Students and recruits show increased interest in GBCC’s varsity sports and intramural programs
PORTSMOUTH – Great Bay Community College is giving prospective students who aren’t quite finished with their athletic careers another reason to sign up for classes. The Portsmouth college offers three competitive team sports and is adding men’s and women’s basketball into the mix in the fall. An active and successful athletic program helps recruit students, energizes the campus and improves Great Bay’s profile and standing in the community, said Brian Scott, the college’s new athletic director.
In addition to the pride they feel in representing the school on campus and in the community, students who also play athletics learn critical life skills like teamwork, accountability and leadership, which serve them well in life and career, Scott said. Those skills are hard to teach and are easier learned with experience. Athletics creates those learning opportunities, he said.
Sports brought Emily Brashear to Great Bay. She played three sports at Portsmouth Christian Academy. She put sports aside when she began her college career at Plymouth State College. She majored in nursing, but the rigors of the program precluded her from competing at the level she was accustomed.
After transferring to Great Bay last spring as a nursing major, she immediately got involved with the softball team. This fall, she played volleyball at Great Bay. Being involved in sports helped her meet other students on campus and exposed her to people off-campus through community-service programs arranged by the Great Bay sports teams.
“As much as an outgoing person as I try to be, coming into a new situation with new people it’s hard to put yourself out there. With sports, you have that common interest with other people on your team. On a team, you share values and interests and you bond over that, and from there friendships grow,” Brashear said. She described her teammates as her extended family.
Great Bay’s baseball program directly led to Joewy Soto’s decision to leave Puerto Rico for Portsmouth and enroll in classes as a pre-nursing student. Great Bay’s baseball coach, Enrique “Kike” Calero, is from Puerto Rico and recruited Soto and four others to come to Great Bay to play for the new baseball team, which began competing in 2017.
Soto said the opportunity to play baseball in the domestic U.S. is a dream come true for many young men in Puerto Rico. Most kids want to play pro, he said, but the chance to play college baseball is the next best thing. Now that a recruitment pipeline has been established between Puerto Rico and Great Bay, he thinks other ballplayers from the island will consider coming to Great Bay because of the chance to play baseball and earn a college degree at an affordable cost.
“This was our first time to New Hampshire. We had been as far as North Carolina to play baseball, but this was our first time this far (north),” said Soto, the team captain. “I think this will open doors to others who play baseball on the island. I like it here a lot.”
Two former Great Bay students used their athletic skills in their favor when transferring to four-year schools. An ex-teammate of Soto’s from Puerto Rico, Yadiel Villalongo, recently transferred to play baseball at an National Junior College Athletic Association Division 1 school in Alabama, and a teammate of Brashear’s earned a volleyball tryout at a New Hampshire university.
Great Bay supports three varsity teams in the Yankee Small College Conference: Softball, baseball and volleyball. This fall, it will add men’s and women’s basketball. Great Bay had a basketball program previously, beginning in 2015, but put it on hiatus. When those teams compete again in the fall, Great Bay will support between 50 and 60 student-athletes, Scott said.
Great Bay also has a robust non-competitive intramural program. It operates with similar principles and goals as the varsity program, which involve student engagement and campus pride. Scott wants students to take advantage of Great Bay’s gym, fitness center and locker rooms. “In between classes, students can come down to the gym and shoot baskets or work out in the fitness center and then go take a shower before their next class,” he said. “We really want to utilize the nice gym that we have and run programs that engage students and encourage students to meet other students and play basketball or volleyball or whiffle ball,” he said, noting that he plans to add indoor soccer to the mix.
The other advantage of the Great Bay gym is its ability to accommodate crowds. As the athletic program at Great Bay grows, Scott’s goal is to begin to fill those stands with fans from the community. He’s arranged to have the school’s sports scores posted in local media, and student videographers will cover the games and posts clips on the college website and social media outlets. It’s all about building awareness and excitement, he said – and pride.
“As we are trying to recruit basketball players, I am learning that so many students don’t realize that Great Bay has sports,” he said. “We’re trying to create awareness of what we offer here to students and the community and reinforce the credibility of the college program and the entire college experience here on the Portsmouth campus.” For more information on the athletic programs at Great Bay Community College, visit www.greatbay.edu or the college’s athletics website: www.gogreatbay.com