The University of Notre Dame is a special place for countless people on campus and around the world! Beyond the beautiful golden dome and other amazing sites around the campus, Notre Dame students find their place here in many ways. This series shares their stories and illustrates the many ways that people find their home under the dome! This week, admissions intern Ryan Coury shares how a place on campus can have many unique meanings and memories!
Every athlete at Notre Dame knows it much better than most of campus realizes. Contrary to popular belief, it is much more than just a court with bleachers, filled a few times a year and left vacant for the remainder. No, rather, it’s the house of athletics, and a home to many more. It may seem like an old, aging maze of hallways and closets to many, but to me, the Joyce Athletic and Convocation Center (JACC) is my home under the dome… or in this case, domes.
Of course, the main appeal is undoubtedly the main arena itself. Whether it’s reminiscing on charging the court after the Irish knocked off fifth-ranked Kentucky or merely launching shreds of newspaper into the air when the Irish sunk their first swish, any student who has come to watch men’s basketball has fond memories of the western bleachers. Even more, working with Fighting Irish Media during my time on campus, I’ve seen my fair share of love, luck, heartbreak and heroes across spades of matches under the dome. Whether it’s volleyball or women’s basketball, you can’t help but fall in love with any and every team that graces Purcell Pavilion’s court. No matter who’s donning the proud mark of the “Fighting Irish,” they’re our squad, and on every scoreboard that surrounds them, they too see the same designation for their team: HOME.
Yet, Pavilion aside, there is so much more to one of campus’s biggest buildings. In being graced with the opportunity to portray our University’s proud mascot, I have also spent many a day surrounded by the cameras and cubicles of athletics communications. Whether it’s stumbling across a photoshoot with visiting student-athletes on a Football Friday, filling the base of a basketball hoop with water in the middle of administrative offices, or being lectured about a tiny horse named “Li’l Sebastian,” the comms office isn’t only a place where stories are written, but where those stories themselves come to exist. It’s very difficult—or dare I say impossible—to resist cracking a smile when brainstorming wildly outrageous ideas on a wall of whiteboards with my fellow mascot friends, only to go film them the very same day. It’s there, surrounded by people who want nothing more than for us to succeed and to share those successes, that I stop and realize: this is HOME.
Take about thirty steps out of those doors and you’ll find yourself in Heritage Hall: a dimly lit room with carpeting that near assuredly outdates not only my class, but perhaps my parents before me as well. Yet, even here I can’t help but feel at peace. It was under these lights that I had my first dance at Notre Dame (as a Pre-College scholar, I might add), and ironically enough, the adjacent Monogram Room where I found myself for my hall’s most recent SYR. It’s on the wooden lining of these walls that the names of all monogram-attaining athletes from our University are etched into history. What’s more, its walls tell the tales of the students before me, the history of my extended athletics family and, more specifically, the Leprechaun mascot itself. Heck, even the connected concourse itself brings hairs to attention. And it’s only in walking through it that you come to find yet another doorway, another room I’m proud to call HOME.
I can’t adequately express the fear that coursed through my veins the first time I walked into Gym 1. Believing that I was in over my head was an understatement; I hadn’t been on a full-fledged team in nearly five years. Yet somehow, in a matter of hours, I then found myself to be a proud member of the Notre Dame Cheer team, a student-athlete at the University I couldn’t more appropriately describe than as my dream school. But somehow, under all of that anxiety and apprehension, a spark of hope and excitement burned brighter than I had ever felt before, and it was in this basketball-court-turned-cheerleading-gym that I not only nurtured that flame, but found a family on campus. It’s crazy, isn’t it, how 40 strangers could enter the same windowless room time and time again, and over the course of these repeated occurrences become each other’s closest confidants, one another’s faithful friends and steadfast supporters? Gym 1 is the fluorescent-lit room where our team spent hours during preseason and spends even more each passing month, where I first found out I would have the opportunity to sprint out of the North Tunnel in Notre Dame Stadium. I can remember dreaming of experiences like these when I was a mere middle-schooler, walking through the second story concourse of Joyce for football pep rallies. It was completely unbeknownst to me that the wooden double doors I barely even glanced at would one day be so much more, that the “Gym 1” sign would one day be better represented by four different characters: HOME.
Yet the room I would consider to be my end-all-be-all isn’t so conveniently located in the slightest, and, ironically natural to how courses of events seem to unfold in college, is one I didn't even know existed until a mere six months ago. Deeply entrenched behind a labyrinth of hallways—a maze at first insolvable but later inseparable from the minds of its voyagers—lies an abode enclosed by bricks and riddled with both memories and whiffs of Dove body spray. To most, this is nothing more than a 15x25 foot chamber, lined with aging metal shelves that are coated in peeling blue paint. Is it the nicest locker room in the building? Definitely not, and perhaps it’s just the opposite. But would I want to be anywhere else? Of that, I’m even more certain that the answer is no. The men’s cheerleading locker room isn’t only where our team stores our uniforms and changes out before events—it’s a refuge from the rest of the world. Behind its wooden threshold, all of my obligations, my responsibilities, are locked out. It’s where I can sprawl out blasting Zac Brown Band after an exhausting game, where I’ve made some of the stupidest, funniest, most unnecessary yet most irreplaceable memories with my teammates. It’s the place on campus I can come back to any time on any day and under any circumstance. I don’t know about you, but back in Arizona there’s only one place that adequately fits that description: my HOME.
Somehow, hundreds of words later and it feels as if I’ve barely even scratched the surface of all that the JACC holds within its storied walls. From hiding behind curtains on the court before my first event as a mascot to the first summer lifts in Joyce’s weight room, every memory in this space will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s the late night finishes in FIM’s control room, the Wednesday evening meetings in our coach’s office, the times that feel mundane yet will soon be the days I wish I was reliving again. It’s the exploits that toe the line between stupidity and genius that make those days into so much more, the moments I find myself jumping off a high dive in November wearing a green suit, simply because my love for the swim team runs that deep. Above all else, those days when I discover the limits of overwhelming joy and profuse anxiety prove only the great extent to which I love what I do, as I quickly realized through the week when it all began—trying out in the pit of the JACC, surrounded by friends yet overcome with fear. Only in a place where all of these emotions collide, where one can experience the best and worst versions of themselves—the truest of their identities—can one truly call themselves at HOME.