Athletics for the hell of it

Bobby Wagner
NYU students participate in a pickup basketball game at Coles Athletic Center.

There are two recognizable athletic categories that most NYU students fit into. There are the athletes who devote significant shares of their lives to their sports. They eat, sleep and breathe their sport during the season. Then, there are the students who wouldn’t know LeBron James if he ran into them on Broadway. Sandwiched between these two categories, however, are the students who are interested in sports but aren’t Violet athletes.

CAS senior Nina Singh is one of NYU’s low-profile athletes. On Nov. 14, in barely 30-degree temperature, Singh competed in the New York Road Runners
Ultramarathon — a 60k race through Central Park that takes runners anywhere from four to 12 hours. Singh was one of just 300 runners to finish, but by her own admission, she is far from a varsity athlete at NYU. To her, running is a personal endeavor.

“Running is very zen for me,” Singh said. “The sense of accomplishment I feel when I finish a race or a training run — there’s nothing better than that in
the world.”

However, Singh said it hasn’t always been easy. After only competing for a semester in high school, she had to learn a lot of the training habits and form required on her own. Singh said despite the intense work it requires, this obscene amount of running is worth it.

“60 kilometers is seven and a half hours of getting to discover yourself,” Singh said. “You get to see parts of yourself that you really can’t see in any other situation.”

Singh is unique in a lot of ways. A lot of unheralded athletes at NYU are former high school athletes who didn’t want to commit to collegiate athletics, but weren’t ready to abandon the love for their sport altogether. CAS junior Kevin Zhao played basketball and tennis for the better part of his life, but when he came to New York City he couldn’t find any space to play tennis. Zhao decided to recreationally pursue his love for basketball and now plays pickup at least once a week.

“I started playing basketball at Coles and Palladium when I first got to NYU,” Zhao said. “For me, it was fun not only because I liked playing basketball and it was competitive, to me it was also a social thing.”

Zhao turned his recreational athletics into his NYU niche community, and because of this something that is not typically valued at the university held significant weight in his life.

“I kept showing up and seeing the same people, began talking and making friends and we were linked through our passion of basketball,” Zhao said. “Through just showing up the gym, I met some of my best friends.”

He shares his story with a number of people waiting around to play pickup in the university’s gyms. Zhao also participated in the fall intramural basketball league with some of the friends he met playing pickup. For NYU students who love sports, intramurals provide a specific community where they are certain to find others who are interested in the same things as them. Much the same as any club, intramurals and pickup games are where NYU students meet some of their longest-lasting friends. Intramural sports gave Tisch 2015 graduate Kahlil Maskati a platform to strengthen the friendships that he still has post graduation.

“Playing basketball not only introduced me to a new circle of friends I wouldn’t have found in my dorm or major, but it has helped me stay in touch with those friends post-grad,” Maskati said. “We met up a few times over summer to play basketball and NBA2k, and we would reminisce about those good intramural basketball times.”

A version of this article appeared in the Nov. 30 print edition. Email Bobby Wagner at [email protected]

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