It’s a weeknight, almost 10 p.m. It’s been cold and dark for hours. On campus, students are on the move, but this is no leisurely stroll back to the residence hall, no tired trek to grab a late meal. These are the determined, the driven, the diehard athletes who have one more thing to do before day’s end: practice.
“My roommates are going to sleep, and I’m going off to practice,” says senior Tara Kilbride, president of the swimming club, which meets once a week at 10:30 p.m. for an hour of training.
The swimmers, along with the fencers, kickline and crew members, and both volleyball clubs are among the handful of Binghamton’s club teams that muster their members for workouts at the extreme ends of the day, 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
The 45-member kickline club has two-hour practices beginning at 10 p.m. Mondays and 6 a.m. Wednesdays. Why such unfriendly hours?
Part of it is because the East Gym is closed for renovations and more teams have to share the remaining spaces that are big enough for lunging and kicking. Some of it is practical. “The schedule avoids conflict with classes,” says club president Jennifer Lobodzic, a junior.
But given the circadian rhythms of the average college student, the late-night practices have a certain appeal.
“In the morning, no one talks,” says senior Sarah Olaya, a kickline captain. “Everyone’s grumpy.”
At night, everyone is excited to catch up on the day, Lobodzic says.
“Everyone is so tired, they’re in more of a mental atmosphere of ‘I just want to have fun,’” says Alex Horspool, a sophomore, coach and co-president of the fencing club. “There’s a lot of laughing and groaning and somehow we manage to make it through till midnight.”
“There’s a focus problem; I’m the worst one,” Kilbride admits. “After getting to know everyone so well, you want to talk to everyone.”
To keep people on track — and attending swimming practices in the cold weather — the session is fast-paced and focuses on competition, Kilbride says.
Horspool relaxes his coaching as it gets closer to midnight. That’s when the fencers try new moves, which is fun and builds confidence, he says.
While the teams also regularly practice at more civilized hours, the late-night sessions are a badge of honor.
“The best thing is the look on people’s faces when you tell them you have these practices,” Lobodzic says. “They say ‘oh my god, I could never do that!’”