Not everyone can make it home for the holidays, especially collegiate athletes.
Winter and fall sport athletes can end up having practices, games or holiday tournaments around the time most college students are packing up to go home.
While their families gathered together for traditional Thanksgiving dinner, Temple women’s volleyball team enjoyed their turkey and stuffing at apartments around campus before a match the next day.
Although they were still on campus and away from their families, the mood was more uplifting than last year’s Thanksgiving.
“It was pretty depressing,” said senior captain Solana Lee, referring to her Thanksgiving meal in the Student Center last year.
Since joining the squad as a freshman in 1999, Lee has missed every Thanksgiving Day with her family in California.
“But this season we were determined to make it a little bit better.”
Most of the players–except the freshman– live off campus.
Freshman Danielle Bablich and junior Margaret Majewska moved in with Lee for the weekend and decided to have a Thanksgiving of their own, cooking a turkey, stuffing, salad and potatoes.
“We all cooked the dinner,” Lee said.
“It was kind of like a family-away-from-home kind of feeling, it was cool. It was hilarious to see us try and get the whole thing together,” said Bablich.
Though she had fun with her new teammates, Bablich conceded there’s no place like home for the holidays.
“It felt kind of weird eating turkey without my family,” she said.
The volleyball team wasn’t the only squad not home for the holiday, and this year marked the first time women’s basketball senior captain Stacey Smalls had spent Thanksgiving without her family in Cheltenham.
“We spend a lot of time away from our families,” Smalls said.
“We’re our own little family. Not everyone can go home. I’m fortunate I’m 20 minutes down the street cause if I really want to go [home] I can go. I had some cousins come up from North Carolina that I don’t ever see and that was the first time in three years and I was out in California,” Smalls said.
The women’s basketball team celebrated Thanksgiving in Palo Alto, Calif. so they could participate in the Stanford Tournament.
The team flew out to the West Coast the day before Thanksgiving and had their flight delayed before taking off and departing.
On Thanksgiving Day, the team held a brief morning practice and ate dinner at a café near Stanford’s gymnasium.
The menu served the same dishes every other get-together across the country feasted on.
“It wasn’t bad,” sophomore guard Khadija Bowens said of the food.
“But it wasn’t mom’s.”
Freshman reserve Jennifer Owens, who is from Redonda Beach, had her parents pay her a visit while at Stanford.
There are eight new faces on the women’s hoops squad, many of whom have never spent a holiday away from home.
Although they weren’t surrounded by their immediate family, both the women’s basketball and volleyball teams–and most college team sports–have a unique camaraderie allowing them to bond not just on holidays, but on any occasion like a real family.
Having a second family along the way helped these Temple athletes get through the holiday and the weekend of competition.
“It’s something that’s a commitment and sometimes you have to go through things like that,” Bowens said. “It was hard, but at the same time I was with my extended family, my teammates.”
Chris Silva can be reached at email@example.com.