As Oles transition back into campus life this fall, gone are the days of social-distanced cafeteria seating, eating with only one or two other friends. With the long tables making their comeback in a new diagonal formation, the days of weaving through packed tables, pulling up an extra chair, and sitting next to strangers have finally returned. But this return to normalcy also marks the return of another crucial element of life on the hill for Ole athletes — the return of team tables.
Whether you love them or hate them, team tables are back, allowing athletes to enjoy meals with their whole team occupying one long table in Stav Hall. When asked what it means to him that team tables are back, cross country runner Lars Ripley ’22 said, “Really it just means that there’s an added sense of community that we didn’t have…you get to see people you haven’t necessarily seen and everyone can just have a good time together, so it’s nice that it’s back.” His teammate, Henrik Gilbertson ’22, echoed these sentiments about the joy of coming together. When asked how he felt last year when there was no team table, Gilbertson said, “less good, because I couldn’t eat food with all my friends.”
However, the importance of the team table goes beyond just sitting together and having a good time. Being able to eat as a team can also have a direct impact on the team’s well-being and their performance on the court, field, or course. “I think there is for sure a direct correlation between our ability to connect off the court and on the court,” volleyball player Meredith LaVine ’22 said via email. “Volleyball is such a team sport that the more trust and connection we build off the court, the more we experience on the court.” This trust and connection is especially important now that teams are playing a full season for the first time since 2019.
In addition to building trust and community, team tables also offer athletes a level of comfort and security when it comes to consuming food. When athletes are in the middle of a season, playing games every few days, or prepping for grueling tournaments, fueling their bodies is crucial. “This means that we have to eat more than the average person, which can be nerve-wracking/embarrassing when eating with a nonathlete,” said LaVine. “We never feel insecure about what we’re eating and how much we are eating when we’re allowed to eat all of us together.” Being together in the caf also allows the team to share ideas for food combinations in a way they couldn’t last year.
Overall, Ole athletes are excited that team tables are back, as it is another marker of the fact that we are on the road back to normalcy. Playing on a team means being a part of a community, and just as with many parts of life, coming together over food plays a large role in building that community.