It's not uncommon for college kids to spend their spring break in Florida. But one group of GW students will be heading south next week for a different reason: the 2010 American College Cricket Championship.
It's a far cry from four years ago, when a trio of current seniors decided to start a cricket team at GW without ever having played the game. Ankit Sheth, Ali Sternberg and Curt Sonnet recruited potential teammates - and then asked them to teach them how to play.
"We just started off looking to do something different," said Sheth, "And I don't think I would have ever thought we'd be here after four years."
It took a while to get the cricket team off the ground. They started playing pickup games in University Yard as more of a fun pastime than a competitive team.
Once the team gained momentum, however, they reached out to GW students to boost their roster and then to the surrounding colleges to find anyone that would play them.
"It started off as an accident," Sternberg explained, "and then turned into something institutional."
As their number increased, so did their visibility, and the players found themselves with funding from the Student Association and match-ups against surrounding colleges, including American and Montgomery college.
Now the team that Sternberg describes as starting out "as three friends who wanted to try something new" has become a nationally recognized cricket team.
The upcoming national tournament is the premiere such event in the country, pitting GW against such teams from its conference as Auburn, Montgomery, George Mason, and UMBC. One team from each conference will progress to the semifinals and then two teams will continue on to the finals, all of which will be played in Central Broward Stadium, the United States' only venue approved by the International Cricket Council.
The tournament, senior captain Amr Hassan said, gives GW a chance to play skilled teams for the first time and measure its level of play against stronger competition.
"We're going in as the underdogs, as one of the youngest clubs there," Hassan said. "No one knows what to expect from us, but we know that we can do it."
"Hopefully we can go to Ft Lauderdale and pick up some silverware," his brother and teammate, freshman Zain Hassan, chimed in.
As the founders reflect on the growth of their club, they said they are floored by how the team has grown and expanded. In addition to jumping from laid-back pickup games to competing for national championships, GW's cricket team has now received a $2,500 grant from the University for new equipment. Its current gear was donated by the Charterhouse School in Surry, England, the alma mater of team president and freshman Hugo Scheckter.
When asked about the team's success, members are quick to cite the strong sense of camaraderie and unity.
"It's become a place for kids coming to this school to become part of a community, part of a team," Sternberg said.
Sonnet agreed and highlighted another important aspect of the team: "GW likes to show off the ideal of having a lot of multicultural students and organizations. I think it's fascinating that GW Cricket is one of the few organizations on campus that actually has a lot of students from different cultures together on the same squad."
Despite having so much success, Scheckter said the team is still eagerly welcoming new members, saying the team's goal is to create a "beginner's day" for inexperienced players to get a feel for the sport.
"We want to teach anyone interested how to play," Scheckter said. "No experience necessary."