Despite budget woes, men’s soccer here to stay

Earlier this year, men’s soccer came back to Santa Monica College after 19 years of hibernation.

With funding for California community colleges repeatedly being cut and the outcome of Prop 30 still to be determined, adding a new sport to the athletic program could have been a shaky financial decision. The athletics program alone has experienced a 33 percent cut in funding over the last four years, according to SMC Athletic Director Joe Cascio.

In spite of this, Cascio was able to find ways to fund the new soccer team without adding to the school’s expenditures. According to Cascio, it took approximately $9 thousand to run the men’s soccer team this year, making it less costly than most of the major sports such as football and basketball.

“We did a budget overhaul where we revamped the way we spend money. Instead of spending more, we took the avenue of spending smarter,” he said.

One example of this smarter spending was finding a new clinic for the athlete’s medical exams, saving them approximately 55 percent of the athletic department’s annual medical costs.

In addition, the athletic department was able to avoid the danger of Prop 30’s possible defeat by approving the addition of the men’s soccer team back in January of this year.

Thus, the men’s soccer season at SMC opened on August 31. The Corsairs ended their season at 9-6-5.

Head Coach Tim Pierce reflected on what it felt like to be named SMC’s first men’s soccer coach in 19 years.

“I’m excited and grateful at the opportunity. It’s an honor to be named the coach,” Pierce said. “It’s been a great first season.”

According to SMC President and Superintendent Chui L. Tsang, when the decision was made that men’s soccer was going to attempt to make a comeback, students were overwhelmingly in favor of bringing back the sport.

“There was a survey done. The results demonstrated that soccer was, by far, the runaway preference for students as an intercollegiate sport,” Tsang said.

The student survey fulfilled one of the three requirements the athletic department had to meet in order to add a new sports team to the school. The three requirements were that there be significant interest on campus, sufficient competition from neighboring community colleges, and sufficient competition from neighboring high schools.

Cascio stated that each of these requirements to bring back men’s soccer were “met with ease.”

Tsang believes in the importance of athletics as a whole.

“Athletic teams are learning communities,” he said. “Students use them to form group identity and reinforce each other’s positive behavior.”

What’s God Got To Do With It?

Religion can define and affect a person in so many ways, as it did for me; but there came a point when I stopped and pondered on how far I can let religion rule my everyday life.

My Catholic education began when I was four years old. While going through elementary and high school, I went to church once a week, taking some sort of religion-based class every year. My religious education included knowing about morality, values and what being a “good person” meant in the eyes of God and Jesus Christ.

This was ongoing for 13 years–almost half of my life–until I ended the religious aspects subjected towards my lifestyle. Now, at the age of 27, I can confidently say that all those years of religious education and guidance were completely unnecessary in helping me become the person that I am today.

However, I used to enjoy being religious. When I did go to church, I was an active participant in every aspect of the proceedings, including singing in the church choir.

Prayer was also a regular part of my life. I asked God to protect my family, friends, and myself–as well as everyone else in the world who needed a helping hand.

But something happened in my second year of confirmation class at St. Monica High School, and the enjoyment vanished.

We were given a homework assignment that consisted of over 100 questions that was due in a few months. One of the questions was to find out where my local priest lived, write down the location, and find out some general information about that priest. It was at that moment that I wondered what that question had to do with religion and being closer to God, which is why I was putting myself through confirmation in the first place.

The entire assignment was bogus, causing me to stop going to confirmation class altogether.

Then, in my senior year, I went to Kairos, a retreat that was supposed to bring those who attended closer to God. For me, God was never a part of it. All the retreat did was give me a chance to connect with classmates I wouldn’t have associated with otherwise.

After I graduated high school, religion came to be less and less important in my life. I made it a point to question everything about religion and to do research–not only on Catholicism–but the Judeo-Christian movement as a whole. The more I searched, the less I felt that I needed it as a part of my life, and I disconnected myself from it.

My main issues with religion were all the rules and restrictions that seemed to be inescapable. Does God really care if you have sex before marriage? Or keep kosher? Or if you’re attracted to members of the same sex? There has to be more important things for God to worry about than these trivialities. These are aspects of life that we should be deciding on by ourselves, without the aid of religion.

I have friends who are gay and they’re some of the greatest people I know. I love me some bacon, which is the furthest thing from kosher. And as far as I’m concerned, falling in love with that special someone can’t happen until you’ve had sex. I hope to be married someday and that can’t happen if I’m not in love with the person. So, something’s got to give, and these decisions should be only ours to make.

These issues are not based on faith, nor are they conducive to strengthening one’s personal relationship with God or Jesus. They are merely traditional practices and attitudes that should be treated more as harmless personal preferences, rather than damning life choices that will land someone in “Hell.”

The other misnomer is the notion that morality and values are formed because of a religious foundation. The most classic example of this is the “Ten Commandments,” which teach you not to steal, kill, commit adultery and so on. I used to follow the Commandments, and while I wasn’t perfect, I genuinely did my best.

