patriot games

words: 2LT Connor D. Love

Photography: Nils Ericson

The highland home to 4,600 future US Army officers sits 50 miles north of New York City along the banks of the Hudson River. Cadets urgently rush from class to military formation against the stark gray granite of the citadel's buildings, and almost 1,000 of them add an additional duty: varsity sports. The hours of practice on the fields, the court, or in the ring may not always translate to winning seasons, but the rewards are greater than competition. Athletics are a cornerstone of our development as soldiers, leaders, humans.

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West Point's cheerleaders are called the Rabble Rousers. Pictured: Alyssa Brochu.

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Though we haven't won a national championship since the “brave ole Army” teams of 1944, 1945, and 1946, Cadets stand in rain, shine, or snow to root on the Black and Gold for every minute of every home game. Pictured: QB Angel Santiago (#3) rushing the ball against Fordham, November 2014.

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The Academy experience is not full of toga parties or bar crawls. Instead, Cadets often find themselves congregating around the various sporting events throughout campus on a Saturday night. The days are long here, and the early wake-ups and late nights take a toll on your physical and mental state of mind. But knowing that 4,599 others are experiencing the same struggles as you helps form some pretty strong bonds.

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Every student at West Point is assigned a Tactical Officer who is in charge of his or her development at the Academy. Many of the TACs are graduates themselves, returning to West Point with years of combat experience. The mentors give each Cadet athlete a second coach—sometimes even a second training partner. Pictured: Captain Rich Juten.

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Though they make up only roughly 20 percent of the corps of Cadets, women often dominate the athletic lifestyle at West Point. With 11 NCAA Division I sports teams, the women of West Point mean business—one of my best friends, the women's boxing team captain, always liked to remind me that her left-hook was better than mine. Pictured: Senior Yomanda Martin from Union, New Jersey, captain of the 2014-15 women's boxing team.

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It takes a hell of a lot of grit and toughness to play Army baseball. As one of the smallest teams in NCAA Division I baseball, we take pride in outworking our opponents. Baseball is as much a mental game as it is a physical one. Yet the past decade has seen some of the most successful Black Knights baseball teams in the school's history, reaching the NCAA tournaments in 2005, 2009, 2012, and 2013. I am proud to have been the starting catcher for the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

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Junior Ben Smith, catcher from Memphis, Tennessee.

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RB Larry Dixon being mobbed by Cadets after his three-touchdown game against Fordham. Army won 42-31.

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