Blue and yellow face-painted students in the East Remote Lot, boomboxes blaring as the soccer team takes the field, and loud chants asserting Banana Slug love for UCSC athletes. For many years, many students would agree this has not been the scene at UC Santa Cruz sporting events.
Cowell College fourth-year Rahul Kalra hopes to change this. Kalra believes sports games should create a sense of pride for the campus — Slug Pride.
“I’m just trying to get people together,” Kalra said. “UCSC could use some school spirit at our sports games.”
Kalra, a former high school athlete studying accounting and business management at UCSC, has found sports teams at UCSC lack the fans found at other universities. His proposal to garner support from students? A group of impassioned fans called Slug Pride, who will come out to sports games to raise the support level for UCSC athletes. They will make their first showing at the women’s volleyball game vs. Holy Names this Friday at 7 p.m.
“Slug Pride is like another extracurricular for Friday nights,” Kalra said. “I plan on it being a group of fans.”
For Danielle Lavy, Kresge third-year psychology major, the campus sports teams have been hard to find.
“We have sports teams?” Lavy asked, when questioned about her knowledge of the university’s sports teams. “I never see their games posted at the bus stop. I don’t even know when or where they play.”
Kalra agrees the sports community at UCSC could use a little more publicity.
“I was amazed when I found out we have an official women’s golf team,” Kalra said. “A few weeks ago I didn’t even know they existed!”
While intramural sports remain popular, UCSC’s official sports teams lack the same attention.
“People at UCSC are more interested in intramural sports than regular sports,” said David Silver, a College Ten third-year and legal studies major. “I mean, people are just interested in playing sports here. There’s not much interest in watching them, and there’s certainly not much interest in sports teams at UCSC.”
Kalra wants Slug Pride to support all teams, big and small. He wants Slug Life to do fundraisers, listing Woodstock’s Pint Night as a possible target.
“I want Slug Pride to help fundraise for UCSC sports [since] our SUA can’t help as much,” Kalra said.
Kalra sees sports as a way for UCSC students to come together. He envisions Slug Pride selling T-shirts and having a website and iPhone app to keep students involved with Slug Pride events, which might include cheering sessions during games and tailgating before and after them.
“I know we’re not D-I or even a D-II campus,” Kalra said. “But we can still come out and support our Slugs.”
Kalra has not always been a big sports fan. After immigrating from India when he was 12 years old, Kalra saw running for the high school track team as a way to fit in. While you’d never know it, Kalra, now an extrovert, had trouble being accepted when he was younger. Today his English is hardly accented, sounding more Southern Californian than Southern Indian.
“You know, a lot of my friends in high school joined gangs,” Kalra said. “Sports were always a way for me to stay away from that sort of thing. Basketball was my partying. It was my Xbox. I would spend a lot of my time trying to play.”
But Kalra’s love for sports eventually became a problem when he tore his ACL playing basketball in his second year at UCSC. To avoid injuring himself further, Kalra steered clear of sports. He had to end his dream of playing for the UCSC basketball team.
“I always felt I needed to be able to dunk before I could try out for the basketball team at UCSC,” Kalra said. “Right now, I’m lucky to be walking without crutches.”
Kalra said UCSC students are already enthusiastic about Slug Life. He is unsure of how much face paint to buy for students, because he is unsure how large the turnout will be.
“On the first day, I got like 10 ‘attending’s on our Facebook event,” said Kalra. “On the second day I got about 300.”