But when you think about it–with the exception of the commandments specifically mentioning God–they’re all common sense things, practices we should know as we grow up. “Thou shall not kill; thou shall not steal.”  This is a common sense thing any moral , decent person easily understands.

A person doesn’t need to go to church, pray, or even believe in a higher power to understand that it’s morally wrong to do those things. A person can learn to be moral and virtuous without the aid of religion.

Even the comprehension of gray-area commandments such as, “honor your father and mother,” or “thou shall not commit adultery,” come with experience more than anything else.

How are you supposed to know that it’s wrong to cheat on someone unless you have actually cheated or been cheated on, and experienced the immense feeling of guilt that leads you to never do it again? Real life lessons come through making mistakes, not by reading religious books.

Don’t get me wrong. Religion definitely has all the right intentions. It gives people a sense of direction in their lives, helps them feel better about the concept of death, and it’s a genuine opportunity to relate to those with the same belief structures.

But when you start letting all the little rules and restrictions take away your inherent right to learn from your mistakes, that’s where the problems arise.

If it wasn’t for me deciding to experience my life on my own terms, without the constraints of religion, I wouldn’t have had the experiences that made me who I am today.

Some experiences were difficult, and I made many mistakes along the way, but they are my experiences that I will remember for life.

I would rather go through life learning from my own mistakes, instead of constantly worrying about what God, Jesus and the rest of my religious community might think of me when I make a mistake.

Life is too short for that kind of rationale.

Can Science and Religion Coexist?

Science and religion have been at odds since the dawn of time, as people have searched for answers about the existence of a higher power, the origins of the universe and evolution.

For many, it is not always an easy topic to talk about or understand. Sometimes it is taboo. But in a world that is constantly changing, the debate continues to develop as well.

When discussing this controversial subject, one might perceive that the terms “science” and “religion” are very broad, and bogging them down may lead to confusion.

“We’ll say something is scientific as a way of basically saying reasonable, and we’ll use the term religion as being something that is not reasonable,” said Joe Sanzo, a professor of the history of the study of religion at UCLA. “The terms themselves carry very much a rhetorical flavor to them, and that makes it very difficult to use them as descriptive categories.”

According to Sanzo, the age-old question of “science versus religion” should not include all of science and all of religion, but the argument should instead focus on more specific subjects. These subjects often include the evolution of humans and animals and the creation of the universe.

A theologist may reference the Bible and say that God created humans, animals and the rest of the universe in six days. A scientist, however, could start talking about the Big Bang Theory and how humans evolved from single-celled organisms over many millions of years.

These two disciplines reach their conclusions in very different ways.

Scientists use the scientific method, which involves forming a hypothesis and then continuing to experiment with it until an answer is reached. Theologists, on the other hand, mainly use the God of the Bible and the Torah as evidence.

Jason Roberts, a non-denominational Christian, believes that the Bible is inerrant, meaning that it can never be disproven, even by scientific discoveries.

“Scripture is truth; anything that comes against it is a lie,” Roberts says.

Not all religious people think this way, however. Pastor Fred Masted of Westchester Lutheran Church feels that it is a mistake to take the Bible literally.

“When you try to take all these things literally, you just end up with nonsense,” Masted says.

Rabbi Zach Shapiro of Temple Akiba in Culver City agrees with Masted.

“We’re not supposed to look at these things as exactitudes, but rather as an overarching story,” Shapiro says.

So it seems that even people who believe in the same higher power and read from the same holy book have different views on how to interpret what they are taught to believe.

Similarly, the views of scientists are not universal either. According to a 2009 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Pubic Life, 51 percent of scientists either believe in God or some other higher power.

But even scientists who believe in a deity can have their doubts.

“I would say that I believe in God, but exactly what that means, I’m not entirely sure,” Sanzo says.

Edward Tarvyd, a marine biology and zoology instructor at Santa Monica College, also has his reservations about the existence of God, calling himself a “Catholic on sabbatical.”

“There might be something there, there might not be, but I concern myself with other things,” Tarvyd says.

While questioning the existence of God is a popular subject among those who debate religion as a whole, Tarvyd feels that it is not an issue that scientists should tackle.

“There is absolutely no scientific experiment that has ever been devised, or probably can be devised, that can either prove or disprove the existence of God,” Tarvyd says. “It is completely incompatible as far as the rules of science.”

So where does that leave someone trying to decide whether to take a scientific or faith-based view on life?

According to Shapiro, the two views should have nothing to do with one another.

“I don’t look at religion to teach me about science and I don’t look at science to teach me about religion,” Shapiro says. “My theology is not based on what’s black and white in the Bible.”

Masted has a similar view.

“Scientists should study their discipline; religionists should study their discipline,” Masted says. “Where the problems get in is when the scientists try to be religionists and the religionists try to be scientists.”

