The National Mall is a popular tourist destination – and a place for practice.
Several squads have embraced the Mall as a place to take jogs along the Reflecting Pool or facilitate team bonding at the Smithsonian musems, players said. Student-athletes said D.C. and its monuments provide a constant place to hold training regimens and offer them opportunities to develop a stronger, more united team dynamic.
Sports like baseball, basketball, volleyball and gymnastics can be found practicing on the Mall. Todd Hamer, the director of strength and conditioning, said he coordinates trainings on the Mall. He said the Mall is both a place of practice and education for players who can take trips to museums together.
“Being in D.C., we have an opportunity to celebrate some of the richest history in the country and in the world,” Hamer said. “Our philosophy as a staff is pretty simple, we are just one more vehicle for the education of student-athletes.”
Hamer said that when teams practice on the Mall, they often stop and read the Gettysburg Address or visit the spot where Martin Luther King Jr. stood. He said the historical aspect of the training helps put workouts into perspective because players can recognize that the United States faced more difficult challenges than sprints or climbing stairs.
“Being able to go out there and run up the Lincoln steps and go over to Martin Luther King and appreciate them, you can appreciate the struggles that they went through,” Hamer said. “It makes you remember that running up steps isn’t hard. Fighting a war is hard and overcoming the adversity that these people overcame is hard.”
Men’s basketball tries to make weekly trips to the Mall, junior guard Maceo Jack said. The team trained on the Mall multiple times over the summer. Most recently, the squad ventured to the Mall Tuesday to train alongside GW’s Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps.
“Just last week we practiced on the Mall,” Jack said. “We ran around the Reflecting Pool, we did some circuit work and stuff like that, so getting the opportunity to work out there in that beautiful area is just amazing.”
Gymnastics and baseball also hit the Mall for preseason training. Gymnastics ran around the Reflecting Pool, and baseball practiced drills near the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Jack said the prospect of living and training in D.C. was enough to push him to commit to GW.
“On my visit, I literally committed on my flight home,” Jack said. “Just seeing the beautiful city, it definitely factored into my decision to come here.”
In her first two years at the helm, volleyball head coach Sarah Bernson scheduled the team’s first practice at the Lincoln Memorial sand volleyball courts. She said the team doesn’t frequent the Mall for trainings, but players plan trips individually together.
“In volleyball we don’t really run, so it’s more in their free time,” head coach Sarah Bernson said. “The athletes go to Fourth of July on the Mall and they study at the Lincoln, so they’re pretty active in their own time and it’s more in their social life.”
Bernson said spending time on the Mall is synonymous with playing at and attending GW.
“It’s our backyard,” Bernson said. “It’s not just, ‘Oh, it’s near us,’ we see it all the time and it’s part of where we work every day. Even though it’s not on this block, it’s part of the GW experience.”
Junior middle blocker Callie Fauntleroy said the volleyball team uses the Mall for team bonding events. Women’s basketball also bonded on and around the Mall during a D.C.-wide scavenger hunt prior to the 2018-19 season.
“We went to the Lincoln Memorial for sunrise, and we all woke up at 5:30 and we went over at 6 and it was really awesome,” Fauntleroy said.