day.
“We played two sets on Sunday, and at first we had a bit of trouble communicating. But then we decided if we wanted to get the ball, we would call it. Our first set was a bit of a mess, but our second set we were calmer,” she said.
Andrada is looking forward to the rest of the season, and hopes that any students intimidated by the church will get to know the members through intramurals.
Newman House already offers a robust spiritual and social community for young Catholics. But through intramural volleyball, church members are developing another dimension of their relationships, based in physical cooperation. They’ve learned to read each other’s body language, communicate, and work toward a shared physical goal — but beyond that, they’re having fun with friends. Though volleyball is a simple game, the strength of a team’s communication is deep and complex, and those skills will serve these students in all other areas of their lives.
“You can’t have mental health without being physically well. Exercise makes us happier people,” Hargrove said. “We go into it knowing we’re trying to build a team while having a great time.”
Intramural Sports is a program area under Campus Recreation. Learn more about Campus Recreation’s programs and services by visiting the website play.binghamton.edu.