Graduate Students grasp the opportunity to play another year of collegiate sports


Justin Schmalholz

Graduate lacrosse defender Jiwon Kim has caused 62 turnovers in his 54 games in an Emerson jersey. (Courtesy: Jiwon Kim)

By Abigail Lott

Would you spend an extra year in a college classroom for the chance to play one more year of collegiate sports? This year, some Emerson students said yes to this opportunity and are making a significant impact on their respective teams, such as helping the women’s soccer team win the NEWMAC championship title for the first time in the program’s history. 

After the COVID-19 pandemic erased a full season of college sports, the NCAA ruled that student athletes whose seasons were impacted would be eligible to play at the collegiate level for an extra year. At Emerson, 12 students are doing just that and continuing their education at the same time. 

“I really wanted to come back anyway and get my master’s so that I could stay with my friends and keep playing,” said graduate student Hannah Beck, who is studying public relations and plays defense for the women’s soccer team and midfielder for the lacrosse team. “I wanted to make sure that I played as much as I could. I really do love my teammates and the sport.” 

Fellow grad student Jiwon Kim, who received an undergraduate degree from Emerson in visual media arts, also opted to play for a fifth year as a defender for the men’s lacrosse team while studying sports communication. 

“[I’m still here] because of the lacrosse team,” Kim said. “Those are my closest friends and the team really means a lot to me.” 

While Beck and Kim decided to return to their alma maters to continue their collegiate sports career, other graduate students came to Emerson after earning their undergrad degrees elsewhere. Grad student Sean Coman, a guard for the men’s basketball team, transferred from Hendrix College in Arkansas where he got his bachelor’s degree in business economics. He said there were several factors that brought him to Emerson to get his graduate degree in sports communication, including the team itself. 

“I was interested in the style of play and how fast they played and got up and down the court,” said Coman. “With my next phase of my life hopefully being coaching, I know that [Head Coach Bill Curley] has a ton of experience playing and coaching.”

Coman said that basketball wasn’t the only thing that brought him to Emerson—a school 1,500 miles away from his alma mater.

“The city and the location of the school also played a role,” Coman said. “I’m from Dallas—I’m a city kid and I love being right in the city.” 

Coman added that Emerson’s style of play is different from the basketball he played at Hendrix. 

“At Hendrix, we played more of a free flowing motion where it was more of trying to get the best shot every time,” Coman said. “At Emerson, we play how we can get our best players the ball in the best position.”

For graduate student Maxim Duplessis, who earned her undergraduate degree at Laval University in Quebec, coming to Emerson for a degree in sports communication was more than just a cross-border culture shock. She was recruited by a friend to play lacrosse for the Lions—even though she’d played basketball at Laval.

“I’ve never played a sport with a stick before,” said Duplessis. “I really like playing a new sport. I like the way [lacrosse] is played and the way that it resembles a lot of soccer and basketball.” 

Duplessis explained that in Canada, playing a collegiate sport is less of a commitment than in the United States. 

“It doesn’t work the same,” she said. “I had a lot more classes and practices were not everyday. We only had practice three days a week. [At Emerson], we practice everyday except Sunday.”

Even though she had never played lacrosse, Duplessis said she enjoys the experience. 

“I really like [my teammates],” she said. “They’ve been very welcoming and take time to teach me stuff that I don’t know. They are very supportive, [the coach] is really supportive too. They took time to teach me stuff before and after practice. They are really accommodating.” 

Graduate students juggle both their schoolwork and, in many cases, part-time jobs or internships off the field—which may seem especially important, given how close they are to entering the job market. As a result, many emphasize the importance of time management. 

“It is definitely a lot harder and I did not think it was going to be,” said Beck. “Classes are at night, so it’s a lot of going from practice to class. It’s a lot more long nights than I’m used to, so I try to get all of my work done during the day.”

Coman said he has to schedule his days more carefully now that he’s in graduate school. 

“There aren’t many classes in graduate school but they are definitely more extraneous and time consuming,” said Coman. “With [less of a] class load but more intense class work, you have to prepare yourself earlier in the week and get ahead and slowly work on things.” 

Kim said that the main reason he stayed was to give back to the lacrosse community that supported him while getting his undergraduate degree. 

“When I first got here, I talked a lot to Bailey Kennedy who graduated in 2019,” He said. “He helped me see what I could possibly do academically and career wise. Now, there are guys that are interested in sports communication and sports production and I can help direct them down a path that would benefit them more.” 

Most graduates are happy with their choice to play another year.

“I’m so grateful and appreciative of this opportunity,” said Coman. “I’m doing what I love and competing with my friends and building relationships on the basketball court and in the locker room.” 

Beck reasoned that if she hadn’t stayed, she wouldn’t have seen the women’s soccer team win the NEWMAC championship in November—a “big bonus” in her eyes.

“I’m really happy I stayed,” said Beck. “I wanted to keep playing with all of my friends. I made that decision because I wanted to keep playing with the girls.”