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Men's Fencing

Student-Athletes Play More Than Just Sports

Sophomore fencer Devin Midgley

Sophomore fencer Devin Midgley

Nov. 15, 2011

Like many members of the marching band, Abby Oliveira and Devin Midgley are heavily involved in other activities at Boston College.

As members of the Screaming Eagles, they endure the intense 10 hour practices each day during band camp. They learn all of the challenging music and work hard to meet the high expectations of their directors. They put in the hours of practice time during the season and dedicate themselves to representing BC on game day by contributing to the unique stadium environment.

In the BC Marching Band, they're treated like just another member, but they're unique because their other activity is a Division I sport.

Oliveira, a sophomore on the rowing team, and Midgley, a sophomore on the fencing team, have had to make many sacrifices in order to pursue this double life but enjoy it.

"It's kind of cliché but I feel like a big part of the BC community in both activities," Oliveira explained. "Being part of the spirit of athletics in marching band and also in athletics, I get both sides of the sports. I've always loved the sports community and everything so to be involved in it in so many different ways is a lot of fun." 

Both walk-ons on their respective teams, they both had childhood dreams to play a DI sport in college. While Midgley fenced at the Prise de Fer Fencing Club in North Billerica, Mass., for five years, Oliveira had only participated in a learn-to-row program in high school.

Sophomore rower Abby Oliveira

After only one year of competitive rowing, Oliveira has risen to be a part of the second varsity boat. Midgley has been excelling at fencing; he recently placed 19th place out of 80 in the men's sabre event at the Fall Invitational, second best on the team in the event.

In addition to being walk-ons, neither had participated in marching band in high school like many members of the band. Oliveira, who plays alto saxophone, played clarinet in concert band, and Midgley, a member of the front ensemble, had only played the piano. Both have improved tremendously since they were freshmen, according to Marching Band Director David Healey.

Healey is also amazed by the rigorous schedule Oliveira and Midgley must maintain to participate in both groups and also keep up with their academics.

"The ability to keep up with the demands of our schedule, which is pretty rigorous during the fall, and still maintain the requirements of their athletic program is really impressive," he said. "Frankly, I'm not sure how they can do that as well as they do. But I love it. I love that our students are involved in lots of different areas and that they bring all those interests back to our program. It enriches what we do as a group.

"I'd be hard pressed to keep up with the schedules many of our members maintain." 

Midgley, an English and computer science double major ("figure that one out, and when you figure it out, let me know," he said, with a laugh), admits that keeping up with everything can be difficult during the band season.

"It's certainly rough. I just don't have a lot of free time during the first semester," he explained. "I take piano lessons too, and I'm always telling my teacher that I didn't have a lot of time this week. It's certainly doable, but it's rough."

Last year Midgley received the Athletics Director's Award for Academic Achievement and he says that he wouldn't be able to participate in both activities and do so well in his academics if his coaches weren't so flexible. They allow him to leave practice early on Tuesdays and Thursdays to go to band and let him go to practice an extra day to make up for it.       

"I don't know if I could characterize one as being more of a commitment than the other," Midgley said. "Band is much larger of a commitment at the beginning and then kind of drops off while fencing is a steady line."

For Oliveira, the band has been supportive of her athletic endeavor. She only participates in the stands, but she says that band, especially band camp, is intense and challenging.

"Marching band is more of a mental stress," she explained. "There's so much stuff going on on game day, and it keeps going and going. You have to memorize music, figure out what's coming next, and go with everything that happens. Rowing is obviously physically strenuous. I have to wake up at 5 [a.m], and it's hard sometimes when I get back from band at 10 [p.m]. But I take naps."

In the end, Oliveira and Midgley are making the most out of their college experience by participating in two activities they love despite all of the challenges that involves. And they wouldn't change a thing.

Written by Jen Dobias

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