Winter Study is a time for students to enjoy college without the stress of problem sets or Google Calendar commitments. Its eclectic course offerings allow them to explore their academic and creative interests, while an abundance of free time encourages students to pursue unfamiliar activities. In particular, the activities offered through the Athletic Department and the Free University keep students engaged in non-traditional sports during winter study.
After four years on the women’s soccer team, Avery Mohan ’23 completed her senior season last fall. Hanging up your uniform for the last time is an emotional moment for a college athlete, but Mohan continued to play with his teammates — albeit on the basketball court. After an enjoyable and energetic freshman basketball season last winter, Mohan and several of her teammates are back on the women’s varsity (JV) basketball team, led by assistant women’s basketball coach Kendra Drake, for a second year.
“I think after our football season ends in the fall, a lot of us still have a lot of competitive energy,” Mohan continued. “The opportunity to play together against another team, regardless of sport, is something that appeals to us. Even the girls on the soccer team who don’t play basketball come to the games to support us, so it feels like a chance for the whole team to bond.”
The JV basketball team practices twice a week and plays against high school teams, but Mohan emphasized that the game is more relaxed than their typical season competition. “We put a lot less pressure on the results of our basketball games than we do our football games,” Mohan wrote in an email to Record. “It was a good chance to have a laugh with my teammates.”
Mohan also acknowledged the benefits of playing basketball in the off-season for both physical and emotional purposes. “Both sports require ball movement, defensive shape, communication and teamwork.” Mohan wrote. “It’s great that JV basketball helps us grow as overall athletes in the offseason.”
The Free University Winter Study program, organized by the Williams Student Union (WSU) and the Facilitators for Allocating Student Taxes (FAST), also allows students to engage in unconventional forms of sports led by their classmates, among other offerings led by student courses that include art, cooking, entertainment and workshops. Nothin’ But Cuties (NBC), the college’s hip-hop group, hosted a program dance workshop. Mayor Watts ’25, NBC’s treasurer and social chairman, credits Lucy Walker ’23 – NBC’s head choreographer – with making the group’s idea a reality.
NBC holds auditions at the beginning of each semester, but the Free University class was an opportunity to welcome all interested students, regardless of experience, into the group for a month. “We had over 150 responses in the first week,” Watts said. “There were about 50 people in the Saturday class, and there were a lot of people in the other classes that packed the Shared Studio at the ’62 Center.”
The workshop was organized into two beginner classes and one intermediate class to accommodate different experience levels, both meeting three times a week during the month of January. Watts said she is excited about the opportunity to share her love of dance with the greater college community. “It’s so much fun — every person who’s ever taken a dance class gets that feeling when you dance right to the song,” she said. “This is such an exciting achievement.”
Watts also said that taking hip-hop classes with her teammates helped energize her otherwise repetitive weeks during Winter Study. “Having something that is structured and planned, like dance, gives people an outlet to stay active. I can talk about its benefits.”
Alex Bernstein ’23 had a similar goal with his Free University course: Tap Dancing Together. The class is Bernstein’s fourth time teaching tap dance at the college. It has taken many forms over the years, both live and online, but the main goal remains the same: to create a positive community for an often overlooked style of dance. “I try to really cultivate a space of joy and fun and buzz in the community,” Bernstein said. “The great thing about teaching tap — somewhat without an end goal — is that I can give people the basic building blocks of what tap dancing is and what good tap technique is.”
Bernstein emphasized that the class’s low commitment allowed his group of about 30 students to embrace the dance style. “What I’ve found to be really great and inspiring specifically for these people — who are learning how to tap dance right now or are re-entering the tap world — is that the enthusiasm exists not only in the dance studio, but outside of it as well.” in the world,” they said.