Contact: Wendel Sloan at 505.562.2253
Reporter: Shane Brown
Portales – Every noon, Monday through Friday, a group of students, faculty and staff hoop it up in Eastern New Mexico University's Greyhound Arena.
Although the facility is reserved for faculty and staff at noon, ENMU employees have welcomed with open arms – and, occasionally, elbows – a group of students who play with them in pick-up basketball games. The tradition has gone on steadily for about five years, with some of the employees actually reducing clothing sizes during that time.
"I love the interaction between faculty, staff and students. It's great exercise and fun, and creates camaraderie," said Wendel Sloan, director of Media Relations. "Although it's a challenge to keep up with the youngsters, especially when they hack you, it brings a lot of tangible and intangible rewards. I also have to admit that I get a secret satisfaction out of wearing down some of the youngsters – especially by the third or fourth game. You can tell when they've been partying the night before. It's also nice to have an excuse to take an afternoon shower in this summer heat."
Not only do the faculty and staff enjoy the students shooting hoops with them, but the students do as well. "It's definitely a good thing; it lets the faculty and staff interact with the college students. It bridges that social gap," said ENMU student Cam Elder.
The games are usually full court and the competition varies from game to game, day to day. Sometimes it will be as many as five-on-five on both ends of the court, sometimes as few as three-on-three on one end.
"It just depends on the game and who is playing; sometimes it's extremely competitive, and sometimes we play just to play," said Elder, who often plays against his dad, ENMU history professor Don Elder. (Although many employees have played over the years, some of the other current regulars include James Chacon, Amy Dahl, Fabian Lopez, Rob McTaggart, Wanda Newberry, Sia Poyer, James Rodriguez, Mark "Sparky" Romero, and Wendel Sloan, plus a revolving door of students.)
The younger Elder agrees that not only do the faculty, staff, and students get to play together, but they become friends. "We become friends on the court, and the friendships carry off the court. It makes everyone seem like they are on the same level," Elder said.
"The noon basketball games give students a chance to get to know the faculty and staff as people – not just instructors and supervisors," the 5-8 point-guard-type Sloan said. "Just as importantly, we get to know the students as individuals. Hopefully, we also serve as role models in the way we conduct ourselves – even in the heat of battle."
ENMU faculty and staff are continuing a years-long tradition of playing noon-time basketball with students in Greyhound Arena.
(photo by Shane Brown)