Armando Castillo, a 23-year-old SMC student with Christian parents, admits to being an atheist since the age of eight. When it comes to deciding which argument explains the origins of humans and the universe best, his viewpoint is clear.

“I’ve always been a person of logic, so if it makes sense, then I’d probably go with science,” Castillo says.

With religion and science often being at odds, one may wonder if there can ever be an agreement between the two.

Castillo doesn’t think so.

“As humans, we always want a definitive answer,” Castillo says. “It’s human nature to prove each other wrong, so it’s just going to keep going.”

But others believe that religion still has a place in society.

Sanzo points to civil rights movements and many other “positive things” within the last 50 or 60 years as having been rooted by some sort of belief in a religion.

“Having something beyond human beliefs, practices, et cetera, that can point to something larger can serve a very positive function, and has done so in the recent past,” Sanzo says.

Tarvyd takes this line of thought a step further.

“[Religion] gives people hope that there is something at the end; it gives them a path to follow,” he says.

Corsairs Battle Back in Come-From-Behind Thriller

What do you do when you’re down one with 12 seconds to go, and the game is on the line?

Give it the guy who’s 1-6 from the field.

“We were trying to get it Chris [Camper] regardless,” head coach Jerome Jenkins said after the game.

The Santa Monica College men’s basketball team edged out a 72-71 victory over the Cerritos College Falcons last Friday night on a reverse layup by Camper with 1.5 seconds left in the game.

Before Camper’s late heroics, he wasn’t having the most superhuman of games.  Nonetheless, he felt he “needed to make something happen.”

“I just felt like I wasn’t having a productive game.  I was in the right spot at the right time and I just had to make a play,” Camper said.

Despite getting off to a strong 12-3 start, SMC eased up on their early defensive pressure and allowed Cerritos to get comfortable.  After an early timeout, Cerritos went on an 8-2 run, getting them back in the game.  The Corsairs trailed by seven at halftime, and fell behind by as many as 15 points in the second half.

A ferocious dunk late in the second half by Jon Benson of Cerritos gave them their biggest lead, 61-46.  Following his monster slam, Benson was assessed a technical foul for a little too much showboating. The Corsairs would use that as fuel for their comeback.

“We teach our guys that no deficit is too big,” said Jenkins. “We started playing better basketball and our players made plays.”

Helping to spark the run was freshman guard Keilan Horton. He led the Corsairs in scoring with 23 points off the bench, scoring 15 in the second half alone.

“I had to turn the switch on, get my team going, play with some intensity and pick up the pace,” Horton said.

The Corsairs hit Cerritos with a 17-2 run, knotting the game up at 63 off a Horton jump shot.  With 51 seconds left, he knocked down a pair of free throws to put SMC ahead 68-67, their first lead since early in the first half.

Then the unthinkable happened.

Before Cerritos inbounded the ball, Horton committed his fifth and final foul, sending Falcons point guard Manny Garcia to the free throw line.  He would make both, giving Cerritos back the lead.

On the ensuing play, Corsair forward David Nwaba drove down the lane and scored, putting SMC back up by one.  The Falcons would answer back with a jump shot from guard Kevin Conrad, who led his team in scoring with 11 points.

It was time to take action, or go home.

Without taking a timeout, the Corsairs ran up the floor, looking for a way to get the ball inside.  With Horton fouled out, Camper was SMC’s first option.  Jenkins stated that he wanted to go to Camper because he has good size and strength, enabling him to get good post position.

Camper muscled his way to the rim, converting a reverse layup to seal SMC’s victory.

After the game, he explained what propelled his team to come out on top.

“Everybody stepped up and played the way we’re supposed to play,” Camper said.

With one win under their belt, the Corsairs travel to Irvine Valley College for a three-day tournament starting Thursday, Nov. 15 against Imperial Valley College at 8 p.m.

This story was co-written with David Yapkowitz

Women’s Volleyball Sports Brief

Even though they’ve split the last two games, the Santa Monica College women’s volleyball team has looked better. Their latest win came against the West Los Angeles College Wildcats.

Last Tuesday, SMC played against the College of the Canyons Cougars, but lost 3-0 (20-25, 22-25, 19-25). According to head coach Nicole Ryan, the Corsairs had leads in each of the first two games, but their errors came back to haunt them. During the third game, freshman setter Kendall Beebe suffered a concussion, forcing SMC to make a substitution that put them off their rhythm for the rest of the game. Freshman outside hitter Hannah Pope led the way offensively with 11 kills.

But last Friday night was a different story. The Corsairs dominated West LA 3-0 (25-12, 25-14, 25-16), communicating often on defense and making minimal mistakes on offense.

“West LA was definitely scrappy, and did a lot of good things on their side, but offensively we overpowered them and we were in control the majority of the game,” Ryan said.

The win against West LA puts the Corsairs record this season at 7-10 overall, and 4-5 in their conference. Their next game is against Pierce College on Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. at SMC.