On Sport and Spirit: An Interview with James Shirvell
Photo by Christoper Khew
James Shirvell occupies many roles at Yale-NUS College. Holder of two Yale University Track and Field records – in the
1,500 meter and one mile events – Shirvell now works alongside Wainright Khoo in the expanding Athletics Department, bringing his previous collegiate sports experience to Yale-NUS to build teams and look for competitive platforms.
Part of the formalization of sports team at Yale-NUS will come through the revamped Athletics Council. “Our goal for this year is to really create more structured teams. We want to get the say of all of those newly formed teams. We want to get a representative of each team within that Council to help out the Athletics Department with the directions in which we want to go. We want them to come to Wain and me whenever they need support.”
“Now that we have more structured teams we can try and form invitationals, more friendlies, more competitive matches with other schools. We would go to the Athletics Council … on who they want to play.” Shirvell commented.
With the lack of competitive platforms currently available to Yale-NUS, the Athletics Department is looking beyond Singapore to spread the Yale-NUS brand, showcase teams and provide students with a truly novel experience. On the horizon is an exchange with NYU-Shanghai over the last weekend of October. “What we’re really excited about right now is the Shanghai trip to see how that will go. With the basketball team going hopefully this can be something we can create going into the future.”
Currently, the basketball team is the only competitive group heading to Shanghai. An ongoing conversation around competitive exchanges is the extent a team goes to win. How should the team approach their game, knowing their actions on court could shape the longevity of the exchange?
“It’s interesting. It is a competition. I think in a competition you always want to win, you want to do your best. There should always be a sense of respect. Always respect your competitors.” His message extends to other student groups heading to Shanghai. “The visiting school needs to be receptive to what events the host university is planning, what they’re capable of. They need to be engaged.”
Shirvell’s undergraduate career at Yale saw him travel alongside athletes from Harvard through the United Kingdom, competing against Oxford and Cambridge. His experience in building relationships with other schools is valuable for Yale-NUS, still so early in its development. On campus as a collegiate runner, he would spend “five-to-six hours a day on athletics.” He “would think about it all the time.”
“I put a lot of time into it. I think in order to get a lot out of something you really need to put a lot of time and dedication into it.”
“I think I’ve definitely learnt a ton through athletics – setting a schedule, being diligent, having a sense of responsibility to your school, your coaches, your teammates – that’s very empowering.”
So far, the benefits Shirvell felt at Yale are being echoed here. He cites the Inter-Faculty Games (IFGs) as a moment where collective Yale-NUS pride extended out of the arena into those involved members of the community. To Shirvell, the IFGs showed how having a competitive platform affects more than just the competitors. “I think creating teams is a really easy way to create school spirit. I think playing sports is a very easy way to show school spirit. Sports can do a lot for supporting Yale-NUS as a whole and really loving your college.”
For both players and spectators, the sentiment is resonant. “It’s kind of silly how easy it is just wearing Yale-NUS on your chest, how much that means.”